The costs to the Defense Department in battling the Ebola epidemic in West Africa with 3,000 troops will be in the range of $1 billion, the Pentagon said Friday.
The troops are expected to be in West Africa, mostly in Liberia for about six months, although the mission for Operation United Assistance could be extended, said Rear. Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
Pentagon officials said troops were expected to be limited to constructing treatment facilities, supporting health care workers and transporting medical personnel and supplies.
“There is no intent right now to have them in direct contact” with victims of the virus, Kirby said. “They’re not doctors, they’re not nurses, they’re not trained for that,” Kirby said.
However, Kirby acknowledged that there was the possibility a number of the troops could be infected.
“We’re clear-eyed on the risk that we’re incurring,” Kirby said. “We are, in effect, deploying them in harm’s way,” Kirby said.
The Defense Department several weeks ago asked for Congressional approval for nearly $500 million in funding to combat Ebola to come from the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which is separate from the defense base budget.
On Tuesday, when President Obama announced that 3,000 troops were being deployed, the Defense Department asked for approval to divert another $500 million from the OCO budget to ebola prevention.
The effort against ebola in West Africa is being led by Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa, who arrived in the Liberian capital of Monrovia earlier this week and met with Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson.
Two Air Force C-17 transports carrying about 45 personnel and supplies were expected to arrive in Monrovia over the weekend in the effort to create an “air bridge” for the flow of personnel and aid support to the region, Kirby said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached Richard.Sisk@monster.com.