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House panel approves $700 million in funding to fight Ebola

A man pushes a wheelbarrow containing a woman thought to be a victim of the Ebola virus at the Ebola treatment centre at Island hospital in Monrovia on October 2, 2014. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Wednesday the Ebola outbreak that has devastated her country was showing signs of stabilising as the official death toll rose again.. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday agreed to give the Department of Defense access to another $700 million to fight Ebola in West Africa, after Defense briefed members on its plan.

Defense had asked for $750 million to fund its operations in West Africa, which involve 3,000 troops who will help to build hospital facilities and carry out other tasks aimed at helping medical personnel fight the virus.

A man pushes a wheelbarrow containing a woman thought to be a victim of the Ebola virus at the Ebola treatment centre at Island hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. A House panel has authorized $700 million more in funding for Defense Department efforts to fight Ebola. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT

The Obama administration had asked the subcommittee to approve the reprogramming of $750 million from other Defense accounts to fund the Ebola operation. In September, the subcommittee approved $50 million, but conditioned the release of the rest until Defense provided a detailed briefing on its plans in Africa.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who chairs the Defense subcommittee on Appropriations, said that while there are still some questions about the operation, members believed they now understand the mission.

"While questions remain and while we remain committed to rigorous ongoing oversight as the mission evolves, yesterday's briefing has satisfied our initial request for information — including by setting out a 180 day plan for DOD deployment," he said. "Therefore, the subcommittee is releasing an additional $700 million which will fully fund the administration's estimate for the execution and completion of this humanitarian operation."

Frelinghuysen stressed that he and others on the subcommittee are still worried about the safety of U.S. troops involved in the operation.

"My subcommittee has serious concerns about the safety and security of service members who have and will deploy to Liberia," he said. "We have no greater obligation than to ensure their well-being while they act on our behalf."

He also said the subcommittee was motivated to approve the shift in funds in order to ensure the U.S. is "stepping up to lead the international response to the Ebola outbreak."

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry pleaded with other countries to contribute more to the UN-led effort to fight Ebola. "While we are making progress, we are not where we can say that we need to be," Kerry said.

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