U.S. Marines arrive as part of Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Some 90 Marines, the largest group of U.S. military yet, arrived on KC-130 transport planes and MV-22 Ospreys to support the American effort to contain the Ebola epidemic.(Photo: Getty Images)President Obama issued an executive order Thursday allowing the Pentagon to call up reserve troops to combat the Ebola crisis in Africa, usatoday.com reports.
Obama also opened the door to an Ebola "czar" to coordinate the response, saying that an additional official may be helpful as his advisers juggle threats of terrorism and the upcoming flu season.
And while he said he had no "philosophical objection" to barring west Africans from traveling to the U.S. from western Africa, he said he would continue to listen to experts who say "a flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go."
The Pentagon said it had no immediate plans to send reservists or National Guard troops to Africa, saying that the order simply allows the military to begin planning for those forces in its overall response.
The Pentagon is identifying gaps that active-duty troops cannot fill, said a Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. Among the specialists that might be tapped: technical engineering, communication systems, logisticians, comptrollers and religious specialists. .
At least eight engineers have already been identified as possible call-ups. All reservists called to duty will be given proper training and medical-threat briefings, the official said.
The order reads: "I hereby determine that it is necessary to augment the active Armed Forces of the United States for the effective conduct of Operation United Assistance, which is providing support to civilian-led humanitarian assistance and consequence management support related to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa.
Obama canceled a second day of political events Thursday in order to deal with the Ebola crisis from the White House, as the second Ebola patient to be diagnosed on American soil was transferred from a Dallas hospital to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
Public health experts have been dispatched to Ohio after a second infected nurse traveled from Dallas to Cleveland and back last weekend, "It's very important to make sure we are monitoring and tracking anyone who was in close proximity to this second nurse," Obama said.
But Obama said his biggest priority was "dealing with this problem at the source" — the outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
At the Pentagon, officials expect as many as 3,000 troops could be sent to Liberia to fight the disease. There are no plans for them to be involved in the direct treatment of victims. Instead, they will build treatment facilities and operate labs.
The Pentagon recently finished building a mobile, 25-bed hospital in Liberia for infected health-care workers, said Army Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, who commands the Pentagon's task force responding to the Ebola crisis.
The hospital will be staffed by the U.S. Health Service Commission Corps, Williams told reporters on Thursday. Two laboratories are also operating, and troops are constructing 17 treatment centers.If troops are infected by Ebola, they would be quarantined, stabilized and transported out of Liberia for treatment, Williams said. Troops are constantly monitored for signs of the virus, Williams said. On Wednesday, his temperature was checked eight time.