Obama: 'We Have to Act Fast. We Can't Dawdle' -- on Ebola

Susan Jones | September 17, 2014 | 8:29am EDT
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President Barack Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama said on Tuesday he is wasting no time in addressing a "global threat" that demands a "truly global response." He was talking about disease, not terrorism.

Although the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is "spiraling out of control," the world knows how to stop it from spreading, Obama said in remarks at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"But we have to act fast. We can't dawdle on this one. We have to move with force and make sure that we are catching this as best we can, given that it has already broken out in ways that we had not seen before."

Obama's urgency on the Ebola crisis contrasts with his "utter lack of urgency" -- as Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has described it -- in dealing with ISIS/ISIL's persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

In fact, in describing the plight of West Africans on Tuesday, Obama could have been describing the horrors recently witnessed in the Middle East:

"The scenes that we're witnessing in West Africa today are absolutely gut-wrenching," Obama said. He mentioned a Liberian family, where the father died and the mother and two children are dying.

"These men and women and children are just sitting, waiting to die, right now. And it doesn't have to be this way," Obama said.

"The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better. But right now, the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives. Right now, the world has the responsibility to act -- to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more. We are going to keep leading in this effort.

"We're going to do our part, and we're going to continue to make sure that the world understands the need for them to step alongside us as well in order for us to not just save the lives of families like the one I just discussed, but ultimately, to make sure that this doesn't have the kinds of spillover effects that become even more difficult to control."

Two months ago, Obama told his team to make the Ebola outbreak a national security priority: "We're working across our entire government...and we've devoted significant resources in support of our strategy with four goals in mind," he announced Tuesday.

Obama said those four goals include controlling the outbreak; addressing the ripple effects on local economies; coordinating a global response; and building a public health system in African countries "for the future."

At the request of the Liberian government, Obama is sending 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to handle logistics and engineering.

"We're going to create an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster. We're going to establish a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground more quickly. We are going to create a new training site to train thousands of health workers so they can effectively and safely care for more patients.

"Personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service will deploy to the new field hospitals that we're setting up in Liberia. And USAID will join with international partners and local communities in a Community Care Campaign to distribute supplies and information kits to hundreds of thousands of families so they can better protect themselves.

"We're also going to build additional treatment units, including new isolation spaces and more than 1,000 beds. And in all our efforts, the safety of our personnel will remain a top priority."

Obama said he is calling on Congress "to approve the funding that we've requested so that we can carry on with all these critical efforts."

The Defense Department is asking Congress to approve $500 million in existing "overseas contingency funds" to be put toward the Ebola effort. That's about the same amount the administration is requesting to train and equip the Syrian rebels.

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