Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urged President Obama to consider all existing options to protect U.S. citizens and deliver aid and resources to West Africa in the ongoing effort to contain the Ebola virus outbreak.
The committees’ top Republican lawmakers with jurisdiction over our nation’s transportation system wrote to the President to highlight the capabilities of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), a voluntary program involving the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. commercial air carriers to augment the DOD’s aircraft capability during a national defense or humanitarian crisis. During such times, the CRAF program enhances the DOD’s ability to move individuals and supplies to almost any region of the world.
Thune and Shuster, who have called for a temporary travel ban from affected West African countries, wrote that the utilization of CRAF carrier agreements would continue to allow relief supplies and qualified personnel to be carried to the West Africa region at the center of the Ebola outbreak, even with a travel ban or travel restrictions in place.
“CRAF carriers could replace, or even expand, payload capacity that has exited the market as foreign commercial airlines have reduced services to the region since the beginning of the crisis. The activation of CRAF would also be entirely consistent with your decision to deploy U.S. military personnel to West Africa, as the containment of Ebola and the humanitarian crisis are together a top national security priority,” wrote Thune and Shuster. They cited previous utilizations of CRAF carrier for similar humanitarian relief scenarios during and after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Rwandan genocide, and the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.
Thune and Shuster concluded, “As this crisis continues, it is imperative that all measures to protect Americans from further exposure to the disease be fully considered. At the same time, all available means to increase the level of aid to West Africa without unduly increasing the American public’s risk of exposure should be vigorously pursued.”The complete letter is available here.