By Robert Wenzel
The State Department has quietly made plans to bring Ebola-infected doctors and medical aides to the U.S. for treatment, according to an internal department document that argued the only way to get other countries to send medical teams to West Africa is to promise that the U.S. will be the world’s medical backstop, reports the Washington Times and FOX News.
“The United States needs to
show leadership and act as we are asking others to act by admitting certain non-citizens into the country for medical treatment for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) during the Ebola crisis,” says the four-page memo, which lists as its author Robert Sorenson, deputy director of the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science at the US State Department .
This news is stunning. I have already made clear that I believe from a libertarian position there is justification for putting people from Ebola countries, who want to travel in the US, in quarantine for 21 days (42?) upon arriving here. (SEE: NY and NJ Institute Mandatory Quarantines for At-Risk Travelers from Ebola Hot Spots: A Libertarian Perspective).
Please keep in mind what this proposal suggests: The same organization, the United States government, that has brought us such failures as the Central Disease Control. FEMA and the Iraq war, wants to bring Ebola patients to the US.
I am not sure what this insanity is about. Could it be money?
I recently talked to an individual, before this State Department proposal news broke, who spent 35 years in Africa working on different diseases. He told me that diseases in African countries are a historic moneymaker for leaders.
He told me all kinds of stories of corruption, including his first hand knowledge of major supplies of AIDS drugs headed for Uganda that were diverted and sold on the black market in various Asian countries, including South Korea.
Are there any indications that there will be moneymakers out of this desire to import Enola patients into the United States? There are many things probably going on but there is this just out from USAID:
In addition to providing a high-level of care in Liberia, the Department of State has entered into a commercial contract that provides the capability to evacuate up to two patients requiring biocontainment per week based on suspected or confirmed Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), if medically necessary, and on a reimbursable basis. This capacity has so far met the demand for EVD medical evacuation from West Africa; we expect to add a second MEDEVAC aircraft by early November.A joint statement on Ebola was released last month by G-7 Foreign Ministers, it included this:
The Department of State may make this service available on a reimbursable basis to International Organizations, to partner foreign governments, to private voluntary organizations registered with and approved by USAID, and to the American Red Cross. There must be a signed binding agreement in place with the Department of State prior to this service being made available....
The cost of evacuating a patient with EVD is high and likely to exceed international MEDEVAC insurance coverage. To help encourage NGO workers to join the fight against Ebola, USAID, the WHO and other partners are establishing a mechanism to help defray the non-covered costs of evacuation for international personnel responding to the Ebola epidemic who become infected, when the cost of evacuation would exceed insurance or employer-covered amounts.
We agree to provide the best possible care for international health care workers in the event they contract the virus. To this end, G7 countries will coordinate capabilities and resources to help to ensure appropriate treatment locally as well as for airborne medical evacuation and hospitalization of infected international health care workers taking due account of the EU initiative in this field.So who lhas this contract? University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy provides background:
The four Ebola patients who have been evacuated from West Africa to the United States have all been flown by Phoenix Air of Carterville, Ga., which has two Gulfstream III business jets that are specially equipped to carry such patients at minimal risk to others on the plane.What else does Phoenix Air do?
Other aircraft that are properly equipped to transport Ebola patients are very scarce, according to US mission organizations that have arranged evacuations for a few of their workers in West Africa.
"There are only two jets in the world with the current system, and we own both of them," said Dent Thompson, vice president of Phoenix Air, which has served as the airlift provider for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for about 8 years...Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse...said the evacuations of [Dr. Kent] Brantly and Nancy Writebol, another American aid worker, cost $200,000 each...Under a government contract, Phoenix Air was asked to develop an "Aeromedical Biocontainment System," or ABCS, to transport patients with an airborne-contagious disease, Thompson explained.
Developing the system was a collaboration of Phoenix Air with the CDC and biodefense experts in the Department of Defense (DoD), he said. The CDC provided medical expertise, while DoD provided many of the protective devices involved...The State Department has played a key role in arranging the Ebola evacuations...
"They reached out to me and suggested I call Phoenix Air," said Isaacsof Samaritan's Purse .
It has a military ops division. From their web site:
Phoenix Air’s military contracting division – the Phoenix Force – is a world leader in providing real-time threat training to military fighter aircraft, ships and air surveillance units. Phoenix Air uses it’s proven and affordable training wing – which includes a wide range of aircraft and state-of-the-art combat training equipment – to sharpen the edge of military organizations.
The Phoenix Force has served the U.S. Department of Defense, NATO and other militaries around the world for more than 20 years, providing realistic electronic attack, target towing, radar/communications jamming and range surveillance, among other services. A prime contractor to the U.S. Navy and NATO, Phoenix Air’s “Gray Birds” and other specially equipped aircraft are deployed around the world providing real-time adversarial services and threat training on a contract basis.And, then, Dan Thompson, a Phoenix Air spokesman, told Mashable this:
We do a lot of very unique programs that involve aviation for various federal agencies, this is simply one of many contracts that we hold. We do a lot of weird stuff.Mashable also reports that databases show the company won contracts in 2013 from the Defense Department, Interior Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the CDC. It has also performed aviation services on behalf of the Justice Department and NASA.
Mashable goes on:
Some of the company's contracts from 2013 include passenger airlift services for U.S. Africa Command, jet flight services for the Navy, and numerous listings for air ambulance services.
“We just quietly live in the background and provide aviation and aviation services,” Thompson said. “This was — believe it or not — not that unusual for us; it’s just gotten a lot of media attention.”...Here's some really fun facts via a 2008 article at Corporate Counsel:
[F]ederal regulations prohibit transporting explosives by air. But Phoenix has been granted an exemption because of its work for the government moving dangerous cargo. On an "unclassified background" fact sheet Phoenix Air lists, Phoenix Air lists transporting, among other things: weapons grade nuclear materials from Tripoli, Libya, to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; live smallpox virus from Europe to Ft. Detrick, Md., for development of additional vaccine; and Soviet-designed land mines from Zagreb, Croatia, to the U.S.And, naturally, Shannowatch has Phoenix Air linked to to CIA extraordinary rendition flights, specifically Learjet 35, registration N541PA, Learjet 35, registration N547PA, LearJet 36, registered as N71PG and LearJet 35, registered as N54PA.
There you have it. A very mysterious airline, with all kinds of military contracts, will get what appears to be $200,000 per Ebola-infected patient it flies to the United States. In other words, Ebola meets the military-industrial complex.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at EconomicPolicyJournal.com and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics