146 Dems call on Trump to send more Pentagon assets to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

More than 140 Democrats are calling on President Trump to send additional Pentagon assets to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help with Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

“We know there are [Department of Defense] DOD elements helping today, and all the service members involved are working very hard, but we are concerned that the scale of DOD assets supporting the operation are inadequate,” the Democrats wrote Wednesday in a letter to Trump.

"Thus, we write to urge you to further mobilize the Department of Defense to immediately deploy additional assets in support of Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Island recovery efforts," they said.

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The letter was organized by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and co-signed by House Armed Services ranking member Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithTrump wrestles with handling American enemy combatants CBO: Updating, sustaining nuclear arsenal would cost .2T over 30 years The feds should avoid giving SpaceX a monopoly on space tech MORE (D-Wash.) and 144 other Democrats.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose residents are U.S. citizens, have been devastated by Maria. In Puerto Rico, for example, about 44 percent of the population is without drinking water.

Democrats have slammed Trump’s response as inadequate, hammering him for focusing on criticism of the NFL while American citizens are in crisis. Some have called for the appointment of a three-star general to oversee recovery operations, similar to what was done after Hurricane Katrina.

Trump has defended his administration’s response, saying the Atlantic Ocean has been a barrier to getting supplies and help to Puerto Rico.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced a one-star Army general is deploying to Puerto Rico to oversee the recovery efforts. The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is also being deployed to the island.

In the letter, the Democrats wrote that Pentagon engineering and aviation assets could help reach municipalities that are inaccessible from the ground. The USS Lincoln aircraft carrier should be deployed to the region, just as it was deployed to Miami following Hurricane Irma, they said.

“With millions of U.S. citizens stranded in remote areas without basic necessities, engineers are needed first to clear the roads,” they wrote. “Additional aviation assets are needed to get relief supplies to isolated locations. Additionally, substantial ground and air logistics support is required to get aid to the islands, rescue stranded citizens and provide them with supplies and thereafter assist with the restoration of power and telecommunications infrastructure if needed.”

Pentagon resources could also help law enforcement amid reports of looting and other crime, they wrote.

“Defense Department personnel could provide essential support to local law enforcement in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to ensure relief supplies are delivered to those most in need,” they wrote, “and that those that have already been immensely devastated by the hurricane do not need to fear for their lives when filling up their gas at the pump or securing food for their family.”