‘Not enough’ troops, equipment in Puerto Rico, says general in charge of relief
The Defense Department has not sent enough troops and vehicles to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but will soon send more, according to the three-star general newly in charge of coordinating the military response.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan said Friday morning that the Pentagon has 10,000 people helping with the response after Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month.
“We’re certainly bringing in more [troops],” Buchanan said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“For example, on the military side, we’re bringing in both Air Force, Navy and Army medical capabilities in addition to aircraft, more helicopters. … [But] it’s not enough, and we’re bringing more in.”
The Pentagon has already allocated more than 4,000 troops to help in rescue and restoration efforts to the U.S. territories, but it wasn’t until Thursday, eight days after Maria slammed the Caribbean, that U.S. Northern Command sent Buchanan.
The head of North Command’s Joint Force Land Component Command is now serving as the Defense Department’s primary liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Tom Bossert, the President Trump’s homeland security adviser, has defended the wait time in between the end of the storm and appointing Buchanan.
“It didn’t require a three-star general eight days ago,” Bossert said of the government response.
When asked whether it was a mistake to not have Buchanan on the ground in Puerto Rico earlier, Bossert replied, “No, not at all.”
“In fact, that doesn’t affect the way that we stage equipment and the way we area command and field operational command. This is textbook and it’s been done well,” Bossert told reporters Thursday at the daily White House press briefing.
The Pentagon has been steadily increasing its help to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after both were slammed by the two Category 5 storms. The hurricanes knocked out power across Puerto Rico, leaving nearly half of its more than 3.4 million residents without drinking water.
Puerto Ricans and lawmakers, however, are frustrated with the federal government’s response.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Friday on CNN that Trump should put the U.S. military in charge of handling and delivering aid to Puerto Rico. He asserted that only the Pentagon could repair the logistical issues preventing aid from reaching island residents.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Friday urged Trump to ramp up the federal assistance, ripping acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke for referring to the government’s response as a “good news story.”
“Damnit, this is not a good news story,” Cruz said. “This is a people-are-dying story.”