US Military Response in Puerto Rico Shifts to Longer-Term Effort

Marie Harrington
October 3, 2017

Gen. Richard Kim, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army North, who arrived on the island, yesterday.

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2017.The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes.

Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, called the deployment of the general a "big step forward", adding, in testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 27, that his presence will help accelerate decision-making on the ground.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday called on the U.S. government to name a single authority to oversee relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and said the U.S. Defense Department should be mostly in charge.

Blumenthal called for as many as 50,000 troops to better coordinate logistics and the delivery of aid and basic necessities. "It's not an issue that we're not doing enough because this storm was responded to in the way we respond to storms", Rubio said, saying that local and state governments are the first line of defense in the aftermath of storms like Hurricane Maria.

"The logistics chain is broken and only the USA military can stand it up".

Overall, the island is likely to need far more than $30 billion in long-term aid from the USA government for disaster relief and rebuilding efforts following Maria, a senior Republican congressional aide said on Thursday.

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The San Juan Airport and nine other airports are open.

"We are continuing to support the [Puerto Rican] governor's priorities of saving lives, sustaining lives, moving food and water, hospital assessments, and providing diesel fuels to hospitals", Rabin told reporters on the phone from the island's capital, San Juan, according to a Defense Department statement.

The Trump administration earlier lifted restrictions known as the Jones Act for 10 days on foreign shipping from the US mainland to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's governor and other U.S. officials had argued that a waiver would expedite supplies to the island. He has staunchly defended the Trump administration for its relief response, which Trump noted in one of his Thursday night Twitter posts.

"It's not because they don't want to do more, and it's not because the White House doesn't want to do more", Rubio said.

The military has delivered fuel to nine hospitals and helped establish more than 100 distribution centers for food and water on the island, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Cornelio also said the number of open gas stations has increased from about 400 to 676.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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