JUST BACK FROM THE GULF COAST, presents a Lt. Gen. H. Steven BlumDefense Department Briefing on the Ongoing National Guard Response to Hurricane Katrina. Up to date numbers and plans for mitigating the disaster. And this exchange which puts a little reality back into the picture:
Q: Across the disaster zone our reporters have consistently run into people over the past week, victims who have asked where's the National Guard, why aren't they here, why aren't they helping us? I know it's not your job to decide where and when aid is delivered. You have to provide these forces. But as a general who's been there and a commander with a can-do reputation, I just wanted to ask your opinion. Do you think in retrospect that more creativity, more ingenuity could have been employed early on to use the military to deliver more aid to people sooner?[Emphasis added.] Posted by Vanderleun at June 4, 2005 9:27 AM | TrackBack
GEN. BLUM: It would be easy to draw that conclusion, Jamie, but if you've ever been to Gulfport, remember the highway that runs along the coast was a four lane super highway. It was impassable. So where you could -- if a normal infrastructure existed, no question, you could have saturated the area with more, faster. But we were putting forces in in very degraded infrastructure. Airports had reduced capability. Roads, in some cases we had only one road in because of lack of bridges, flooding, loss of infrastructure, or the structures were too unsafe to cross or we would become casualties ourselves.
So we couldn't rush to failure on this thing and we had to take a more measured approach than any of us wanted. But to call this response late to need, if you're talking about the National Guard response, that would be a low blow to some incredible individuals who were on watch before the storm, harbored during the storm, on the scene immediately after the storm cleared. Just think about it. When was the storm? When did it hit? How many days ago?
Q: Early Monday.
GEN. BLUM: And today is what?
GEN. BLUM: In that short time we're talking numbers of 40,000. This is just military. You're talking about being able to provide food, fuel, water for an unknown number of people that we have to first fine and discover in lots of cases, and then immediately care for with extremely high expectations.
I think the response of the National Guard is nothing less than unbelievably sensational. It's actually better than any planner could ever expect.
When I first laid out the numbers of reinforcements that would be coming into theater and then I went down there to ensure that they arrived so that the plan was in fact being executed, I was very surprised to find that every single projection that we had made had been exceeded because of the magnificent response that we're getting from all over this nation. Puerto Rico, in the height of hurricane season, is sending 1,000 soldiers to the relief effort. Think about what that means. One of the first forces in there were coming in from Oregon, Washington, Alaska. Forty states have soldiers there. Others are lined up to come in later because they have different skill sets that we think we'll need down the road, particularly as we get some of these roads uncovered and we have to start with reconstruction and rehabilitation of the area, rather than just getting in and getting the necessities in, the essentials.