Feds slammed for Puerto Rico response, drawing comparisons to Katrina

Image: Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Sept. 28, 2017.

Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Sept. 28, 2017. Gerald Herbert / AP

“FEMA is thinly resourced without the military in situations like this,” he explained.

Even members of President Donald Trump’s party have been critical of the administration’s delay in involving the military.

“I have and continue to encourage the White House through formal and informal channels to step up the DOD engagement as the lead agency,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told a press conference Thursday.

On Friday, Trump acknowledged that Puerto Rico’s local governments are in a bind because they don’t have the proper resources to rebuild the already poor infrastructure.

“We will really have to start all over again,” Trump said. “We’re literally starting from scratch.”


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Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was also tapped to bolster the federal government’s response after Katrina, told MSNBC that recovery efforts are hampered because Puerto Rico is an island.

“You’re dealing with the tyranny of geography and the tyranny of distance,” he said Friday.

Katrina, however, was a victim of a lack of agencies coming together, Allen said.

“We had resources deployed for almost a week, but they weren’t coordinated under a central command control structure that would allow them to be applied to the highest need,” he added.

Initially, the Trump administration named a one-star general to run U.S. military operations, then upgraded the command to a three-star Thursday, the same rank Honoré held when he commanded U.S. military operations post-Katrina.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, based in San Antonio, headed to Puerto Rico Thursday evening.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert was asked Thursday why it had taken eight days to get a three-star general to Puerto Rico.


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“It didn’t require a three-star general eight days ago,” he replied.

Honoré said there has to be White House leadership for there to be the required level of urgency, that Trump has to show that he’s in command, “not playing golf.”

“This operation is a lot larger than Katrina. It’s something we are missing in the calculations. Eventually, they’re going to get it figured out, but the pain and suffering that’s going to happen until they get it right is going to be enormous.”

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