Sen. Rubio Wants Military To Lead Response In Puerto Rico

Sep 29, 2017

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio wants the military to take charge of Puerto Rico’s hurricane response. He says the storm’s effects are hamstringing the island’s supply chain.

A soldier escorts residents through a flooded area of Condado in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Credit U.S. Army / https://www.army.mil

Hurricane Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, and left the roads snarled with trees. CNN reports thousands of containers of supplies are waiting in ports, because of breakdowns in transportation and communication. Senator Marco Rubio says it’s time for the Department of Defense to take over for local officials.

“There needs to be someone in charge that coordinates a logistical restoration. Because if you don’t do that you won’t be able to get the power grid back up, you won’t be able to get back to normalcy. And right now that’s not going to happen unless the DOD engages,” Rubio said.

Rubio says the military is uniquely equipped to restore order.

“The only dynamic that will shift this is a significant surge or uptick in the military presence. It is the only organization, quite frankly in the world, that is able to appear on scene and deal with these logistical challenges. This is what they’re trained to do on the battlefield and this is most certainly what they’re capable of doing,” he said.

Rubio says it's natural for onlookers, and Congress, to offer help. But he believes the aid won't be delivered until Puerto Rico re-establishes its supply chain.

"If we passed an aid package today and sent $10 billion dollars of assistance to Puerto Rico overnight, you still would not be able to get it to the people who need it. And some of that stuff is perishable. Until you deal with the logistical challenges, everything else isn’t going to matter nearly as much," he said.

But critics say Washington’s response has been slow and inadequate. According to the Department of Defense, there are 4,000 troops on the ground. That’s in comparison to 20,000 federal troops at the height of the Hurricane Katrina response.