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Pentagon sends more boots-on-the-ground to Puerto Rico

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[WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2017] The number of DoD personnel deployed to help their fellow citizens in Puerto Rico jumped from around 4,600 to around 6,400 members, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said during a San Juan news conference today.

The 26th MEU is supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.

The governor briefed on all the lines of effort as the island commonwealth strives to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

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Supply ships continue to arrive and the governor and federal officials are working together to ensure food, water and fuel get to the people who need it the most.

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‘There is Increased Capability’

“In terms of personnel, the DoD has increased their presence from 4,600 about 36 hours ago, to about 6,400,” Rossello said. “As you can see, there is increased capability and those capabilities are expected to increase.”

After food and water, distribution of gasoline and diesel is the most critical need, the governor said. “We’ve been increasing the number of gas stations that are open,” he said.

Building Fuel Stocks, Distributing Food, Water

There are more than 720 gas stations open across the island. The island will receive more fuel in the coming days with close to a million barrels of diesel and half-a-million barrels of gasoline arriving on the island. This is important as diesel is needed to run generators providing electrical power for key infrastructure — such as hospitals — in areas where Maria knocked out the power grid.

The distribution of food and water is a testament to the cooperation between commonwealth and federal capabilities, Rossello said. “It is critical that we can establish what the needs are, what the expectations are and that we can guarantee that the food and water are being delivered to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Yesterday, 213 containers arrived on the island that will be distributed to the regional staging centers by DoD and FEMA personnel, the governor said.

There are still communities where the roads are blocked by landslides or where roads were washed out, he said.

Airlifting Supplies While Roads Are Cleared

“One of the main efforts that the DoD will take on is making sure that we can air supply food and water to those communities while we establish direct connection through the roads,” Rossello said.

The governor said the commonwealth will increase the number of regional distribution centers from the current 11 to 25 or more. “The more of these we have throughout Puerto Rico, the easier it is to get food and water for these municipalities,” he said. “DoD and FEMA and our government are working together so we can establish these locations and make sure food and water get distributed appropriately.”

Telecommunications is another critical line of effort and they have restored service to 36 percent of subscribers to date, the governor said. The areas where Maria came ashore — the southeastern part of the island — remain without cell service as the commonwealth must get into the area to repair antennas and other telecom infrastructure. Land lines have been totally restored, he said.

There are about 8,800 refugees in shelters now and the government will consolidate them into 139 shelters, Rossello said. “We are making sure people get to their homes when they can get to their homes, and providing alternative housing in the meantime,” the governor said.

Seaport Capacity Increases

Capacity in the seaports landlines is increasing, Rossello said. The former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station is the headquarters for the recovery effort and the Air Force is running airfield operations there.DoD personnel will establish a logistics effort for two areas on the island where more hospital support is needed, the governor said.

DoD personnel will establish a logistics effort for two areas on the island where more hospital support is needed, the governor said.

Assisting Citizens in Need

“The DoD will establish some alternative locations, those being in the southeastern part of the island and in the middle north of the island, so we can get patients to the hospital and the service that they need,” Rossello said.

“This is another example where the federal government — FEMA, Health and Human Services, DoD, local government and municipalities — need to have a critical loop and conversation so we are updated continuously on what’s going on,” the governor said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working with Puerto Rican officials to rebuild energy production facilities on the island, Rossello said.

The governor praised the assistance coming to the island provided by National Guard personnel coming from stateside locations. New York has sent UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and their crews. New Jersey is sending soldiers and airmen to assist, as are 12 other states, Rossello said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Big League National Security

NEW: Joe Biden Bashes Incoming Trump Administration In Leaked 2016 Call to President of Ukraine

Completely inappropriate.

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Joe Biden speaks in critical and partisan terms of the incoming Trump administration in a new leaked call to the President of Ukraine unveiled Wednesday.

In the call, conducted in November 2016 a week after then-candidate Trump’s election victory, Biden bashes the incoming administration to the foreign leader, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Biden assails the Trump transition team as incompetent, turning down the idea of visiting the country before the January transition before Trump is “fully briefed” on matters related to Ukraine.

In a second call, Biden asks for Poroshenko to describe his conversations with incoming President Trump, going to to speak of Trump in more dismissive terms. He describes Trump as a “dog who caught the car, and who doesn’t know what to do.” Not quite a “dog-faced pony soldier,” but definitely not an appropriate way for an outgoing vice president to describe an incoming president to a foreign leader.

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A Ukrainian comedian originally released the calls, suggesting questionable operational security within the conversations of Joe Biden and Poroshenko. Biden has a lengthy history of ethical questions regarding his relationship with Ukraine, including looking the other way as his son Hunter secured an extremely lucrative position at a Ukrainian oil company without any experience whatsoever in the energy industry.

Biden himself would later go on to demand the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating corruption allegations against the younger Biden, a clear conflict of interest Biden merely dismissed when he spoke openly of securing the prosecutor’s firing at a Council on Foreign Relations public event.

This is a totally inappropriate way for a Vice President to speak to a foreign leader, and the public should be concerned about how Biden plans to conduct diplomacy should he be elected President.

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