Guard Chief: Puerto Rico, VI ‘More Complicated’

Washington Report

(September 26, 2017) The effort to put Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands back together after they were pounded by Hurricane Maria will be more difficult because they are islands, Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said Monday on his way to meet with officials in St. Croix.

The chief of the National Guard Bureau called it “a harder response scenario” and said it may take months to restore basic infrastructure, like power, according to a report in The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill.

“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are not Texas and Florida,” Lengyel said. “They’re out here in the middle of the ocean. It’s more complicated to get people here, it’s more complicated to fix the power grids, it’s more complicated to fix a whole lot of other things. This response in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is going to challenge the system.”

The Hill reported Tuesday that 1,375 Guardsmen were in Puerto Rico and about 1,200 in the Virgin Islands.

More than 15,000 Guardsmen were mobilized in response to both Hurricane Harvey in late August and Hurricane Irma earlier this month. Harvey made landfall in Houston, while Irma raced through the Caribbean and smashed into Florida.

Lengyel responded Tuesday to charges that assistance had been late in reaching the islands that were hit hard by Maria, a Category 5 storm. He told The Hill he had not seen any political posturing that would delay aid to Puerto Rico, as some lawmakers had claimed.

“We want to make sure they have everything they need,” he said. “We’re very in touch with the folks in Puerto Rico.”

Lengyel, who was in the Virgin Islands Monday and will be in Puerto Rico Wednesday, said another 1,000 to 1,500 troops will be in the Virgin Islands soon. He said he has yet to assess numbers for Puerto Rico, but will know more after his visit, the newspaper reported.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the federal response to the damage in Puerto Rico “has been wholly inadequate.”

President Donald Trump asserted that Puerto Rico was “doing well” and receiving the necessary food, water and medical help it needs.