FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 27 through 30, 2017

Friends of FOD

Some additions to previous stories and some new FOD to pick up. Comments appreciated.

 

USNS Comfort (T-AH20) Proceeding To Puerto Rico and Other Puerto Rico Events/Opinions

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) is proceeding toward Puerto Rico to aid in relief efforts on the storm damaged island.  The USNS prefix identifies the Comfort as a non-commissioned ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command (MSC). A uniformed naval hospital staff and naval support staff is embarked when Comfort is deployed, said staffs consisting primarily of naval officers from the Navy’s Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and naval enlisted personnel from the Hospital Corpsman rating and various administrative and technical support ratings (e.g., Yeoman, Personnel Specialist, Information Systems Technician, Religious Program Specialist, etc.).  Criticism has surfaced in the last few days implying Comfort should have already been positioned there.  Former Senator Hilary Clinton sought headlines and attempted to crush some additional sour grapes into whine on the issue.  The facts are the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responsible for coordinating efforts of all participating agencies as part of that agency’s charter and the agency provides state and local government support for disaster relief, until September 28, when the US  Army has appointed BGen Richard Kim to oversee every facet of the massive mission and coordinate the National Guard, FEMA and Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s office.  Generally it is FEMS’s responsibility to request DoD and other assets as necessitated by the events.  Since then, the US military is conducting round-the-clock missions to send aircraft, troops, food, water, medical supplies and communications equipment and power generation equipment to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  The humanitarian and rescue efforts must necessarily precede the rebuilding efforts and emphasis is being given to search and rescue efforts, distribution of supplies and bringing power back to hospitals, airports, ports and other such facilities.  The totality of the destruction on Puerto Rico is so vast as to have limited any analysis of what’s needed and where.  The power grid and hence everything run by electrical power generators; cell phone sites, gas station pumps, water pumps, etc. are all out.  Puerto Rico has traditionally been hampered by inefficient and corrupt local and territorial government officials and organizational apparatus that now finds itself incapable of handling the immense efforts required to both evaluate and distribute aid on a large scale.  It’s like New Orleans post Katrina times 1000.  On September 28, Congress and the President, at the request of Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló have temporarily waived the Jones Merchant Marine Act allowing foreign ships to deliver items to the island.  The Fireball opinion is this is a finger pointing exercise regarding relief supplies and is a familiar argument used by Puerto Rico officials to draw attention away from the island’s debt crisis.  I see the news coverage shows thousands of containers of relief supplies and other commodities already off loaded on San Juan docks.  Power at the docks is being supplied by diesel generators.  But drivers aren’t available because they don’t have the fuel for their personal vehicles and/or the communication chain to get them to work coupled with the lack of fuel for the truck needs to move and/or refrigerate their contents.  Drivers and security personnel are now being flown in.  If you’re a store, it’s hard to take delivery of goods when your store has no roof, no power for cash registers and your employees can’t get to work.  Without electricity the banking system is paralyzed as well.  According to the latest from Washington on 29 September, President Trump is making no specific promise to rebuild what was already a much antiquated infrastructure (including the electrical grid).  Later Friday, during a speech on tax policy, Trump said, “Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort…will be funded.” Trump said the effort “will end up being one of the biggest ever” and noted that Puerto Rico already had “a tremendous amount of debt.”  Fine, but let’s help our American citizens who are critical need of water, food and medical support.  Currently only 5% of the islands electrical service has been restored a full 10 days after Hurricane Maria.  We should be doing better.  Alec Baldwin did a great Trump on the kickoff of ‘SNL.’  As an aside, the Jones Act regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Jones Act deals with cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.  It has been instrumental in maintaining a merchant marine capable of supporting our national defense and our national security despite what Arizona Sen. John McCain says with regard to the law.  It has sustained a ship building critical to our nation and decreases the adverse consequences of exposing ports and waterways to foreign seafarers.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 23 through 26, 2017

Friends of FOD

A lot of FOD to pick up.  Comments welcomed of course.

 

Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts

We’re just beginning to grasp the scope of the devastation to Puerto Rico.  This American territory has been holding on by a thread for years and has been on the verge of bankruptcy several times.  Its infrastructure was already substandard and in need of major overhaul prior to Maria.  Military Times is reporting, two U.S. Navy ships, National Guard, Air National Guard, Reserve troops and Army helicopters are providing aid to Puerto Rico. But questions are mounting over whether the U.S. is doing enough for its territory and people, who are American citizens.  To date, the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and dock landing ship Oak Hill have “conducted eight medical evacuations, 148 airlifts and delivered 44,177 [pounds] of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” U.S. Northern Command said in a statement.  U.S. forces have also restored a mobile communications tower at St. Thomas International Airport to enable the airport to receive additional aircraft to evacuate residents.  The amphibious assault ship Wasp has been conducting similar rescues in Dominica, but that ship will be departing the region to head to the Pacific, where it will eventually relieve the Bonhomme Richard, a Navy official said.  Approximately 2,600 U.S. military personnel and National Guard members are currently involved in Hurricane Maria relief efforts, the Pentagon said.  Currently, more than 700 Air National Guard airmen are deployed to Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to support relief efforts.  Most of Puerto Rico has no electricity or cell phone capabilities because of Hurricane Maria’s damage to the electrical grid and cell towers. There are long lines for food and water.  Likely we’ll need to do more and the more is likely to continue for years.

 

 

 

USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain Take Another Top Officer

The Commander of the  U.S. Pacific Fleet is retiring after learning there’s no possibility of him being promoted out of his current job, he said in a statement to NBC News on Monday. Admiral Scott H. Swift was in charge of the Pacific Fleet during the period this summer when two different ships, USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sustained collisions at sea that left 17 sailors dead.  Swift said the Chief of Naval Operations  Admiral John M. Richardson told him that he would not be nominated for the United States Pacific Command post, which is senior to Pacific Fleet.  In a statement, he said he was retiring “with great appreciation and gratitude for the honor of having served so many Sailors and their families for what will be 40 years in January.”

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