puerto rico port relief supplies
Relief supplies stuck at Puerto Rico port
02:12 - Source: CNN

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Rubio called for the Pentagon to take over short term logistical authority for hurricane relief

He defended the tenor of the administration's response

Washington CNN  — 

Sen. Marco Rubio called Thursday for the Department of Defense to take over short term relief and recovery efforts for the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico.

“Only the DOD, in my view, has the capacity to take charge of that,” the Florida Republican said in an interview on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”

Rubio, who visited the island Monday, said the most pressing concern for Puerto Rico was not just funneling to the island, but establishing logistics for the supply chain and recovery efforts. He said he believed the military was best positioned for such a challenge.

“The only people who can restore it, who have the capacity to do so quickly in the short term, and then turn it over to the authorities there in Puerto Rico, is the Department of Defense,” Rubio said.

He said moving materials around and taking action with so many different agencies and levels of government involved could require signoff from several entities, and that the tasks were too much for the government of Puerto Rico alone to handle at this time.

“We need someone in charge of that with the know-how of logistics, with the capability to restore logistics and with the authority to make decisions quickly without having to check with 18 agencies,” Rubio said.

Defense officials told CNN that the Pentagon’s point man for military hurricane efforts, Lt. Gen. Jeffry Buchanan, is expected to arrive in Puerto Rico on Thursday. The military will focus on trying to improve distribution networks of relief supplies.

Buchanan is a three-star general and the commander of US Army North (5th Army). Buchanan served four tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Rubio also defended the administration, which he said had responded to the storm and was providing the relief Puerto Rico needed, and repeated his belief the Department of Defense needs to take over in the short term while the federal response must be more encompassing.

“It’s not because they don’t want to do more, and it’s not because the White House doesn’t want to do more,” Rubio said. “Under the model they’re approving, or they’re following, in some cases, they don’t have the authority because who’s in charge?”

However, he argued the model under which the administration was operating was tailored toward other hurricanes, while Puerto Rico was dealing with the fallout from multiple storms that had covered the totality of the island where millions of US citizens reside and continue to struggle.

“In Puerto Rico, the storm is so unusual in that it covers the entire territory after another storm just passed through, after the fiscal constraints they’re operating under, these create some new challenges,” Rubio said.

Rubio also wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, commending the military’s decision and calling for more.

“The logistical chain in Puerto Rico isn’t just broken, at this point it is virtually non-existent,” Rubio said. “Unless DOD steps in quickly to establish emergency logistical assistance, it is my fear this situation will deteriorate rapidly.”

CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.