The Army general credited with fixing then President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been critical of President Trump’s response to the post-hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.
Russel L. Honoré is a retired Lieutenant General who served as the 33rd commanding general of the U.S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Georgia.
“This is a hit on White House decision making,” he told Bloomberg, noting that the federal government needs to send more military support to the island of nearly 3.5 million people.
“The model you want is what was done in Florida” after Hurricane Irma in early September, said Honore. He pointed to the thousands of National Guard troops that were mobilized throughout the state ahead of the storm.
The Louisiana native said if given the command, he’d move 50,000 troops to Puerto Rico, where he said the devastation was worse than what New Orleans dealt with after Katrina.
“They need to scale up,” Honore said. “(In) Katrina, I had 20,000 federal troops. Not federal workers, federal troops.”
“I had 20 ships and over 240 helicopters,” he continued about Katrina. “And Puerto Rico is bigger than Katrina.”
He also recommended moving in a military transportation division to Puerto Rico and having the U.S. Air Force set up a temporary air strip on the island.
Honore also wishes to recontextualize what it means for the armed forces to work with other federal relief agencies.
“I’m not your partner, FEMA,” Honore told CNN. “I’m a command that you give me a mission and say take water and fuel and save the people of Puerto Rico, that’s what we operate off, a mission.”
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan would oversee the military response in Puerto Rico. Of Buchanan, Honore said he has to “figure out what damn rules he’s got to break.”
“We never would have evacuated New Orleans if I listened to the TSA and the pilots,” he continued, noting the agency wanted manifests and identifications.