Flow of Military Forces Into Gulf Coast Region Slows
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BERLIN, Sep. 13, 2005 The movement of military forces and equipment into the Gulf Coast region decimated by Hurricane Katrina has all but ended, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"The flow in has pretty well stopped," Rumsfeld said in brief remarks aboard his plane en route to an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers here. He said some forces will begin leaving the area when their unique parts of the mission are complete.
For instance, he noted, dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island brought bridging equipment and supplies into the region, but would now be departing. And as search-and-rescue missions draw down, some helicopters and their crews may soon be able to return to home stations.
The secretary also noted "a large surplus of hospital beds," so officials at all levels are coordinating to remove some of those field-type facilities from the region.
He stressed that the Defense Department would not remove assets from the region without coordinating with local, state and federal officials.
"Nothing is moving out until the state governors give their command and the Homeland Security Department and president authorize it," he said.
Officials report that more than 72,000 active and reserve component forces and 19 ships are mobilized to help Katrina relief efforts.
In meetings today Rumsfeld plans to thank NATO countries for their humanitarian aid to the Gulf Coast in Katrina's aftermath.
"The NATO countries, indeed countries around the world, have just been wonderfully forthcoming," Rumsfeld said, adding that 118 countries provided supplies or support.