Obama Permits Reserve Activations for Haiti Effort
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2010 President Barack Obama yesterday signed an order allowing the Defense Department to call certain military reservists to active duty as a result of humanitarian operations in Haiti.
Released by the White House today, the executive order permits the Defense Department to activate reserve-component servicemembers such as reserve medical personnel, to backfill for those deployed aboard the USNS Comfort, and authorized the and Homeland Security Department to activate a Coast Guard unit for port security.
“Members of the armed forces ordered to active duty pursuant to these authorities will augment the active forces in support of operations for Haiti,” reads a memo Obama wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate.
The order does not identify specific units to be activated, but the prerogative will be used on a limited basis, principally to support targeted functions associated with this humanitarian mission, according to a White House statement.
The order to allow for the activation of additional forces comes as the top U.S. commander in Haiti predicted the security component of the U.S. humanitarian relief operation will take on a larger role there. Earlier estimates by the nation’s top military officer and recent news reports that some 10,000 U.S. forces would be in Haiti by tomorrow.
As of this morning, the U.S. military had roughly 1,000 82nd Airborne Division soldiers on the ground in Haiti, and some 3,000 other troops working from ships docked off the Haitian coast. Two additional companies of the 82nd were due to arrive today, in addition to Marines aboard the USS Bataan and a Marine landing battalion expected to arrive in coming days.
Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.
As relief provisions continue being distributed in the devastated country, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton agreed yesterday to President Barack Obama’s request to lead a major fundraising push, lending their stature to the effort in hopes of sustaining international focus on the dire situation.
The addition of the two former presidents elevates the prominence of the U.S. effort, sending a symbol that Obama said he hopes will resonate internationally. The official Web site of the fund, http://www.clintonbushhaitifund.org, accepts donations and contains more information on the effort.