Obama taps Navy secretary for Gulf of Mexico recovery
Published: June 15, 2010
President Barack Obama, in his first nationally televised speech from the Oval Office, said he tapped Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to lead the Gulf of Mississippi clean up, which he said will be paid for by BP.
"I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible," Obama said. "The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents."
Obama offered no details, and Mabus’ spokeswoman, Capt. Beci Brenton, said she would have no details tonight, referring inquiries to the White House.
There long have been calls for a greater Pentagon role, including from Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson; even outright command takeover of the federal government response to the oil spill. But defense and military leaders have consistently rebuffed those ideas. Instead, they have pointed to their authorizations of the use of military equipment, specialists, and 17,000 National Guard troops, most of which have not been called up by gulf state governors.
Earlier today, however, Obama layed out the military's response, speaking to troops at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
This is an assault on our shores, and we’re going to fight back with everything we’ve got.
And that includes mobilizing the resources of the greatest military in the world. (Applause.) Here at Naval Air Station Pensacola, you’ve been one of the major staging areas. You’ve helped to support the response effort. And I thank you for that, and I know the people of Pensacola thank you for that. And all along the Gulf coast, our men and women in uniform -- active, Guard, and Reserve -- from across the country are stepping up and helping out.
They’re soldiers on the beaches putting out sandbags and building barriers and cleaning up the oil, and helping people process their claims for compensation from BP. They’re sailors and Marines offering their ships and their skimmers and their helicopters and miles of boom. They’re airmen overhead, flying in equipment and spraying dispersant. And, of course, there are Coast Guardsmen and women on the cutters, in the air, working around the clock.
And when I say this is the largest response of its kind in American history, I mean it. We’ve got more than 5,000 vessels on site -- skimmers, tugs, barges, dozens of aircraft. More than 27,000 personnel are on the scene, fighting this every day, putting out millions of feet of boom and cleaning the shores.
All told, we’ve authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guardsmen to respond to this crisis. So far, only about 1,600 have been activated. That leaves a lot of Guardsmen ready to help. And if our governors call on them, I know they’ll be ready, because they’re always ready.
So I want the people of this region to know that my administration is going to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to deal with this disaster.