Bush to send 7,200 active duty troops to Gulf Coast
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Bush is sending an additional 7,200 troops to the states devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command said Saturday.
Maj. Gen Joseph R. Inge said the new forces would consist of:
2,500 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.2,700 soldiers with the 1st Cavalry Division.2,000 Marines from the 1st and 2nd expeditionary forces.The paratroopers with the 82nd were expected to arrive in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon and the remaining troops are expected to be on the ground within 72 hours, Inge said.
He said the troops are tasked with humanitarian and security missions and possibly crowd control but not law enforcement.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from enforcing civilian law. The law was enacted shortly after 1876 presidential election, when federal troops were dispatched to polling stations in three Southern states.
The troops are allowed to use force to defend themselves, but the National Guard would be dispatched to restore law and order if looting or rioting broke out, Inge said.
The active duty troops will augment the nearly 30,000 National Guardsmen dispatched to an area the size of Pennsylvania, said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard Bureau.
Within a week, about 40,000 Guard troops are expected to be involved in hurricane relief efforts along with about 14,000 federal troops, Blum said.
Blum brushed off criticism that the military’s response to the disaster has been too slow.
“I think the response of the National Guard has been nothing less than unbelievably sensational,” he said.
Blum said one reason why aid was just getting to hurricane victims Friday is the National Guard had to bring in 7,000 Military Police after the New Orleans Police Department fell apart.
No one anticipated the “erosion” of the city’s police department, Blum said.
Of the department’s roughly 1,500 officers, fewer than 500 were still working Saturday, he said.
Some police officers were unable to get to their precincts; others simply chose not to work, he said.
“They made a personal decision to not risk their life until the situation made sense to them,” Blum said.
It was not until Friday that the National Guard had enough Military Police to get to storm the New Orleans Convention Center, where thousands of people are stranded, Blum said.
Had the National Guard gone to the convention center with a lesser force, it may have been ill-prepared to deal with street thugs and innocent people could have been hurt, he said.
Blum praised the Military Police who turned the convention center into “safe haven.”
“They went in and took this convention center down,” he said.