Skip to main content

Tom Bossert
  White House Briefs Reporters on Hurricane Irma Response  CSPAN  September 11, 2017 8:03pm-8:29pm EDT

8:03 pm
rv -- harvey and irma. this update is 20 minutes. >> in addition, i would note that president trump continued a tog tradition since 9/11 receive a counterterrorism briefing in the oval office from the intelligence committee. the purpose of that is to give the president a sense of the terrorist threat that exist locally and to the homeland. we do not have any current, active threat against the homeland to our knowledge.
8:04 pm
into a quick thought. before i do, sarah noted that we created the department of homeland security. i would note that the government engaged in a massive reorganization of its structures and efforts to create a counterterrorism center and department of homeland security. you have seen it marshal resources and expert fashion for this storm. separate command, you have seen recently. command, which you have seen recently. also to a hurricane. let me see if i can talk to you about what we have done. was the bestvey
8:05 pm
integrated, unified, joint, federal, local state response effort. i continue to stand by that. we have roughly 100,000 registrants. thernor abbott contains leadership and president trump continues to work with him. respect to irma, but does not mean it is not a dangerous storm. jacksonville is suffering what has been called some of the worst flooding it has seen in years. the category might be reduced, but the effects on jacksonville replicate that of the category three storm. as that flooding is ongoing, we have life-sustaining operations underway. the president spoke this morning
8:06 pm
to the governor. i joined that call. if i could, i will speak to it later. the mobilization of our military, in response to the storm in puerto rico is the largest ever globalization of and naval and marine operation. we now have an air force carrier deployed in this effort. we have the largest flotilla operation in our history to help not only the people of puerto rico, but also st. maarten and other islands affected. with respect to puerto rico, the president spoke to the governor thiserto rico around morning. they discussed how happy they
8:07 pm
were about the federal wants to their needs. the governor communicated that they still have a large, islandwide problem that a are addressing as soon as they can. think governor scott has been diminished trading and instinctng leadership and pressing forward, continuing the message to get people out of harm's way. the storm is still hitting the united states. it will move through with an inland flooding problem. governor scott has begun conducting surveys of the keys. west, northeast of key violence took the largest brunt of the storm. i will be able to speak to that when we take questions. 9/11esson we learned on was that not only does evil
8:08 pm
exist, but good people taking action can confront that. laste been assured in the 24 hours is how many good people are taking action. i would like to take questions now. in the immediate aftermath of harvey, the priority was to rescue people trapped id flooding. because the storm is still ongoing, our propriety -- priority is life-saving. what you will see in florida and , harveyadly's reeking was a narrow area of operations speaking,roadly harvey was a narrow area of operations. we are worried about flooding, housing, debris, and power
8:09 pm
restoration. power restoration and restoration of fuel. we left the clear debris from roadways. the message is not to rush reentry. there are dangerous conditions. problems that would be compounded by reentry. there is a life safety reason, public safety reason. eventually we will move into issues. on fuel fronts, what you are doing -- we are doing is to get out of the way. we waited right -- florida is a uniquely postured state and the way it receives fuel. it is not part of the -- it
8:10 pm
receives fuel by shipper take. sites.nk into intermodal what we will do is clear those -- assessss reports the ports. they will continue with their professionalism. any agreements on the private sector and how they contribute to the people in the recovery? half -- have not to deplete the relief fund? >> private sector entities are actually built into our coordinating centers so they can understand what we are doing and how to prioritize the reopening of facilities.
8:11 pm
it is our refined doctrine nowadays that we would rather we open those stores been continue providing food, water, and temporary shelter to people. it is not within their course of operating business. it is healthier and faster for us to open those as quickly as possible. >> the frequency and intensity of storms like harvey and irma can pose a problem for future administrations. you could have fema budget that cannot keep up with the demand. that you thinkng this administration should take a look at? he pulled out of the paris climate accord. are these storms giving this administration some pause when it comes to the issue of climate change? think what is prudent for
8:12 pm
us right now is to make sure that the response capabilities are there right now. i will tell you that we continued to take seriously the climate change. one inch every 10 years in tampa. what i said from the podium the other day and what president trump remains committed to is making sure federal dollars are used. that have to do with engineering and analysis. >> when you say three category four hurricane, does the thought occurred to you that maybe there is something to this climate change and its connection to powerful hurricanes?
8:13 pm
do you separate the two and say the -- they are big hurricanes. >> there is a cyclical nature. they were dead on. large storms making landfall. we will have to do a larger trend analysis. pressure on the federal government budget have these natural disasters put? how will leave her -- how will we react to it? has think the president started the process. i think right now, we have plenty of resources to get through this. the second appropriation we will see at the end of this month is subject to the regular course of order.
8:14 pm
we will do it to the previous question. as to the pressure on the budget, this is a disaster relief issue. it will lead to a balanced budget. >> at any point in time, as you are taking a look at this issue, is there any chance that fema and those places that were cut will see more money go into --ir budget question mark their budget? had a large spike in disaster relief funding. we will probably have to do that again here. you'll see over the longer span of time even the flood insurance
8:15 pm
budget is red and black, red and black, based on claims and premiums. we'll analyze it in that fashion. i don't have a prediction for you on that. reporter: i asked two weeks ago about harvey and you said, i asked you about house, i wanted to know if you have an update on the issue of housing since now we have harvey and what else is coming along the way? can you give us an update as to locating housing for those who have been displaced. mr. bossert: in texas? reporter: in texas or wherever. mr. bossert: going back to praising the governor, he is doing what we have not before, he's dealing with that, assigned someone to be in charge of the long-term recovery. there's four or five housing programs in texas, but some are short lived. you will have to find short-term solutions. people can stay in their home, when the drywall is ripped out
8:16 pm
and repairs begin, they have to find somewhere else to live temporarily. in some cases, fema issued a manufactured housing solution, where they will put a mobile home or trailer on your property that you can live in while your home is being repaired. those are ideal solutions when there's enough acreage on your lot for that to sit. that's the option we have right now. the third option of course is just distance. so there's available rental stock. you have to draw a larger circumference as people move away from their homes. done. some analysis we can get that to you after the briefing. florida will have a slightly different issue. florida will be the same model, but it is a peninsula and larger scale problem. whetherill do is assess
8:17 pm
those are the right problem -- right models. we will make sure that people are taking care of. >> there is a concern about the mobile home and wound up having issues with formaldehyde area there is a big concern about mobile home communities just being in place after katrina. is that out of the mindset or part of the mindset? mr. bossert: what we do as a government is purchase available manufactured housing. we don't make it and we purchase it off the open market. i think the open market has improved. their building practices and i think we have improved through that experience knowing who to buy from and who not to buy from. i understand problems with ambient air quality persist in our everyday lives. i don't know how much formaldehyde is in this room but i know it's a carcinogen at any level.
8:18 pm
we take it very seriously and we message very seriously the importance of basically ventilation. but to my knowledge we buy off of a better market now and provide that solution in a more tailered and responsible manner. reporter: couple questions about the conditions in florida. first of all, floridians without power, usually a very local issue but this is a catastrophe of a much grander scale. when is your assessment people in florida can get their power back? what's the federal government's role in making that happen? mr. bossert: my number is somewhere north of five million. i don't know if that constitutes half the people in florida. i will take your word for it. reporter: households and businesses. mr. bossert: it's a significant number. to the extent a customer might have four people in the household, you'll see that
8:19 pm
number increase. the number of people will be four in the home, the number of customers would be one. that's the difference. the idea is we have a joint role in this. florida power and light, duke electric, others will be bringing forces to bear here. u.s. government brings to bear a number of forces that are imperative to the restoration effort like pushing debris out of the road and clearing roadways. yesterday what we saw was not just the reports of but the actual evidence of this will be the largest ever mobilization of line restoration workers in this country, period, end of story. they were already mobilized yesterday. they were at the daytona speedway. we will have line restoration workers from every company in this country from states all over the country but also from canada coming to florida to help restore the lines. so in florida, unlike in houston where they're buried powerlines, in florida they are strung on poles. we have to restore the poles, restring the lines. the way that process works is they restore the plant and subplant, then line by line into each road and half by half. you can't hook up each half until the home is safe.
8:20 pm
you do not want to burn the house down. it's literally a joint effort from federal clearing to public and private partnerships to line restoration efforts that are partnered in the for-profit and regulated world all the way through the individual homeowners. reporter: how long will that take? mr. bossert: i would say be patient between re-entry and that process. we could have power down in homes for the coming weeks. now, i don't want to cause panic in florida. there are hospitals and nursing homes and other facilities that have generator power to provide services that are necessary. and there the concern is providing fuel to those generators should they run out. from that perspective the federal government provides a great deal of fuel, great deal of transport assistance and we give that fuel to the state and locals and they distribute to those wholesale and retail distribution. that's the best analogy. they distribute to those
8:21 pm
facilities. that's our role there. we expect that to happen seamlessly. reporter: is preventing price gouging in the state of florida a state responsibility? mr. bossert: it can be both. you'll hear from the attorney general later and he will explain fraud. i think you already heard pam she is engaging in anti-gouging. both is the answer but i can tell you neither official, attorney general of the united states or attorneys general of the states are going to tolerate gouging. that's something i think people ought to think twice about. sir. reporter: there is a possibility of a third and fourth supplemental for disaster relief. can you tell us how much the administration wants to be included in the supplemental and will you put language raising cap for flood insurance in that legislation as well? mr. bossert: the first point, no. we are trying to make sure we have responsible estimates as
8:22 pm
opposed to making wild gases guesses now. we will try to get through the response phase and as we transition into recovery figure out the damage, go up for another responsible request. if we got that wrong then we go for another. it's not necessarily wrong but if we estimate and find tules -- they don't meet the estimates then we'll go and rectify. as far as flood insurance, we will see how many claims. they had $6.8 billion available to it. if claims exceed we will ask for the cap to be raised. reporter: i was hoping you could drill down the efforts of evacuating americans in the caribbean. the state department had a task force. they're working round the clock. can you assess those efforts and can you give a message to americans who are right now in dire straits in the caribbean who might be listening to this, what should the expectation be for an evacuation, how soon can the americans get the americans out? mr. bossert: i'm preaching caution to make sure people
8:23 pm
understand this is an ongoing effort and still going to be long, painful days ahead. i am doubling down, this is the best integrated, full-scale response effort in our nation's history. that includes the u.s. virgin islands and puerto rico and non-u.s. islands where we helped american citizens during a window of operational safety between jose and irma. this has been a large event. you are going to see a lot of positive stories from it. now, expectations. an island where we have to transport commodities, food, water, a long road to bring electric power online but we have assembled two of the most powerful naval flotillas in recent memory, a total of nine large ships. i am going to cut right to the -- the u.s. -- the abraham -- that's an aircraft.
8:24 pm
that's an operation for most americans you can't picture it has never been mobilized for this type of emergency response effort in our history. so to the extent i can assess it, i am proud of it. to the extent it meets the needs, i hope it does because we are saving thousands off of these islands. if the burn rate is not fast enough i would be surprised because we are mobilizing ourselves in ways we have never mobilized. the president of the united states and the governor of puerto rico were all very pleased in their phone calls today. i am in no better position from this podium than their to assess this. reporter: with so many people who evacuated from the keys and given the level of destruction there, any time estimate on when people might be able to return to the keys? mr. bossert: the keys are going to take a while. we have not assessed the structural integrity of the bridges there. there is some early reason to believe some of the draw bridges that were up may or may not have
8:25 pm
been bent. restoring those will take some time. that route 1 is a large expansive bridge. all of the undergirding has to be assessed for structural integrity. i expect the keys will not be fit for re-entry for weeks. if that's wrong and i'm wrong then fine. let the local officials bring you in. i would set that expectation pretty broad right now and say for the people that chose to stay, they had every warning to leave. we hope they took that warning. those that didn't we will get back down there as soon as we humanly can. we had three or four overflights today. i talked to the fema administrator and he's not certain yet that we had good overflight assessment of where all those people might be. neither of us would be surprised if lives were lost but neither of us would be surprised if the responders will get down there aggressively. we're doing everything we can to help them. i am going to actually end on that if i could. end where i started. today is the day of remembrance
8:26 pm
for 9/11. it is why i got into this business and it's why i believe our government is now organized for the level of response that we've seen. it just goes to kind of show what we got. if we want to bring ourselves together in helping our fellow humans, under good leadership for president trump, i think we put together a good effort. please for the people of florida, continue to follow the instructions of your first responders and local authorities. this isn't over yet and it's going to be a painful, slightly frustrating if not very frustrating week or two ahead. thank you all very much. announcer: c-span's washington journal live every day with policy issues that impact you. coming up tuesday morning, documentary filmmakers will join us to discuss their latest film called the vietnam war. we'll talk about the future of the daca regression program.
8:27 pm
-- immigration program. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal, live at sign :00 eastern. join the discussion. the un security council voted 15-0 to impose additional sanctions on north korea. the foreign affairs committee holds discussion on diplomacy for dealing with north korea. announcer: c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. marks the 60th anniversary
8:28 pm
of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the u.s. at the white house, the president and first lady going for a moment of silence in honor of the. -- the victims.