– The Defense Department immediately took action to begin helping the Philippine government recover from Super Typhoon Haiyan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
During a Pentagon news conference, Little explained the roles that DOD and other U.S. agencies are taking in humanitarian aid and disaster assistance in the Philippines.
“As soon as we received reports of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel immediately ordered all available U.S. forces to move to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Philippines,” he said.
“The Philippines is a treaty ally, and the United States stands by its friends and allies in times of crisis,” Little added.
Super Typhoon Haiyan has affected more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine government’s national disaster risk reduction and management council. More details about casualties and damage are expected in the coming days as transportation and communications systems are repaired.
Little said more than 250 U.S. service members from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade are on the ground operating from Philippine air bases Clark and Villamor.
“They are supported by five KC-130 transport aircraft and four MV-22 Ospreys, with additional transport aircraft expected in the next few days,” he said. “As of last night, the Marines reported that they had delivered 107,000 pounds of relief supplies to the government of the Philippines.”
The priorities for aid are potable water, food, shelter, hygiene products and medical supplies, Little said.
“Yesterday, Secretary Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other U.S. Navy ships home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan, to make best possible speed for the Philippines,” he said, noting they are expected to arrive in the area tomorrow.
Numerous U.S. military vessels and aircraft are headed toward the devastated region, the press secretary told reporters.
“The George Washington was in Hong Kong on a port visit,” Little said. “Embarked on George Washington is Carrier Air Wing 5, with more than 80 aircraft, including 11 helicopters. The George Washington can produce more than 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day.”
Additionally, he said, the cruisers USS Antietam, USS Cowpens, and the destroyers, USS Mustin, USS McCampbell and USS Lassen will join the supply ship USNS Charles Drew, which already is underway.
Little reminded reporters this isn’t the first time DOD has provided humanitarian assistance in the Pacific region.
“A U.S. Navy carrier, the USS Lincoln, supported tsunami relief operations in 2004 in the Pacific, providing much needed capabilities to operations ashore,” he said.
Pentagon officials are continuing to work closely with the State Department and the Philippine government to determine whether additional assets may be required, Little said.
The press secretary said the speed with which U.S. forces have been able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan highlights the importance of the humanitarian relief and disaster relief exercises carried out regularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We constantly train for just these types of contingencies, including the annual Balikatan HAD exercise with the Philippines,” Little said. “Coincidentally, personnel from China’s People’s Liberation Army are in Hawaii now conducting a HRDR-focused exchange with our forces.”
Little noted that assisting the Philippine government and its people isn’t solely a Defense Department effort.
“I want to emphasize that the support we are providing to the Philippines is a whole-of-U.S.-government response, not just DOD,” he said. “Relief supplies are on their way to the Philippines from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s warehouse in Dubai.”
There are enough emergency shelter materials and basic hygiene supplies in this shipment to help 10,000 families, he said.
“We are committed, as a department and as a government, to supporting [humanitarian and disaster-relief] efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world,” Little said. “This has been a key priority.”
“One of the key pillars of our defense strategic guidance, not just in the Asia-Pacific region, but elsewhere, is to build partner capacity,” he said. “One of the lynchpins of that guidance is to continue to invest in our allies and partnerships.”