Department of Defense News Briefing on Preparations for Hurricane Florence by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth P. Rapuano and Air Force General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Commander, Northern Command

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth P. Rapuano; Air Force General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Commander, Northern Command; Colonel Rob Manning, Director, Defense Press Office


COLONEL ROB MANNING: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. My name is Colonel Rob Manning, the director of Press Operations here at the Department of Defense. 

Thank you for joining us today for a briefing on DOD preparations for Hurricane Florence. Joining us today is the assistant to the secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, Kenneth P. Rapuano, and U.S. Air Force general, Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the United States Northern Command and North American aerospace defense command. 

Their bios can be found on defense.gov website. Mr. Rapuano will begin today's briefing with an opening statement, and he'll be followed by General O'Shaughnessy. 

Then we'll open it up for questions. But we have a limited amount of time today, so during the Q&A portion, please state your name and news outlet and limit yourself to one question and a follow-up.

Again, please state your name and outlet. Please turn all electric -- electronic devices to silent mode. The Wi-Fi password's in the back of the room. Again, this briefing is on DOD preparations for Hurricane Florence. 

Sir, over to you. 

ASSISTANT SECRETAREY KENNETH P. RAPUANO: Good afternoon. We in the Department of Defense very much appreciate the media's attention to the status of and preparations for Hurricane Florence. 

Secretary Mattis and Deputy Secretary Shanahan are monitoring storms in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, receiving daily updates from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Northern Command. On response to efforts currently 100 percent of RFAs have been approved. 

The secretary is also receiving reports throughout the day on actions the military services are taking to protect the safety and well-being of the military community, and ensure the readiness of DOD installations in the region affected by Hurricane Florence. 

Hurricane Florence is a dangerous storm, and we encourage anyone and those in our military communities in the path of the storm to heed the warning of state, local and DOD installation officials. 

DOD installation officials have the expertise, knowledge and authority to provide the best guidance to ensure the safety of our military members and their families, and to ensure the readiness of these installations to provide immediate response support to local communities. 

The department has also moved ships, aircraft and their helicopters from the area to safeguard them from the effects of the storm, and to preserve their mission capability. These assets will return once the storm has passed and will support the response as needed. 

The department is working very closely with Administrator Long and is prepared to assist FEMA and our other federal partners in supporting the affected regions. 

Our operations centers are in constant coms and are ready to respond and assist with military capabilities as requested. 

General O'Shaughnessy will discuss these efforts in greater detail shortly. The department has significant military capability along the Eastern seaboard, with 21 major DOD installations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. 

Secretary Mattis has pre-approved all requests for lifesaving and life-sustaining actions in order to make DOD capabilities immediately available to our federal partners. 

The department is fully engaged in support of FEMA for Hurricane Florence. U.S. Northern Command, as the supported combat and command, is the synchronizer for all of DOD response efforts, with General O'Shaughnessy directly responsible to the secretary of defense.

U.S. Transportation Command in support of USNORTHCOM is staging and prepositioning FEMA resources, and preparing to support multi-modal transportation of equipment, relief supplies and personnel including medical patient evacuation if necessary. 

The Defense Logistics Agency is directly supporting FEMA logistics with the procurement and distribution of relief commodities, including food, fuel and water. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also directly supporting FEMA and is poised to support flood mitigation, temporary emergency power, temporary roofing and debris removal. 

The National Geospatial Agency is supporting FEMA with imagery and analysis and assessment. The National Guard is postured to support response efforts and state active duty status under the command and control of the respective governor. 

Secretary Mattis recently approved dual status commanders in the states of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. 

General O'Shaughnessy has a robust team at FEMA headquarters, and former -- forward-deployed with each of the FEMA regions to coordinate operational and tactical support. He will now provide an update on the operational actions taken to prepare for Hurricane Florence. Thank you. 

GENERAL TERRENCE J. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Well, good afternoon and thank you, members of the press corps, for your ongoing efforts to inform the public, a role that is especially important in light of the danger that hurricanes and other natural disasters pose. 

FEMA administrator Brock Long said that the emergency response and recovery is a whole-of-community effort, and I could not agree more. 

So what I'm going to do is walk you through the DOD response and the efforts that we have ongoing from the local level, the state level and then the federal level. 

At the local level, it's important to remember that members of the military are also members of the communities that are affected by this storm. 

North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia are all home to well-known military bases and installations, and the secretary of defense is given authority for life-saving and life-sustaining actions in order to make DOD capabilities immediately available, and local commanders are proactively positioning forces and equipment to be ready. 

At the state level, National Guard units, whether Army or Air, under the authority of their governors, are ready to respond to the individual and oftentimes neighboring states' needs. 

We are closely linked and synced with them through FEMA and other emergency coordination networks to ensure that we understand the governor's priorities and requirements in how we, the Department of Defense, can contribute to the overall effort. 

I've been in close communication with each of the state adjutant generals who work directly for the governors, and we are also tied to the emergency management ops centers within each state. 

We are able to anticipate the robust response from both Title 10 or active duty, and Title 32, the National Guard personnel. 

The secretary of Defense has activated dual status commanders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to provide seamless command and control over assigned active guard and -- and response forces. 

Finally, I'm in constant dialogue with the chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joe Lengyel, to ensure that our efforts are seamless. 

Along with FEMA, state governors and the National Guard, DOD is responding robustly. National Guard commanders have the experience and understanding to lead our forces for this kind of mission, and they have my complete confidence and support. 

And while I can attest to the tremendous capability that resides within the local and state level, based on the magnitude of this storm, DOD's proactive actions are ensuring that our forces are optimally positioned for immediate response. 

And you may have heard me say formally that homeland defense is the number one priority for NORTHCOM and NORAD. But we and the rest of DOD are leaning forward to provide military capabilities in support of FEMA and our state and local partners, while still defending the homeland.

The same capabilities that make the U.S. Armed Forces so powerful in combat lend themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief, and we are ready and able to support FEMA and state and local officials in situations where unique capabilities are required to assist our communities.

I'd like to take this opportunity to give you a snapshot of how we are proactively positioning forces now to respond from the north, from the south, from the east and from the west, across the full spectrum of DOD capabilities at every level -- by air, by sea and by land.

DOD is providing FEMA the following military installations as staging areas for relief commodities: Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Joint Base Bragg, North Carolina; North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina; and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. And then, at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and moving forward from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, we have multiple composite truck companies of approximately 80 light/medium tactical vehicles for LT -- LMTVs, each staged to respond quickly, once Florence passes through the area. LMTVs are high-water-clearance vehicles which can carry supplies of -- or first responders to high-water areas not accessible by typical first-responder vehicles in order to rescue trapped individuals or perform house-to-house checks. This capability was used to great effect during Hurricane Harvey operations last year.

At Hunter Army Airfield, DOD has approximately 35 helicopters that are available to -- for search-and-rescue operations. A similar unit is at Fort Bliss, Texas, ready to move forward.

At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in addition to acting as a staging area for relief supplies, 40 high-wheel vehicles for rescue and transportation, as well as seven helicopters are staged within a hurricane-reinforced hanger, positioned for use in SAR and recovery missions.

The USS Kearsarge and the Arlington, which will literally chase Florence in, has Navy and Marine personnel, in addition to life-saving assets, to include 16 helicopters and six MV-22s.

At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, we have the U.S. Air Force search-and-rescue package with six HH-60s, two HC-30s and four para-rescue teams ready and able to assist in search and rescue, as they are requested. We also have additional search-and-rescue teams at Moody that came from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, representative of the broader DOD support to Hurricane Florence, first Air Force will provide robust command-and-control, air operations support, as well as assisting in vital search-and-rescue efforts, to include airborne C-2 assets such as the Joint Star's E-8 under NORTHCOM authority.

We have quite literally surrounded the expected affected area with DOD capability that will be critical in hours and days following the storm's impact.

I've shown you the robust capabilities and capacity that DOD has to support and respond immediately. If you look at the graphic, and we look, quite literally, from -- from the sea, where we have the Kearsarge and the Arlington that are going to follow the storm in, all the way through to our Army and our great support that we have with the vehicles that are going to be able to be used in a high-water situation, to the helicopters and all the way, literally surrounding this affected area, the Department of Defense is ready to respond when asked from FEMA, when asked from the governors, when asked from the local communities, we are ready to respond and we are going to be ready for the first little minutes and hours following Florence's impact. Thank you.

COL. MANNING: Sir, thank you very much. Lita Baldor, Associated Press.

Q: Hi. A couple questions, General, specifically, you talked about the Kearsarge and the Arlington. About how soon do you estimate those two ships will be -- actually be able to get to the affected area, considering the slow pace of the storm? And I have -- then I have another question. Go ahead.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, so quite literally, they're -- they are -- they are dependent on the storm's track, so they are literally following the storm in. So as the storm progresses, they progress in, so they are dependent on the weather conditions to clear to be able to come in, and that's why we're not -- singularly responsible -- looking at them for the responsibility to come from the sea, but we have surrounded it from the land as well so we can take it before the storm gets there. The -- the aircraft that we have, and the vertical lift that we have coming from the south, from the -- from the west and from the north. We'll be able to access it, and then as the storm clears, we'll be able to get the Kearsarge and Arlington in.

Q: And then, so secondly, what do you see as the biggest challenge, as you look at sort of the -- the scope of the storm? And specifically, one of the issues that has come up in previous storms and other disasters is this DOD waiting for states to ask for something that the military knows they should be asking for, and they're not asking for it yet, or asking for it quickly enough. How are you addressing what has been sort of a perpetual problem?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well, first off, they -- Secretary Mattis' guidance to me is clear: We are anticipating the needs. We are moving forward under our own authorities to be able to respond as soon as that request is made so that we don't want to have to generate a force once that request is made, but that force is immediately available. 

And as we look into this storm, and working closer with Brock Long as he looks at what he thinks his biggest challenges are going to be, in the immediate aftermath of the storm planning, we think the search and rescue, the vertical lift and the ability to -- to bring in those helicopters is going to be a key asset, and again, in close coordination with Administrator Brock Long.

Q: Do you think the search and rescue is going to be -- search -- excuse me, search and rescue is going to be the biggest challenge? Is that particularly like along the water's edge, or is the...

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I think because of the way -- as we see the storm coming in, the -- even though it's degraded to a Cat two, we see, because of the length of time it's going to be on the coast and the heavy rainfall that'll happen, we do think the flooding and the storm surge combination together will be a very difficult challenge to overcome. And so the search and rescue is probably the -- the -- the first and foremost response that we'd be looking at, but it's not the only response we're looking at. It's just that temporally will be incredibly important to have that -- those assets available, not on a generation in 24 hours, but immediately available. And that's why, under Secretary Mattis' authority, we were able to push those forward and have them ready for immediate response.

COL. MANNING: Tara Copp, Military Times.

Q: Thank you. We've seen all the air, land and sea assets you have in place. About how many personnel total are involved in this response?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: That's a -- a good question. At this moment -- it's a rapidly-changing number, but at this moment we have approximately 7,000 personnel. Of that, just over 4,000 is National Guard, and about 3,000 active duty. That number will -- will change and fluctuate drastically over the upcoming hours, and we will be able to keep you informed as that number goes through our press releases.

Q: OK, and then where does the money come from for this response? Is there a specific emergency response bucket that you're -- you're pulling from, or where is it to come from?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Go ahead.

SEC. RAPUANO: So the Stafford Act is the legislation that provides the Department of Homeland Security with its disaster relief funds. So federal support for federal missions supporting state and locals in an emergency like this are paid via Stafford Act.

Q: OK. And then just a last one: You know, looking at this tremendous, like, kind of pre-positioned response, you can't help but think of Puerto Rico last year, where it took days for ships to start to get there, and realizing is, as Lita got to the part of that, was the -- the knowledge of having to ask for it. What sort of lessons have been learned, as far as being able to respond and help American citizens?

SEC. RAPUANO: So we did a detailed lesson-learned process, as we do post- any significant event, in the Department of Defense. And what we got out of that assessment is we have processes in place, for example, to develop a common operational picture that we share with all DOD entities and with our federal partners. We have a common asking picture, which is the request that we are getting or believe that we will be getting from other partners, and then we have a common tasking picture. So we understand what assets from what entity within the department are being sent to support the response to the storm. 

We've had that in place. We've made some significant improvements to that just based on those three storms that were overlapping, literally, creating a level of intensity and depletion of resources that really was unprecedented. 

Q: (off mic) 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I would just say the close collaboration that we have established between FEMA, between the governors is allowing us to populate those databases, to populate -- so we fully understand the requirements, the needs even before the formal processing has -- has been completed. 

I think the relationship we have right now is as strong as it's ever been between the federal forces, the -- the local state forces, and of course FEMA and -- under the Administrator Brock Long. 

COL. MANNING: Luis Martinez, ABC. 

Q: Hi. Question about prepositioning. I believe during Hurricane Irma, which was I think in Florida, you prepositioned a lot of assets outside the storm area, but then later on they weren't used at all, because the state assets could handle it. 

As we look at this storm, do you foresee that the Guard that will be able to handle SAR immediately after the storm and may not even require your assets? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well I would say the -- the -- all the local National Guard is well-postured to respond to the search and rescue requirement. The magnitude of the storm may exceed their capability, and if it does we want to make sure that we are postured and ready to respond at a moment's notice to that. 

So if we end up with this force that we have that is not needed because either the storm does not have the impact that it -- we think it might, and/or the local responders and the National Guard under the governors' authorities can handle it, then that is just fine. Then we have met our mission. 

Q: Also, with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, obviously the -- the -- the electrical grid was impacted in a huge way. There have already been predictions that maybe three-quarters of some of these states may lose power for weeks. 

What kind of a role can you play in that? I mean, specifically the Army Corps of Engineers, I think they were in the lead with Puerto Rico afterwards. What can you do if -- with sort of helping them in this immediate time? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, so I'll -- just as you mentioned, Army Corps of Engineers is -- will be very deep in that regard. What we are trying to do is synchronize that effort, and so we work closely with the Corps of Engineers, with FEMA, with the local authorities so that we can anticipate those. And the staging areas we have right now, for example, are full of the generators that you mentioned so that we can be able to respond and push those forward. 

So it's a close -- again, it's that collaboration, it's a close working -- it's bringing all of the elements of the Department of Defense to bear against this challenging problem set. 

SEC. RAPUANO: I -- I would just note that one of the benefits that you get from a disaster on the mainland where you've got multiple contiguous states is there's a tremendous amount of -- a proximity that states will provide in their emergency management assistance compacts. 

There are -- there are electrical repair vehicles heading towards the Southeast Coast from all over the country as we speak, amassing on the outskirts of where the -- the hurricane will have the most impact, ready to go in. If that's not sufficient to meet the need, then the states will make a request that FEMA and DOD will be there with -- with assets as requested by them to meet the need. 

(Inaudible) Sylvia - AFP

Q: Thank you. So do you have an idea of how many people were evacuated from the coastal area? 

SEC. RAPUANO: I -- I'd heard the figure over a million today, but that was probably as of earlier today. I -- I don't -- we don't have those statistics. I don't know if general -- 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: No. I'll direct you to FEMA for the direct answer. 

COL. MANNING: Tom Squitieti, Talk Media News. 

Q: I don't have a question. Sorry. I was just scratching my head. (Laughter.)

COL. MANNING: Oh. OK. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News. 

Q: General, what specifically are you doing differently this year compared to last year with the hurricane? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well I think as was mentioned, we take the lessons learned from last year, although it was a phenomenally robust response, we can always learn from that. And so I think the anticipation, the coordination ahead of time, the collaboration of really understanding what are those requests going to be in a manner that will allow us to predictably preposition our forces and set us up for success for -- for Florence. 

Q: Nothing specifically that you're doing differently this year, then? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: There's multiple things that we're differently with respect to how we're quantifying those requests and how we're able to respond to them in a sense of how we're processing it, so that we can do so quicker. But it's -- it's not one thing that (inaudible); it's the multiple of things that we're doing in order to drive that time from request to actual response and action I think is going to set us up for success for this event. 

COL. MANNING: Carla Babb, Voice of America. 

Q: Thank you. Two questions instead of a question and a follow, if that's OK. So first, we've learned about some of the ships that have been (inaudible) out. What other equipment has been moved out of the area, planes and other things, and about how much has that cost to move those -- that equipment out for the military? And then my second question is on the search and rescue timing. 

Every time that there's a hurricane, especially in the Carolinas, there are people in the Outer Banks that do not like to leave because there's only one road and they -- they feel like if they stay then they don't have to worry about taking days to get back. Can you tell us how long you anticipate it will take to get to people if they become -- if they become - get into a dire situation? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. First let me start by all of the individuals and the citizens who listen to their government and -- and follow the appropriate guidance that they've given with respect to evacuations. This particular storm I think is going to be challenging in regard to what you mentioned. Because of the slow-moving nature of the storm, it could very well stay with high winds, inclement weather for a long period of time, which is going to mean that any rescue effort is going to take time. 

And so we still have the limitations that we have of operating within those weather environments are going to preclude us from necessarily coming in in the hours immediately after the storm hits. And so again, I would really highlight the need, based on the nature of this particular storm, to really heed the evacuation recommendations. With respect to -- 

Q: (off mic) 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I think it's -- it's hard -- it's weather dependent, so it's -- unfortunately that part's out of our control. What I can tell you is that soon as the weather allows us to, we will be able to respond very quickly. With respect to the movement of the force, of course we have to move the force to preserve the force. So while there may be costs associated with that, it is obviously prudent for us in order to do so. I don't have an exact cost of what that is, but we can -- we can give you a follow up answer on that. 

But obviously it's prudent for us to move it as opposed to have it damaged by the storm. 

COL. MANNING: Tom Bowman, NPR. 

Q: So the Marines apparently have decided to stay at Camp Lejeune, and they're going to be right in the middle of this storm surge. So are they part of the rescue effort or are they going to have to find their own way out if things get really bad, number one. 

And number two, any sense of getting the -- the hospital ship Comfort underway or are you just -- and how long would that take, if necessary? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, so first, we -- we have trust and confidence in our installation commanders and the decisions that they make relative to evacuation or non-evacuation. And so we -- we have faith that that -- those -- that is in fact the right decision to make and we will stand by ready to support them. And on the positive side, because of their proximity and their great capability, that will also be part of the relief effort that we can bring to bear very quickly. 

Q: So they will help in the effort too? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: They will help in the effort as well. And we're -- we're fully coordinating with them. We understand the capability and capacity that they have and we're working with them to find when they are going to be able to be part of that response. 
SEC. RAPUANO: I'd just add a note to that. All DOD installation commanders have what we call immediate response authorities. So if there are life-threatening circumstances in the vicinity, in the community that they are in, they have pre-authorization to provide direct support to that. A number of these installations also have mutual aid agreements with state and local authorities. So that just makes more clear -- and they've done some pre-planning about the types of capabilities that they would provide, again, in circumstances where there are threats to the community. 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I'll probably take this opportunity to...

(off mic) 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well first, I'll take the opportunity to highlight the first responders and the amazing work that they -- they have done and will continue to do in this effort. And of course we want to marry up with them and be supportive of them. Specific to your question on the comfort, we've been in close coordination with both FEMA as well as the governors and the local state authorities. And at this point, we just don't think that that capability is -- is needed at this time based on the robust capability we have in the surrounding communities for medical support. 

COL. MANNING: Hope. And if you would, identify your outlet for us, please. 

Q: Hope Seck with Military.com. Tom actually took my question but I guess I'll follow up on it. Which is, so you've got a situation in Onslow County where the instruction of the civilian authorities and the military authorities is in direct contradiction and there's a lot of angst coming out of that. I mean, in general -- was that decision made by the base commander in collaboration or coordination with NORTHCOM? And is there concern, you know, kind of about the mixed messages where, you know, the civilian authorities are saying to get out and the military's saying to stay? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I would say first, the decision was made at the installation level and we support the decision of our local installation commanders. 

COL. MANNING: Jeff Schogol, Task and Purpose. 

Q: Thank you. General, can you say how many marines are aboard the Kearsarge and the Arlington? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I can get you the specific numbers of the marines that are on board but essentially it's a -- it's a -- it's a light special MAGTF equivalent on board. So this is a robust capability and capacity and it's going to be well-suited, especially the MV-22s that have not only the vertical lift but a lot of capacity to bring on board. So this is robust capability and capacity that will come to bear if required. Again, following right in the footsteps of the storm coming in. 

Q: Are all the para-rescue units, are they all special operations? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: They're not all special operations. In fact, we have -- all of the services have contributed to the para-rescue and the rescue operators that are available for us. 

COL. MANNING: Sir, please state your name and outlet. 

Q: Brian Everstine with Air Force Magazine. 

General, you mentioned para-rescue standing by in Moody, but there are some teams coming in from New York, California, and Alaska, at Dover. Are they being forward deployed to any other locations or are they standing by? And can you give me a sense of what other forces you have standing by outside of the immediate area? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Right. I sure can. And one of the things that I would talk to is what we call our second echelon forces. And so what we're looking at is we have this immediate response capability that we know that we need but we also want to balance that with not putting additional people at risk within the affected area. And so we've also put -- besides those that we talked about here, we put people in what we call a PTDO, prepare to deploy order. 

Nominally in about a 24-hour string that we have them on to respond. And we have them all over the nation, ready to respond with the full capability and capacity of the Department of Defense that will be able to be applied here. This is a bit of a microcosm of that, in the sense that if this is the forces that we have that we are bringing forward. In this case, these are Guard forces that have been brought forward under the agreements between these states to bring that capability forward; that we know we have great rescue capability within those three units.

Q: So they're sending them over now?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Standing down for now, but they will be moved forward.

COL. MANNING: Brian Brown, CNN?

Q: Hello, General. Thank you for doing this. 

You talked a little bit about preserving the force, and the need to move certain assets out of the area. Do you have a kind of a overall number of how many assets and personnel have been relocated, given the high concentration of military facilities in the Carolinas and in that area? Do you have an overall number of how much has been relocated (inaudible)?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: We can -- we can get the number for you, but it will be a -- a moving target in the sense that there's some that moved out early, there's some that are continuing moving out now, and then we'll also be bringing them back in a -- in a stair-stepped manner, as well. But we can continually update on that -- that movement of that number that will be, over time, continually changing. 

COL. MANNING: Courtney Kube, NBC?

Q: Hey. One quick one for you, General O'Shaughnessy. The prepare to deploy, how many people are on that right now? Do you (inaudible)

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: It -- it is -- it is thousands of -- of people and units across the entire Department of Defense. It is across all services, so the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines are all contributing to that force. That -- the -- the individual units have been sourced, in the sense that they -- they know that they're on that PTDO, and they are prepared to -- to respond.

Q: Then, I know this is kind of a tough question, but what do you think -- I mean, so once the storm hits, what do you think is going to be the first military assets that start responding? You mentioned search and rescue, but are we talking about helicopters and things off of the ships, because they're coming in behind it, and so they will have -- the weather will -- are we talking land, like, vehicles driving up? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I -- I think it -- it's going to be both, the helicopters and the land vehicles coming from the south and the -- and the west and the north would be the first responders, depending on exactly how the storm tracks. But they'll be able to get in, because of the weather conditions, get in sooner than probably coming in from the sea. But that said, we'll have to watch the changing weather conditions to see which will be first. 

Q: So like, the guys from down at Fort Stewart in the high...

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Right.

Q: ... the -- the high vehicles, they'll probably be among the first (inaudible)

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Right, and so -- and these are not static, so the -- the forces that we have, especially the -- the -- the vehicles that have the capability to operate within the high water, we are actually, literally, hour by hour, looking to see, where's the best position to -- to push them forward? We want them absolutely as close as we can get without putting them at risk, because we don't want to lose them before we actually have an opportunity to use them.

Q: So then, one more thing: In your opening statement, you mentioned -- or, I'm sorry. For you -- I'm not sure which one of the two of you said this, but you mentioned that -- that Secretary Mattis had preapproved some actions for lifesaving. What does that mean? Does that mean that he -- that the military could move forward without a governor's request for...?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: No, the -- the intent is that at the installation, so at -- pick any of the installations. The commander there has -- has relationships with the first responders in the surrounding community, and they also have capability and capacity within the installation, whether it be firemen, whether it be the ability to -- to respond to an -- an event. That commander has ability to use that force, the -- the -- the force that they physically have on that installation, to support the local community efforts there for the lifesaving-type events. 

SEC. RAPUANO: But in addition to that, the secretary of defense, a number of movements of Title 10 U.S. forces into states to provide relief operations require his authorization. So he preauthorized so there would be no delay in responding to requests when we receive it. He preauthorized the authority for those forces to be provided, typically through FEMA or HHS, if there's a medical need.

Q: Is that standard, or is that new? Is that a...

SEC. RAPUANO: That's standard. 

COL. MANNING: Tara Copp, Military Times.

Q: Thank you. I just had a couple of follow-ups. On the -- on the search and rescue, you know, we -- we've previously seen, especially with Harvey, multiple basket rescues of people on roofs. But one of the things that came out of those is that the -- the Osprey wasn't suited for that because it's so powerful that it was -- people couldn't get in the baskets. 

Are you -- what are you going to envision using the Ospreys for? And then once people are rescued, are they being taken back to the care centers, or are they being taken -- do you have a forward position that you want to bring these people to for medical care and -- and other... 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: We -- we do, and that's rapidly changing as well, but that's in close coordination with FEMA and with the local authorities, and -- and each individual rescue effort will be specific to that effort and -- and coordinated within the search and rescue enterprise. 

Specific to your MV-22 question, it has amazing capability and that capability is that we can bring in a large -- a much heavier footprint with the MV-22, and we can use it to either bring position forward, bring supplies in, bring capability in to a place that you couldn't obviously go in an airplane, you couldn't drive a vehicle, and you can access things with the MV-22 with enough capability and capacity to carry within it. That makes it a tremendous asset. 

Q: OK, so it's more for carrying things in, not for doing these sort of... 

(CROSSTALK) 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: That is -- that is correct. 

COL. MANNING: Nancy Youssef, Wall Street Journal. 

Q: Thank you. I -- I wanted to clarify one point earlier. You said 7,000 troops I'm assuming are in position and then thousands other are prepared to deploy. Is that accurate? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: That is correct. 

Q: And then the other question I had was we've heard reports that there have been funds cut from FEMA and gone to other places, and I'm curious if that is demanded that DOD provide additional funds that perhaps they didn't have to provide last year in support of hurricane rescue relief? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, working with -- very closely with Administrator Long, I have not seen that be a factor. All the -- all the decisions that are made are made based on the requirements that are funneled up from the bottom-up approach, and so we have not changed our actions based on anything that you mentioned there, and nor have I seen from Administrator Long a change in -- in his perspective in the -- for funding. 

Q: (off mic) 

COL. MANNING: Lita Baldor, AP. 

Q: One other quick follow up. You -- you've talked about the duration and breadth of the storm, and -- and the electricity issue. Are you -- did you forward place more generators? Did -- was there a bigger effort to get more of those? Do you have any sense of how much your electricity generating capability is going to be? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, I -- I think in this case, as -- as was mentioned, I think first is the civilian response to this is going to be robust, and -- and we already have that in place in close coordination with FEMA. We have a good understanding of what that response is. 

In addition to that, though, we want to be prepared, and that's why we have the additional -- from the Army Corps of Engineers and others -- generator capability. Because we know in this type -- typically in this type of incident that power generation can be a factor, especially given the length of the storm's sitting there, we could have some significant damage to the power infrastructure, and so we just want to be prepared for that. 

But again, the first response is again from the local governments and then through FEMA asking for our capability within the Corps of Engineers as an example. 

Q: Do you have an -- a size or a number or anything of the military potential response to that? 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I couldn't put it in a relationship to last year's effort. I -- I don't have a -- a ratio as -- as it compares to -- to last year's number, so. 

Q: A number? Any sort of -- you don't have it. 

COL. MANNING: Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose. 

Q: A question for both of you. Can you talk about the role of posse comitatus here? Does that mean that any law enforcement missions will be carried out strictly by the National Guard under state status because federal troops are not allowed to enforce civilian law in the United States?

SEC. RAPUANO: So typically in a disaster, the Department of Defense provides no Title 10 law enforcement. That's provided by National Guard and state active duty status, local police. Federal law enforcement will often augment disaster areas if requested by the state. So Department of Defense law enforcement would a very unique circumstance and would require special legal considerations.

Q: So you don't expect the Title 10 forces to be serving in a, kind of, law enforcement capacity...

SEC. RAPUANO: No, we don't.

COL. MANNING: Air Force Magazine.

Q: Last year during Harvey and during the fires over the summer, MQ-9s helped coordinate a response -- and RC-26s. Are there any plans to use military ISR to help out if needed? Are there any on standby?

SEC. RAPUANO: So the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is providing imagery to FEMA to support their assessment, particularly their during- and post-storm assessment of the most affected areas so they can direct their resources to the areas that need it most. It's also provided to the states so they have that awareness as well.

COL. MANNING: We have time for one more question. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox.

Q: I know Coast Guard doesn't fall under DOD any longer, but are you still the point man? Can you reach out to the Coast Guard assets if they're needed? Does that fall under your purview for hurricane response?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: It -- it does. And we do. In fact yesterday, I met with the vice commandant of the Coast Guard. We meet regularly, we talk regularly. 

We have -- this particular search and rescue effort is -- is in -- in collaboration with the Coast Guard. They bring robust capability and capacity, not only in vertical lift in -- in their helicopters, but also in their small boats and their ability to respond there. 

The beauty of the way we have this set up in this particular case is it's a collaborative effort. And so, the Coast Guard is fully integrated in this with -- in fact, as the lead federal agency for the search and rescue of which we tie in all of our capability and capacity to augment the overall efforts. So even though we may be from different departments, there's no daylight between us.

SEC. RAPUANO: But to be clear, we coordinate and integrate closely with the Coast Guard, but they are directed by the Department Homeland Security in -- in the disaster response context.

Q: (off mic) do you know how many assets they have in place for the -- for these storms -- Coast Guard assets? How many -- how many helicopters, would you say?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I -- I -- I can't give you the exact number. I can tell you though -- as we've coordinated out through, in -- in our efforts, they are actually completely integrated. In fact, some locations have both DOD and Coast Guard capacity in the same locations. And -- and even our command and control that we're working together is linked with them.

Q: (off mic) speaking of plans, do you expect more briefings here in the coming days if -- if necessary?

SEC. RAPUANO: If necessary.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. I think, at -- at large from the Department of Defense we'll -- we'll determine based on the way the storm plays out the appropriate representatives.

Q: (off mic) can you answer a non-hurricane question? Since you're with NORTHCOM and we've had two incidents off of Alaska, you know, intercepting Russian bombers. Were the -- were these missions part of this large Vostok exercise or was it separate? And do you anticipate these missions occurring on the Russian side in the near future?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, so thanks for highlighting that. It's actually not under NORTHCOM authority that we do that, but under NORAD. But I'm also the commander of NORAD as well. But these -- these last few interceptors that we've done, we've been able to launch F-22s and our AWACS to be able to intercept them as they're in and near our ADIZ. 

We -- based on the larger exercise of Vostok, we don't see this is directly part of Vostok; although, very much related to it in the -- in the overall efforts. We are fully maintaining that ability to respond. And one of the reasons I appreciate you bringing up this point is as we do all this hurricane prep, we are continuing to maintain our ability to defend the homeland.

And even as we move forces out in -- in order to -- to get out of the hurricane's path, and we apply force towards the hurricane recovery efforts, we will maintain that ability for the homeland defense -- and, under both the NORTHCOM and NORAD. And so, if we do have additional Long Range Aviation or RMA activity then we will be able to respond to it with no drop in our ability to respond.

Q: (off mic)

COL. MANNING: I'm sorry, gentlemen, you -- we have time just for your closing comments. We'll follow-up with you, Ryan. Thank you.

SEC. RAPUANO: Again, I would just thank you all for your attention to this matter and your continuing to communicate to the American public -- particularly those potentially affected areas -- the importance of tracking the news in terms of the progression of this storm, and following the instructions from their state, and local, and federal leaders who are providing information and guidance as to how they can best protect their family and property.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I think over the next few days and weeks, DOD will be a vital partner for state and local response efforts through FEMA. I wanted to, again, thank and -- and give praise to our first responders, and we look forward to working closely with them. 

And then we have bases and installations in the storm's path, and our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families are part of these local communities. And therefore -- and as such, we are part of the response.

This is a no-fail mission for us. It's very personal for us. And we're capable, we're ready and we're postured for success. Thank you very much.

COL. MANNING: Gentlemen, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time today.