By Nancy Smith
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter Sunday to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green urging him to request the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort be repositioned to the Bahamas as soon as possible — as well as any assets needed from the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.
In the letter, Rubio writes, “The USNS Comfort, and its crew of trained medical staff, flight deck and ability to desalinate water, would be ideal in helping the Bahamian people.”
Rubio’s palpable sense of urgency is two-fold.
In the first place, he has stressed that compassion toward a people — a neighor and friend — who have lost everything must be a primary concern of the American government right now. Hurricane Dorian brought the island nation to its knees, leaving it virtually unable to respond without help.
In the second instance, it is the United States that must take charge here. Rubio is concerned about the Chinese government’s offer to send aid. The Chinese already have invested heavily in the Bahamas, in fact in all of the Caribbean. In 2014 China built a port on a remote island of the Bahamas 180 miles off the U.S. coast, prompting suspicion even from locals concerned about the Communist country’s potential military ambitions in the area. At the time of the storm, the port was empty, unused, and surrounded by barbed wire. During construction of the port, a top official with the Bahamas’ then-ruling progressive party vowed that “China will actively provide military assistance to the Bahamas and defense dialogue.”
USNS ComfortRubio is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
Click HERE to see the letter, or read the full text displayed below:
“Dear Administrator Green:
“This past Friday, I traveled to the Bahamas and witnessed the destruction of Category 5 Hurricane Dorian. The devastation left behind on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands will certainly require the United States and the international community to provide strong support and assistance to aid them in their recovery.
“There remains an immediate need for medical attention and communications, however, accessibility and resources are limited, and a lack of electricity continues to plague recovery efforts. Vertical-lift of those who are injured and require treatment by trained professionals is the only solution until debris is cleared and on-shore resources can be stood up. The USNS Comfort, and its crew of trained medical staff, flight deck and ability to desalinate water, would be ideal in helping the Bahamian people. While it is currently assigned to U.S. Southern Command’s Area of Responsibility, the USNS Comfort, if requested, could be reassigned to the Bahamas and provide short-term medical treatment as runways and ports come back online. Additionally, the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group, already in the area, has ships that are also capable of providing air lift and medical support.
“It is critical that during this time of need for our neighbors, the United States uses all of our capabilities to continue to assist in the recovery efforts. This includes urgent efforts to save lives. As such, I respectfully implore you to strongly consider a formal request for the USNS Comfort to be repositioned to the Bahamas as soon as possible, as well as any assets needed from the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group. I stand ready to work with you as we help the Bahamas recover from this deadly storm.
“Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
“Sincerely, Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator”
Click HERE to see a full list of Rubio’s efforts following Hurricane Dorian.