Over the past few days it was unclear whether or not the US Navy would be officially tasked to provide disaster relief to New York and New Jersey. It seems like it would be a pretty obvious answer at first glance, especially for those in the hard-hit areas, however, it may not have been quite that simple to reach this decision.
The issue has likely been the use of warships for domestic use because there is no clear guidance on the use of US naval assets during times of domestic disaster. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of federal military forces to execute the laws; however there is disagreement over whether this applies to troops used in an advisory, support, disaster response, or other homeland defense role.
Today, the US Navy has reported the following assets will be used to provide disaster relief in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), national and local authorities in the New York and New Jersey areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
- USS Wasp (LHA 1)
- USS San Antonio (LPD 17)
- USS Carter Hall (LSD 50)
In addition, Wasp is supplying aircraft to aid in the mission with a total of 18 helicopters aboard:
- Two SH-60s
- Four MH-53Es
- Six CH-53Es
- Six UH-1Ns and
- One MH-53
Several of these helos have departed for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) for tasking.
Wasp also sent a team of damage controlmen and hull technicians to help repair the damaged Hoboken Ferry Terminal.
San Antonio has four MH-60S and a Landing Utility Craft (LCU) capable of transporting cargo, vehicles and personnel from ship to shore.
Carter Hall also has a landing utility craft (LCU) capable of transporting cargo, vehicles and personnel from ship to shore. This LCU ferried supplies and personnel ashore to Sandy Hook, N.J on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Both San Antonio and Carter Hall are capable of providing command and control; underwater infrastructure repair capabilities; riverine search and damage assessment; and underwater port survey.
Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, embarked aboard San Antonio and Carter Hall, is providing two 15 kilowatt generators and three 250 gallons per minute (gpm) pumps. Additionally, they are providing small boat and command and control support to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Kanawha, a Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler, got underway Nov. 2 and will operate in the open waters east of recovery operations. This logistics ship will ensure that Navy and Marine Corps forces are self-sustained with food and fuel.
Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 is providing a convoy of 23 vehicles and 90 Seabees prepared to assist. Their equipment includes five 60 kilowatt, five 30 kilowatt and three 15 kilowatt generators and six 725 gpm pumps along with one 1,000 gpm pump.
NMCB 5 is providing 110 Seabees to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) for tasking.
FEMA issued a mission assignment (MA) to the Department of Defense (DoD) requesting “high-volume water pumps (350 gpm and greater) with qualified teams to support the operation and maintenance of the equipment.”
In support of FEMA, SECDEF has authorized the Navy to provide 30 high-volume pumps, 125 Sailors and 30 civilian technicians to support dewatering efforts. So far, 18 Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Units have arrived, with an additional 110 Sailors and 30 pumps from NMCB 5 to arrive Nov. 5.