Brock Long on Puerto Rico: The ‘Dilapidated Infrastructure’ Was Not in My Control

‘FEMA is now one the largest employers in Puerto Rico’

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WALLACE: Mr. Long, obviously, one of the things you want to do in these disasters is learn from your mistakes and the response to Hurricane Maria last year became an issue this week. Here is President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Puerto Rico is an incredible unsung success. I think it is certainly the best job we did was Puerto Rico but nobody would understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: But this summer, FEMA did an after-action report that said this. The agency could have better anticipated the severity of Hurricanes Irma and Maria would cause long-term significant damage to the territory’s infrastructure.

So which is it?

LONG: Look, I mean, our after-action report is an open and honest assessment. But the way that this works and I keep saying this, is emergency management — successful disaster response and recovery is like a chair with four legs. One leg is the federal government, the second leg is the state and local, the third leg is the private sector, which owns 85 percent of the infrastructure and then the fourth leg is the citizen being properly prepared and neighbor helping neighbor.

I think what you saw in the California wildfires, Texas, to Florida, is all four of those legs were present, so the chair is stable, you know, going in to that. Obviously, in Puerto Rico, there were several parts of that chair missing. You know, the commonwealth and the local municipalities where we are concentrating on building a robust emergency management capability.

So, I’m one of the largest employers. FEMA is now one the largest employers in Puerto Rico trying to build that capability. But when it comes to the infrastructure, the greatest thing the deferred maintenance, the dilapidated infrastructure, infrastructure that was — that crumbled is nothing that’s within my control, but now, we got to go back in and fix and make sure that we are rebuilding Puerto Rico in a manner that it’s more resilient, economically viable, so that we don’t go through this again.

So, what the nation learned is it takes all of us coming together like what we are doing in North Carolina.

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