Gulf Coast Governors Leaving National Guard Idle
Thousands of Troops Called Up to Fight Oil Spill Haven't Been Deployed
(CBS) All along the Gulf coast, local officials have been demanding more help from the federal government to fight the spill, yet the Gulf states have deployed just a fraction of the National Guard troops the Pentagon has made available,
CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.
That's a particular problem for the state of Louisiana, where the Republican governor has been the most vocal about using all resources.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's message has been loud and clear, using language such as "We will only be winning this war when we're actually deploying every resource," "They (the federal government) can provide more resources" and "It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here." But nearly two months after the governor requested - and the Department of Defense approved the use of 6,000 Louisiana National Guard troops - only a fraction - 1,053 - have actually been deployed by Jindal to fight the spill.
"If you ask any Louisianan, if you said 'If you had those troops, do you think they could be put to good use? Is there anything they can do in your parish?' I think they'd all tell you 'Absolutely,'" Louisiana state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said.
As of today, the federal government has authorized a total of 17,500 National Guard troops across four Gulf states, all to be paid for by BP.
But CBS News has learned that in addition to Louisiana's 1,053 troops of 6,000, Alabama has deployed 432 troops of 3,000 available. Even fewer have been deployed in Florida - 97 troops out of 2,500 - and Mississippi - 58 troops out of 6,000.
Those figures prompted President Obama to weigh in.
"I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible," Mr. Obama said.
It's believed officials in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi and are reluctant to use more troops because their presence could hurt tourism. In hardest-hit Louisiana, however, Jindal is pointing fingers.
"Actually we asked the White House to approve the initial 6,000," Jindal said. "What they came back and said
is the Coast Guard and BP had to authorize individual tasks." But Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander in charge of the government's response to the spill, said Jindal is just flat wrong.
"There is nothing standing in the governor's way from utilizing more National Guard troops," Allen said.
In fact, the Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed.
Whether it's simple confusion or the infusion of politics into the spill, the fact remains
thousands of helping hands remain waiting to be used. (Scroll down to watch the report CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian filed) June 24, 2010 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/06/24/eveningnews/main6615414.shtml