This morning, the President convened a video-teleconference in the White House Situation Room with his team to receive the latest update on Hurricane Sandy, and federal efforts underway to support response activities in several states. Overnight, at the requests of the Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York, making additional federal support for state and local efforts available, as well as direct federal assistance to affected individuals in declared counties. On the video-teleconference the President was joined by Vice President Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Fugate, Secretary of Energy Chu, Transportation Secretary Lahood, Defense Secretary Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Winnefeld, USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Knabb. Treasury Secretary Geithner joined the briefing by phone. The President was joined in the Situation Room by Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Richard Reed, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, and other senior members of the President's team.
During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities. He also noted his sadness over the loss of life associated with the storm so far. The President was updated on Sandy’s track and impacts, and heard from Administrator Fugate on the federal coordination and resources being brought to bear to support state and local responders, including the extensive deployment of resources, such as generators that were pre-staged ahead of the storm, as well as National Guard units which have been activated in a number of states. Through FEMA, the federal government is leveraging assets from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services. The President also received an update from Secretary Geithner on conditions in financial markets and the operations of the financial system.
The President told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible and directed them to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks or shortfalls should they arise. The President made clear that beyond the immediate lifesaving and life sustaining activities, which remain the primary focus, he wanted his team to continue to focus on what they can do to support state, local, and private sector efforts to restore power and asked the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to continue to work in support of FEMA towards this goal. The President made clear that he expects his team to remain focused as the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy continue and lean forward in their response. The President urges Americans to continue to follow the direction and advice of local officials, Governors, and Mayors, many of whom the President will speak with later today.