June 2nd, 2010
01:14 PM ET
4 years ago

Sen. Bill Nelson formally asks for military help for Gulf spill

Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to President Obama asking for the Department of Defense to become more involved in the Gulf oil spill.
Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to President Obama asking for the Department of Defense to become more involved in the Gulf oil spill.

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has formally asked President Obama to consider "more fully involving the Department of Defense" to help establish a robust response to the Gulf oil spill. The letter, obtained by CNN, was sent by Nelson to the president on June 1.

Last week, Nelson told CNN that if the "top kill" operation to stem the oil leak did not work, the president must not only take more control, but use the military to do so.

In the letter, Nelson urges the president to enlist the military to "augment the massive public and private response to the growing oil spill in the Gulf."

(Read the full letter here)

"While the Coast Guard, under the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Guard both are involved, it is my belief that the broader assets and command and control capability of the Department of Defense could better translate your directives into prompt, effective action," Nelson wrote in the letter.

"Americans need to feel that their government is taking an all hands on deck response," Nelson added.

An aide to Nelson tells CNN that the senator's office has done a review of previous operations where the military was used in disaster relief missions, most recently in Haiti. Following the earthquake earlier this year, the president signed an executive order saying "I hereby determine that it is necessary to augment the active Armed Forces of the United States for the effective conduct of operational missions."

The Nelson aide said while there are clear differences between the two events, the senator believes the military's involvement in Haiti was crucial in establishing command and control that is now lacking in the government's response in the Gulf. There has been resistance to this idea at the White House, and the Pentagon.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN on Sunday he did not think there is "anything obvious" for the military to do beyond the current support role.

"We have participated in the meetings here in Washington and actually down on the scene," Mullen said on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley. "We are offering everything we can possibly do to try to help."

Nelson's letter to the president notes that former Secretary of State Colin Powell said over the weekend that a "comprehensive total attack" is the best way to protect the Gulf of Mexico's coastal economies and environments.


Filed under: Bill Nelson • BP • President Obama
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Larry

    Give it a rest Nelson. This is not the time to be campaigning.

    What do you want the military to do? Wipe rocks?

    June 2, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Don't get me wrong on this, what is happenning inthe Gulf right now is lamentable and could've been fully avoided.

    However let me just say that I'd want every single Republican governor in that area to crawl, yes I said it C-R-A-W-L on their hands and knees and BEG the federal government for more help.

    God does not like ugly, and there was nothing pretty about the way these so-called governors talked about a government that was too involved, too hands on. Even in the midst of the worst economic crisis they shunned the government's help to improve their economy and istead talked about how the government was trying to TAKE OVER AMERICA and in fact would be our downfall.

    Now you're crying to the same "government" for help.

    ON YOUR KNEES you pompous, idiotic, self-serving, jerks!

    June 2, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. Mike

    Could someone shut up that dim bulb fat head nelson. You look at that fool and all you see is another nobummer.

    June 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Independant Thinker

    Stop, Senator Nelson, just stop.

    Our Military is NOT trained or equipped to fix this thing. Our Military is NOT the answer to every politician's quest for more votes.

    Listen, Senator, the New York Yankees are very good at winning National titles but would you want them to do open heart surgery on you? NO!

    We're fighting two wars, standing tall on the border between the two Koreas, dealing with Iran plus countless other "hotspots" around the world and you want these brave people to fix the threat to your TOURISM INDUSTRY??
    Go back to sleep, Senator, your dream is waiting.

    June 2, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Wendy

    And exactly what will you have the military do? Actually shovel the oil off the beach? We have over 7 million unemployed that need jobs...hire them....but wait...some of them may be holding out for management positions.

    June 2, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. SocialismBad

    So the DemocRATS won't send National Guard to defend our southern border from invasion but want to send them to perform oil mop operations? Doesn't our military have enough to worry about already??!!

    How about enlisting some of the nearly 20 million unemployed in this country? Get them on BP payroll and off the government dole for as long as it takes to clean this mess up!

    June 2, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. notfooledbydistractions

    What exactly is the military to do? They are not oil spill specialists. They are not engineers. I understand the call for help, but this is outside the parameters of our military.

    June 2, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  8. wayne

    Yeah, the military should take BP, by force.

    June 2, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. rtfrommass

    But what are the military supposed to do? NOONE else (not even the "experts") has any experience shutting down an oil well a mile beneath the ocean. Unfortunately a lot of people (the president, the governors of gulf states, others) are going to take a lot of criticism for this spill, but it is ONLY the fault of BP and their contractors, and perhaps a bunch of criticism should go to those who allowed oil companies to literally write the rules and regs for deep sea drilling.

    I don't think the military has a role.

    June 2, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. hayden zeke

    Sure, expose the troops to toxic chemicals, why not? They didn't get enough in Viet Nam and Iraq.

    June 2, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. jeff jackson, alabama

    Hey Bill, don't forget, you voted for him.
    CONGRATS......ON THAT !

    June 2, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Fmaemystro

    As if our U.S. military is not currently fighting wars on different fronts, we now want them to clean up someone else's mess? I understand this endangers a whole lot but after having BP not react with a sense of urgency from the beginning Senator Nelson finds the easy way out and turns to demand help from the military? I think this would be the easy wrong over the harder right, I believe it is ignorant and to be honest, pretty ridiculous if we actually allow the government to grab our already hard working and stretched thin military and have them clean up this mess. Get BP to do it.

    June 2, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Larry

    Hey Nelson, why not concentrate on what's important.

    Do you know the GOP has 3 times filibustered raising the cap for BP liability on this spill?

    You people on the Gulf Coast–enjoy the 27 cents BP legally has to give you as a result of this spill–and don't spend it all in one place!

    June 2, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Annie, Atlanta

    I would like to ask the senator what he would propose our military do. How is the US government specialists in oil drilling and spill cleaning now, and when did that happen? BP may be trying to pull the wool over our eyes to keep down their losses, but this call for the US government to do more seems absurd to me. Maybe we could find some money for training and technology for future disasters, since obviously even the oil industry is ill equipped. But let's get real here Senator Nelson.

    June 2, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. independent

    How many 'wars' are we going to ask the military to fight?
    1. They still have the Bush/Cheney Iraq war to wind down;
    2. They still have the World's war for Al Quaida in Afghanistan to win, and doing a better job at it;
    3. Domestic political interests are putting more pressure on sending more troops to the border with Mexico;
    4. Now there is a bi-partisan effort to have the military clean up the Gulf.

    If they didn't have number one, if they had been allowed to focus on number two from the beginning, they would probably be winding down there and have the forces necessary for numbers three and four.

    Stop calling for a smaller government, until you need it.
    Staff up the border patrol and coast guards.
    Close unnecessary military bases worldwide, and make what's left more mobile.

    June 2, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Perry

    Bill Nelson, you dummy. The Gulf Oil Spill is currently under military command. The Coast Guard is in control and receives its orders directly from the Commander in Chief. And seeing as how we are talking about coastal waters, no one knows them better.

    Where were you when the President said he called the Joint Chiefs together to determine what military assets we had to use against the spill? The answer was none. The US government is not in the oil drilling business. For a problem caused by lack of regulatory enforcement as well as greed, the government is dependent upon professionals in the field from around the world.

    Get over it. I know you have succumbed to the belief that there is nothing government can't do. You have huge psychic trauma coming.

    June 2, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Jeff Spangler

    If we could corral some of the oil and push it back up the Rio Grande, it would augment the border fence to stop the illegal "oilbacks".

    June 2, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |