The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 30, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Naval Air Station North Island
San Diego, California

9:34 A.M. PDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, let me start over. I wanted to get this information to you all as soon as possible, but the President did make the decision this morning to return to D.C. tomorrow -- tomorrow, after we return this afternoon to Crawford. Tomorrow morning, I expect the President will probably participate in a conference call with some federal officials to receive the latest update and make sure we're doing all we can to coordinate the response efforts. And then we will depart around 10:40 a.m. tomorrow from Waco. He'll return to Washington.

When we return, probably around 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, the President will chair a White House task force meeting on the response efforts to Hurricane Katrina. The White House has established an interagency task force. It consists to supplement and strengthen our response efforts. The interagency task force will consist of all the relevant agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, and others. Those are some of the agencies that will be included. The Department of Energy will be included in it, obviously. And that meeting will take place at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Q -- further decision on SPR?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the Department of Energy has received a request for a loan from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. They're reviewing that right now, and they are prepared to review any additional requests that come in. That is something that remains under review by the Department of Energy at this point.

Q Scott, is this response strong -- bigger or different than responses in the past to the hurricanes before?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is one of the most devastating storms in our nation's history. I think that's becoming clear to everyone. The devastation is enormous. The destruction and loss of life is very sobering. Our focus remains -- as the President indicated in his remarks, our focus remains on saving lives and making sure that we're prioritizing the relief efforts to get assistance to those who are most in need right now.

And there are many agencies involved in this. We continue to coordinate very closely with state and local authorities on the response efforts, and the President -- the President's preference is to manage the response efforts from Washington, and that's why he made the decision to return tomorrow morning.

Q Is the President going to designate a single point person to be in charge of the hurricane relief?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Joe Hagin has been very involved in it, and Joe Hagin updated the President earlier this morning on the latest in terms of the assessments that are being made and the response efforts. We have search and rescue teams deployed. We have ongoing efforts to make sure assistance is getting to those in need.

But in terms of the White House interagency task force, that's being led by our domestic policy council. And in terms of -- you know, Joe Hagin has really been a point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.

Q Is the President going to go visit the disaster sites?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I expect he will. We have had some initial discussions about that. I know that we will continue to discuss that and make sure that it is done in coordination with officials -- with state and local officials. We don't want to do anything that would disrupt the ongoing response -- the ongoing response efforts right now. So we're kind of coordinating to determine when the best time will be. I think you can expect by the latter part of the week that we will probably -- by the latter part of the week, we will make a visit to the region that has been impacted.

Q -- is this?

MR. McCLELLAN: I would expect by the latter part of this week.

Q This is more -- this is more symbolic. Cutting short his vacation is more symbolic because he can do all this from the ranch, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think -- no, I disagree. Like I said, this is one of the most devastating storms in our nation's history, and the President, after receiving a further update this morning, made the decision that he wanted to get back to D.C. and oversee the response efforts from there. This is going to -- there are many agencies involved in this -- in this response effort, and it's going to require a long and sustained effort on behalf of all the federal agencies working closely with state and local officials to help people recover from the destruction and devastation.

Q What is he unable to -- what is he unable to do in Crawford he could do --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll talk to you all later. We've got to go. Thank you.

END 9:40 A.M. PDT

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