National Hurricane Center
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Thank you all. Please be seated.
Well, hurricane season is upon us and it is my great honor to be here at the National Hurricane Center, where men and women every day provide the expertise and the counsel and the guidance that saves lives. Give yourselves a round of applause. This is a phenomenal place. (Applause.)
I want to thank — I want to thank Dr. Jacobs for his leadership, our Acting NOAA Administrator. But also, you could give a warm of applause to the Director of the National Hurricane Center — Ken Graham is doing a great job leading the Hurricane Center. (Applause.)
And to Dr. Chris Landsea; to Jamie Rhome; to Congresswoman Jenniffer González, who represents Puerto Rico in the United States House of Representatives, thank you all for being here. Give all these great folks a round of applause. (Applause.)
I just received a briefing on the coming hurricane season and the projections that the National Hurricane Center has produced. I’m grateful — I know the President was when Dr. Jacobs provided a briefing to the President and the First Lady just last week in the Oval Office.
But I’m here to say that, while it appears that the projections give us better news than last year, that Americans must remain vigilant. As Dr. Jacobs just said to me in our briefing, it only takes one hurricane to work hardship on lives, on families, and on communities. And so I want to send a message to all of you, on behalf of President Trump and on behalf of the American people, to continue to do your job with vigilance and carefulness even in the midst of a better projection that last year.
I was just informed that, in 2018, in the Atlantic, we saw 15 observed storms, 8 hurricanes, and 6 of which were major hurricanes — and you all know the names of them, as every American does.
And this year, gratefully, we’re projecting somewhere between 9 and 15 storms, and 4 and 8 hurricanes. But again, and to all of you and to my fellow Americans looking on, “vigilance” is the watchword.
To be a weather-ready nation, Americans have to be ready for hurricane season. And we will be, thanks to the men and women at the National Hurricane Center. So give yourselves another round of applause. (Applause.)
I know the President is grateful — our entire team is grateful for the work that each of you do here. And it is remarkable to think about the progress that’s been made. We know that the information that you provide to Americans — and, frankly, people all across our region of the world — saves lives and makes an extraordinary difference.
But I’m also here to assure all of you and to assure the American people that we’re ready for hurricane season 2019. It’s often said at FEMA that disaster management must be locally executed, state managed, and federal supported. And let me assure you, as your Vice President and as a former governor of the state of Indiana, that we understand that. And this is a President who is absolutely determined to support the team effort to make sure that our state and local partners have the resources and the support that they need, including the information of vital and timely information that comes out of the National Hurricane Center.
I am pleased to report that this year, we’ve made some important improvements in the way we prepare and make it possible for Americans to prepare for hurricane season. This is actually the first hurricane season that NOAA will have three operational next-generation satellites and NOAA is expanding coastal storm surge warnings into a larger area.
And I just learned that, for the first time ever, the Congresswoman — that Puerto Rico will be receiving timely storm surge predictions from here at the National Hurricane Center.
REPRESENTATIVE GONZÁLEZ-COLÓN: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And we’re proud of that.
I’m also encouraged to hear that NOAA’s ability to predict the trajectory of hurricanes is better — it’s improved dramatically. I was talking to one of your colleagues who just rounded out her 20th year of service here at the National Hurricane Center, and she was telling me that the technology, but, most especially, the professionalism and dedication of the men and women at the National Hurricane Center has simply made it possible for us to give better information, more predictive information to first responders in communities that has undoubtedly saved lives.
In 1973, I’m told that the forecast error for the work that you did here for where hurricanes would make landfall was about 700 nautical miles. We’ve reduced that to less than 100 miles. That is incredible progress in a single generation, and the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service should be commended for your outstanding work.
I’m also pleased to report that FEMA has significantly increased and pre-staged our stocks of commodities in preparation for this hurricane season. We all lived through, in this administration, Hurricane Irma; Hurricane Maria, in ‘17; and, of course, Hurricane Michael that devastated the Panhandle of Florida; Florence; and the rest.
But let me assure you that this administration is absolutely committed to making sure that the information — the timely information that you make available to communities and states — will be met with appropriate pre-staging and appropriate support at Federal Emergency Management.
But with that, let me simply close where I began. And that is to really say, on behalf of the President and my family and, frankly, every American family, thank you for your service. I’ve said it in the backroom when I was visiting with a few of you: It’s truly inspiring what you do here. The attention of America focuses on the work on the National Hurricane Center during this hurricane season every single year, and you all project competence and calm and seriousness in a way that gives our first responders the ability to do their job.
You know, you’ll never know the lives that you save. But I want you to know the American people know that, here at the National Hurricane Center — just as true as first responders out in the wind and the storms and in the waves, save lives — you save lives. And I just wanted to come by to say thank you. Thank you for your service.
And as this hurricane season unfolds before us, stay vigilant, stay on task, do your job, and know that we’re going to partner with you every step of the way to keep America and America’s communities safe.
So thank you all very much. God bless you for your work. (Applause.)
Any questions at all? We got a few minutes before I’m headed back to the plane.
Yes, sir. Please.
Q So earlier today, (inaudible) you were saying that the reason today (inaudible) was to ensure that (inaudible) over the next four years. But your (inaudible) the National Hurricane Center suggests a diversion from (inaudible).
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we had a great rally in Miami earlier today with the launch of a very important coalition. It was my great honor to be there.
But, last week, the President welcomed Dr. Neil Jacobs and the team to the Oval Office because we recognize June 1 to September 30th is hurricane season.
And so, while Miami will be home base to a lot of politics this week, including on the airwaves — we got — the other party has got some big debates coming up — we wanted to be here and also focus on the safety and security of the American people.
But coming here today, to the National Hurricane Center, being able to meet the men and women who do the extraordinary work that you do every day is a great privilege for me. So, thank you. Thank you, again, all for that opportunity.
Other questions, anyone?
Q Mr. Vice President, the President tweeted this morning that any sort of attack from Iran would be meet with “obliteration.” Do you have any sense of what that means — what the President means by that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. That’s been true for more than 40 years. When I was in the Congress of the United States, a bipartisan group of members of Congress brought together sanctions on Iran that were isolating that regime and bringing tremendous pressure on it — all of which went away in 2016, when the Iran nuclear deal was signed.
But President Trump, during the last campaign, made it clear that we thought the Iran nuclear deal was a disastrous deal. Not only did we make more than $150 billion available to the regime that had been frozen overseas, we transferred more than $1.8 billion in cash, but the Iran nuclear deal actually didn’t prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it simply delayed their ability to obtain a nuclear weapon for a set period of 10 years.
About a year ago, President Trump withdrew from the agreement and we’ve been bringing economic pressure through sanctions to bear on Iran. But in the last several months, Iran has been engaging in even more malign activity and violence than is usual over the last four decades. That’s just the reality, all the way through a week ago, with the attack on two tankers passing through the straits and downing of unmanned American UAV.
The nation saw that, while the President considered a military action in the wake of the downing of our aircraft, he concluded that would not be proportional given the projections for the loss of life. But yesterday, in the Oval Office, the President announced additional sanctions against the leadership in Iran.
I am informed of statements that have come out of the regime today. And I think what the President wanted to make clear is that we are going to continue to demand that Iran abandon its malign influence in the region, and the United States of America will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
But also, we are prepared to defend our forces in the region, defend Americans and America’s interest in the region, and the President made that clear again today.
But the last thing I would say on this point is that we hope for better, but we’re prepared for the worst.
Q And a quick follow-up —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The President — the President — the last thought, just if I may: We stand with the Iranian people. I was in Congress in 2009, during what came to be known as the Green Revolution. The Iranian people stormed into the streets to demand free and fair elections, only to be put down by the regime.
A year ago, we saw thousands of Iranians take the streets of communities large and small across their country. And our message to the Iranian people is: We’re with you. And — but we’ll continue to stand up to the ayatollahs. We’ll continue to stand up to their malign influence, whether it be in Yemen or across the region. And the United States will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
AIDE: Last question.
Q Quick follow-up. Iran said that (inaudible) will end in (inaudible). Is there a White House response to that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the President responded to that today, and I’ll let the President’s words stand.
But again, let me be very clear: Since the advent of this administration, we’ve not only made historic investments in our security here at home but we rebuilt our military. And the American military is the strongest military in the history of the world.
The President, a few weeks ago, ordered additional military personnel in the region. And I expect our allies and our adversaries around the world understand the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
And the President made it clear today: We will defend and protect the armed forces of this country in the region and around the world. We’ll defend America’s interests.
But again, let me say, to all of my fellow Americans here and those looking on: We hope for better. The American people should know this is a President who’s made it clear: We don’t want a war with Iran, but we’re simply not going to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. We’re not going to allow the leading state-sponsor of terrorism in the world to obtain the most powerful weapon in the world. And we’re not going to tolerate Iran’s continued use of violence and terrorism across the region.
So we’ll continue to stand strong, but we’ll continue to make it clear, as the President has said: We’re willing to talk. We’re willing to listen. But Iran should know that we’ll — the United States of America will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
AIDE: Thanks everyone.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We good? Give yourselves another round of applause. You all did a great job. (Applause.) I’m proud to be with you.