With the federal government closed today due to Hurricane Sandy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s scheduled speech tonight in downtown Washington has been postponed, according to a Defense Department statement issued last night. Panetta was scheduled to speak at a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) event at 6:45 p.m. at the Willard InterContinental Grand Ballroom.
Last Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little offered curious reporters no details about the planned substance of the speech. Little said he was not aware of any major announcements in the speech, but said that could change over the weekend.
In a separate statement, CNAS said the event has been rescheduled for Nov. 20. The event had been billed simply as a conversation with Panetta, with an introduction by former DOD policy chief Michèle Flournoy, a member of the CNAS board of directors.
Despite the hurricane, the department said last night it would proceed this morning with the planned unveiling of the official Pentagon portrait of Panetta’s predecessor, Robert Gates.
As of 8 p.m. last night, there were roughly 1,500 National Guard forces on state active duty supporting the governors of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland. These forces were helping local first responders and FEMA with critical tasks such and assistance at evacuation shelters, route clearance, search and rescue and delivery of essential equipment and supplies, according to a DOD statement. “More than 61,100 National Guard members are available to assist civilian authorities in potentially affected states in support of relief efforts,” the statement adds. “Available National Guard resources include almost 140 rotary-winged aircraft to perform search and rescue, reconnaissance and personnel or cargo-carrying missions.”