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Why is it taking so long for Pentagon aid to reach Haiti?

Pentagon officials say they're moving as fast as they can, but logistical challenges mean it will be a week before a US Navy hospital ship arrives to help Haiti earthquake victims.

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Pentagon officials say the Army unit will arrive in Haiti by the end of the week. The marines, who will arrive on the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group ships, will wait offshore and only go into Haiti depending on what occurs.

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Obama: US moving 'as quickly as possible'

“Even as we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours, and in many cases days, to get all of our people and resources on the ground,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference at the White House Thursday, his second meeting with the press about Haiti.

Roads remain impassable, the main port is “badly damaged,” and poor communications pose major challenges, he said.

“None of this will seem quick enough if you have a loved one who’s trapped, if you’re sleeping on the streets, if you can’t feed your children,” Obama said. “But it’s important that everybody in Haiti understand, at this very moment, one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history is moving towards Haiti.”

The US will likely be the largest contributor to relief, and military officials say it takes time to assess the need and move in those supplies and assets that are most needed. But the enormity of the effort lends itself to feeding a perception that the military bureaucracy gets in the way.

Frustration at logistical challenge

Pentagon officials themselves seemed to express frustration at the logistical challenge they were confronting. Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of US Southern Command, briefing reporters Wednesday, said the initial assessment team would “finally” arrive later that afternoon.

Fraser, who is new at Southern Command but now finds himself at the forefront of the military’s relief effort, is expected to update reporters on the situation in Haiti later Thursday.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials disagree with any contention that the US military is moving too slowly.

“I just don’t subscribe to that premise,” said Mr. Whitman. “I think the US military has been very forward leaning on this and in terms of moving assets and anticipating requirements.”

Other officials point out that it took the hospital ship Comfort five days to mobilize and get underway after Hurricane Katrina. For the Haiti earthquake, they say, it's taking just half that long.

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