WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement officially calling on President Trump to immediately invoke the Civil Reserve Airfleet (CRAF) readiness program and all of the authorities contained within in order to immediately begin chartering commercial flights to evacuate stranded American citizens unable to return to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“As commercial airlines come under increasing stress and border closures and additional travel restrictions are announced, it is clear that many of our fellow citizens will face increasingly great difficulty in returning home and need the full support of their government to do so. I and my office have been in touch repeatedly with the Department of State and I appreciate the heroic efforts of our career professionals to provide American citizens services during this crisis. However, the U.S. government efforts thus far are falling woefully short.
“With reports of thousands of U.S. citizens stranded throughout the world, I am calling on the State Department, in coordination with the Department of Defense, to immediately seek and invoke all the necessary authorities under the Civil Reserve Airfleet program to make additional aircraft available for evacuations, as well as to fully exercise its current authorities and funds for charter aircraft for American citizens. The State Department must also begin coordinating with the Department of Transportation so that civilian aircraft can be made available for the State Department’s charter purposes. In addition, the Department of Defense must also explore making military aircraft, where appropriate, available for this vital mission.
“If there ever was a need to increase our nation’s aircraft capability during a national crisis, this is it. No American citizen should be abandoned overseas as we confront this unprecedented pandemic simply because of a failure of government to provide them the support that they need.”