KENNER, La. – President Bush (search) announced that he would be sending active-duty forces to the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast as he seeks to stem criticism that his administration has not done enough to help storm victims.
Bush made the announcement during his Saturday morning radio broadcast live from the White House Rose Garden with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (search) and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by his side.
"The enormity of the task requires more resources," the president said. "In America we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."
Bush said 4,000 active duty troops are already in the area and 7,000 more will arrive in the next 72 hours from the Army's 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg, N.C., 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and the Marines' 1st and 2nd Expeditionary forces from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Those troops will be in addition to some 21,000 National Guard troops already in the region.
The decision came after the president met for nearly an hour with Rumsfeld, Chertoff and others involved in planning the recovery from Hurricane Katrina (search).
Bush finished a tour of New Orleans on Friday amid criticism from officials there that the federal government had let their city spiral out of control.
He was expected to return on Monday to the disaster-ravaged areas.
"The people of New Orleans have got to understand there's a lot of people working hard and we're making good progress," Bush said on Friday at the airport in nearby Kenner, La. The president watched crews repair a levee on the ground in New Orleans for about 30 minutes. The White House had indicated all day that he would not visit the city proper.
Bush said "round the clock" work was being done to repair the pumps and levees designed to prevent flooding in the city. New Orleans took an especially brutal hit by Hurricane Katrina because it lies below sea level.
Among those joining Bush in Louisiana were Gov. Kathleen Blanco (search) and two officials who have blasted federal relief efforts in the region, Sen. Mary Landrieu (search) and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (search). The president sought to assure residents that relief was on the way.
"I know there are some folks in outlying parishes who are wondering if we are paying attention to them. We are," Bush said at the airport after the tour. "I'm not going to forget what I've seen. I understand this devastation requires more than one day's attention."
Bush also reiterated his belief that despite such an unbelievable display of death and destruction, New Orleans would be rebuilt.
"I believe the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans," he said, to which the officials flanking him applauded.
"The president is starting to grasp the magnitude of the situation," said Landrieu, who earlier Friday blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency's efforts.
Bush met with the Louisiana delegation inside Air Force One. Sen. David Vitter, who was in attendance, said Blanco had requested 40,000 troops in New Orleans alone. Vitter, a Republican, said he agreed with the Democrat's assessment.
Bush had earlier acknowledged the dire situation in New Orleans, a storied tourist attraction that has quickly descended into chaos since receiving the brunt of Katrina's wrath on Monday. He pledged to bolster efforts to secure the city, where reportedly not even hospital pediatric wards have been safe from looting and violence.
Bush surveyed the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coasts from the air between stops in Louisiana, Mobile, Ala., and Biloxi, Miss., where he earlier met with survivors and assured them relief was in sight.
"I love you," he told a weeping pair of sisters who told him they had no home, food, or water, just the clothes they were wearing. "Hang in there," he added.
Bush kissed both women on their heads and walked with his arms around them. It was a scene that echoed his visit to Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 (search), attacks, which for many Americans solidified his image as president.
Already grappling with slipping support for the Iraq war, Bush has been hit by harsh criticism of the federal response to the hurricane. Four days after Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, dead bodies lay unclaimed, survivors wait to be rescued and looters ransack stores and hospitals as outmanned police look on helplessly.
In Biloxi, a reporter asked the president what seemed to be on the minds of many Americans elsewhere: Why was the world's richest nation so unprepared for Hurricane Katrina?
Bush rejected suggestions that the United States could not afford both the war in Iraq and the hurricane cleanup. "We'll do both. We've got plenty of resources to do both," he said.
Outraged members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several civil rights groups accused the federal government of being slow to respond in New Orleans because most of the affected are poor. Speaking at a press conference earlier on Friday, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., said too much was being made of the looting when the focus should be on getting help to victims.
Indeed, round-the-clock TV coverage has provided a rare look at the country's impoverished. Many of those left behind in New Orleans could not afford to pay for transportation or housing out of the city ahead of the storm.
Before leaving for his trip Friday morning, Bush seemed to switch tacks by acknowledging the results of his administration's response were "not acceptable." But in Biloxi, he sought to clarify his statement, saying "the results are acceptable here in Mississippi and ... acceptable in New Orleans when it comes to the hard work of the Coast Guard."
He continued: "This is a huge task that we're dealing with. Our job as people in positions of responsibility is not to be satisfied until the job is done as much as it can be done. ... I am satisfied with the response but I'm not satisfied with all the results."
Rebuilding Cities Out of Chaos
Guiding the president on Friday's tour of the hard-hit streets of Biloxi was the city's mayor, A.J. Holloway, who earlier in the week likened the devastation there to December's tsunami in Asia. Bush was joined on his trip by Chertoff, FEMA Director Michael Brown, top aide Karl Rove and Sen. Trent Lott, whose Mississippi home was destroyed by Katrina.
The president was briefed by local officials and relief workers as he witnessed the destruction left by Katrina, assuring residents that help was on the way.
"First we're going to save lives and stabilize this situation," Bush said at an earlier stop in Mobile, Ala. "Then we're going to help rebuild."
Speaking from an airport hangar, Bush thanked the Coast Guard for their search and rescue efforts and Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bob Riley of Alabama for their leadership.
"We have got courageous people risking their lives to save lives," Bush said, with a nod especially toward the Coast Guard's rescue of at least 5,000 people stranded in flood-ravaged areas.
The president also pledged to step up relief efforts and to stabilize New Orleans and other regions being picked apart by looters and lawlessness.
"The people of this country expect there to be law and order, and we're going to work hard to get it," Bush said. "In order to ensure there is less violence we've got to get food to people."
While the $10.5 billion approved by Congress was "just the beginning" of federal funds being rushed to the region, Bush urged Americans spared by the storm to "give cash money" to the Red Cross and other relief organizations and to participate in faith- and community-based aid efforts.
"Now's the time to love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself," Bush said. He signed the relief package later on Friday.
Riley said his administration was looking into converting former military bases and mental institutions into housing for refugees. Barbour praised states like Florida and Massachusetts for sending aircraft and crew from their Coast Guards, but stressed that a lack of fuel was the "No. 1 crisis" in the region.
Fuel, which is normally distributed inland by barge, has been in short supply since Katrina hit. The Coast Guard said it had managed to clear most of the waterways, but that with search and rescue efforts hampered by lack of fuel "rescuers have become victims."
With power out across the region, fuel is crucial to keep rescue vehicles and hospital generators running. Click here to read about what's being done to deal with the energy crunch.
While Bush hailed the rescue workers and government officials overseeing relief efforts, he earlier responded to broad criticism of his administration's response to Katrina by acknowledging that more could be done.
"A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected. The results are not acceptable," he said from the White House lawn before taking off in Marine One.
New Orleans officials, in particular, were enraged about what they said was a slow federal response.
Mayor Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night that he told Bush earlier this week that "we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice ... I have been all around this city and that I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we are outmanned in just about every respect."
Relief Point Person Needed?
Louisiana's Sen. Landrieu said a Cabinet-level position must be created to oversee recovery operations.
"There was a time when FEMA understood that the correct approach to a crisis was to deploy to the affected area as many resources as possible as fast as possible. Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be their approach," Landrieu said in a statement released Friday.
She said she had asked Bush personally to make the appointment within 24 hours.
Even Republicans criticized Bush and his administration for the sluggish relief effort.
"I think it puts into question all of the homeland security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (search).
He urged Bush to name former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as the White House point person for relief efforts. Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., also suggested Giuliani or former Secretary of State Colin Powell or retired Gen. Tommy Franks to take charge of the relief efforts.
Elsewhere, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney (search) of Massachusetts called the government's response "an embarrassment."
Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., called upon Bush to recall National Guardsmen stationed in Iraq whose homes and families were in the path of Katrina's destruction. The president said there were enough Guard troops for Iraq and recovery efforts.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley angrily wondered why the federal government was even slow to respond to offers of help.
Daley said he offered to send hundreds of emergency workers and dozens of pieces of equipment even before the hurricane hit Louisiana, Missouri and Alabama and only recently heard back from FEMA.
"We are just waiting for their call," Daley said.
He said he was "shocked" by FEMA's request for a single tank truck.
In a late Friday afternoon press conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) denied reports that some offers of help from other nations had been turned down. When asked why FEMA had yet to accept any of the dozens of offers that have poured in this week, Rice said the process of going through the list would take time.
"In some places it's a matter of access, but in others it's to see which of the offers can be taken up immediately, which can be taken up later," Rice said. She was scheduled to tour her home state of Alabama on Sunday.
The first lady, who was in Lafayette, La., said real progress was being made in the region.
"Some things are working really well in Louisiana," Laura Bush told reporters inside an evacuee center, where she was visiting volunteers and displaced New Orleans residents.
Bush said the 6,000 evacuees were having their needs met, and praised the Red Cross and other volunteers for tending to them. She also encouraged Americans everywhere to lend their time and resources to helping Katrina's victims.
The president's trip follows a 35-minute flyover of the region he took Wednesday aboard Air Force One. as he headed back to Washington from his Texas ranch. There are a total of 90,000 square miles under federal disaster declaration following the storm's 145 mph winds and 25-foot storm surge in an area stretching from just west of New Orleans to Pensacola, Fla.
FOX News' Jane Roh and The Associated Press contributed to this report.