WASHINGTON - President Bush ordered more than 7,000 active duty forces to the Gulf Coast on Saturday as his administration intensified efforts to rescue survivors and send aid to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in the face of criticism it did not act quickly enough.
"In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need," Bush said.
In addition to the active duty forces, 10,000 additional National Guard troops were being sent to the Gulf Coast. That raises the number of Guard personnel in the stricken states to about 40,000.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a news conference that more than 100,000 people already had received humanitarian aid and the Coast Guard has rescued 9,500 people.
The federal government, he said, will "break the mold" on emergency assistance. He said he was heading back to New Orleans to oversee the next phase of relief efforts.
In addition, the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will fly to Louisiana and Mississippi on Sunday, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned a trip to Mobile, Ala.
Bush planned to return to the region Monday.
In his Saturday radio address, delivered from the White House Rose Garden, Bush said, "Many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable."
The president recounted his Friday tour of the devastated region. "When you talk to the proud folks in the area, you see a spirit that cannot be broken," he said.
Chertoff, who accompanied Bush on his tour of the pummeled area, expressed awe at the destruction wrought by a "Mother Nature that has been anything but maternal." He referred to the double-barreled disaster - the hurricane followed by a flood when the levees broke - as an "ultracatastrophe."
Bush met for nearly an hour Saturday with Chertoff, Rumsfeld and others involved in planning the recovery from Katrina.
Afterward, Chertoff said the relief effort would be intensified and that the federal government would take a more prominent role in responding to other natural disasters.
He said the government would continue pouring federal resources into the Gulf states but conceded, "This is a daunting challenge."
He added, "People all over the Gulf area are in dire straits."
To aid the sick and injured, the National Institutes of Health is setting up a telemedicine and triage facility that will be linked to NIH and medical centers across the country. "This consultation will focus on the sickest of the sick," Surgeon General Richard Carmona said.
He said 100 critical care beds were being cleared at NIH for those most in need, and that 1,000 prescriptions a day were being filled from the national strategic medicine stockpile.
Carmona said HHS was sending more than $27 million in emergency energy assistance to transport people who became ill because of the storm and its aftermath and for utility reconnection costs. The funds come from the agency's low-income home energy assistance program.
About 4,000 active duty troops are already in the Gulf Coast and more than 7,000 more will arrive in the next 72 hours: 3,000 from the Army's 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg, N.C., 2,700 from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and about 1,000 each from the Marines' 1st and 2nd Expeditionary forces from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., officials said. Spokespeople for the 82nd Airborne said it would be sending more than 3,000 troops.
New Orleans city officials have accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency - part of the Homeland Security Department - of responding sluggishly. At one point Mayor Ray Nagin told the agency, "Get off your asses and let's do something."
Defending the administration's response, Chertoff said: "We were prepared for one catastrophe. The second catastrophe, frankly, added a level of challenge that no one has seen before."
He said he still has confidence in FEMA director Michael Brown.
Chertoff denied that the administration's response was hindered by the thousands of Guard troops in Iraq.
"That process of identifying and mobilizing is taking time. But it's not a problem of not having enough Guard," he said.
He said the federal government normally acts in support of state and local authorities. In this case, he said, a larger federal role frees up the National Guard to do more in the law enforcement area.
The active-duty soldiers were being deployed to provide security and humanitarian assistance, said Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge, deputy commander of Northern Command.
He said one complication is finding Guard members with particularly needed skills, such as military police training, rather than sending in tank drivers.
On Friday, a force of 1,000 Guardsmen was dispatched to the New Orleans Convention Center to help evacuate thousands of people, dehydrated and near exhaustion after living in squalid conditions without regular food and water for up to five days.
With reports of thugs and criminals among the thousands stranded there, commanders didn't move in until there was a sufficiently large force to take on any resistance, said Lt. Gen. Steven H. Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Weapons were found at the site but no shots were fired and no Guardsmen were injured, Blum said.
"It was done almost invisibly," Blum told reporters at the Pentagon.
In other developments Saturday:
-The Labor Department announced a $62 million emergency grant to provide as many as 1,000 jobs to dislocated workers in the parts of Louisiana devastated by Katrina and support projects that provide food, clothing and shelter.
-The Transportation Department said it has arranged for Amtrak passenger trains to join in the effort to evacuate residents from New Orleans.
-Bush canceled his meeting Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the White House said Saturday, citing the hurricane aftermath. The two leaders agreed, however, to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session later this month.
After returning from his tour of the region Friday, Bush immediately signed a $10.5 billion disaster aid package passed by Congress - an amount he repeatedly called "just the beginning" of federal expenditures for storm relief. He issued a memorandum saying Hurricane Katrina had created a "severe energy supply interruption" that could damage the national economy, and he formally authorized the release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.