Correction to This Article
This article about Adm. Thad W. Allen incorrectly said that he had retired from the Coast Guard earlier that week. Allen gave up the title of Coast Guard commandant, turning those duties over to Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., but remains on active duty as an admiral and is leading the federal response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Thad W. Allen in the spotlight as the face of the federal response to the gulf oil spill

Thad W. Allen, now retired from the Coast Guard, faced off with reporters over the oil spill.
Thad W. Allen, now retired from the Coast Guard, faced off with reporters over the oil spill. (Cliff Owen/associated Press)
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Friday, May 28, 2010

It's been an especially big week for Adm. Thad W. Allen, who's spent more than a month wrestling with the federal government's response to the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Allen faced off with White House reporters on Monday to try to rebut criticism of the Obama administration's response to the disaster. On Tuesday he retired from the Coast Guard, and on Thursday he got five shout-outs from President Obama during his news conference.

The Tucson native is the son of a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer and graduated in 1971 from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (where he was a linebacker on the Coast Guard Academy Bears). George W. Bush named him Coast Guard commandant in 2006, putting him in charge of the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security, with almost 90,000 active-duty guardsmen, civilian staffers, reservists and volunteer auxiliarists.

Allen received national attention in 2005 when Bush recalled then-Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown to Washington and put the then-vice admiral in charge of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. At the time, Bush administration officials described Allen as "an action-oriented guy."

Obama cited Allen's Gulf Coast experiences when he tapped him to lead the federal response to the oil spill in April. Obama also used Allen as a verbal wingman during Thursday's exchange with reporters:

Shout-outs to Thad Allen

-- "I've designated Admiral Thad Allen, who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters, as the national incident commander. And if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they're legally bound to do it."

-- "From Thad Allen, our national incident coordinator, through the most junior member of the Coast Guard or the undersecretary of NOAA, or any of the agencies under my charge, they understand this is the single most important thing that we have to get right."

-- "They [BP] do so under our supervision, and any major decision that they make has to be done under the approval of Thad Allen, the national incident coordinator. So this notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks we've just been letting BP make a whole bunch of decisions is simply not true."

-- " . . . you've got the federal government directly overseeing what BP is doing and Thad Allen is giving authorization when finally we feel comfortable that the risks of attempting a top kill, for example, are -- are sufficiently reduced that it needs to be tried."

-- " . . . right now, Thad Allen is down there because I think it is his view that some of the allocation of boom or other efforts to protect shorelines hasn't been as nimble as it needs to be. And he's said so publicly. And so he will be making sure that in fact the resources to protect the shorelines are there immediately."

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