Adm. Thad Allen retires as oil spill commander

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- National Incident Commander Thad Allen talks with Bloomberg's Lizzie O'Leary about the U.S. government's response to the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (Source: Bloomberg)
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010; 7:34 PM

Thad W. Allen can finally retire now.

Allen, 61, was a U.S. Coast Guard admiral when he was appointed "national incident commander" for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He retired from the Coast Guard, as scheduled, on June 30 - but continued to oversee the spill response as a civilian.

On Friday, 11 weeks after the runaway well was capped July 15, Allen announced that the "national incident command" was being dismantled.

The response to the oil spill will continue, under the command of a lower-ranking Coast Guard admiral based in New Orleans. As of last week, about 22,600 people and 1,381 vessels were still involved in cleaning up oil along the coast.

But Allen, whose military buzz cut and continuing love for nautical metaphors made an odd contrast with his new business-casual clothes, will be off the job.

"As I transition to a new phase of my professional life," he said in a statement Friday morning, "I want to thank the thousands of individuals . . . who worked tirelessly to contain the discharge, shut in the well, clean up the oil and mitigate the impacts of the spill."

Allen, who served nearly 40 years in the Coast Guard, said Friday that he will join the Rand Corp. as a senior fellow, starting Monday. Allen had planned to join Rand in May, but his transition was delayed by the oil spill, according to a company news release. Rand does research and analysis on homeland security, environmental and national security issues.

Friday afternoon, President Obama said that he was "profoundly grateful" to Allen for his "years of dedicated service" to the nation and for his leadership in the spill response effort. "At a time when he could have enjoyed a well-deserved retirement from the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Allen stepped up to the plate and served his country when his skills and experience were urgently needed," Obama said in a statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement praising Allen's handling of the crisis. "The BP oil spill presented unique challenges and required an aggressive, all-of-government approach," Napolitano said.

Also Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the reopening of 5,628 square miles of the gulf for fishing. The newly reopened area, off the coast of Louisiana just west of the Mississippi Delta, means that just 11 percent of federal waters in the gulf are closed to fishing.

At the height of the spill, 37 percent were closed.

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