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Thad Allen will continue as oil spill response chief

By Ed O'Keefe

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen will continue to serve as President Obama's point man on the Gulf Coast oil spill after he retires later this month, the administration said Thursday.

Obama tapped Allen last month to serve as national incident commander when he labeled the spill an "incident of national significance." Such incidents -- usually a natural disaster or terrorist attack -- require the president to appoint a federal official to coordinate the government's response.

Allen is set to be relieved by Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. by the end of May, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that he will continue to serve as national incident commander.

In a statement Allen said that the changes would allow him to “focus solely on this critical response, and Admiral Papp on the vital work of the Coast Guard.”

The Coast Guard deployed rescue vessels and helicopters immediately following the April 20 explosion and fire. But federal authorities have since questioned whether the country's chief marine safety regulator has used all its powers to ensure that mobile offshore drilling rigs are seaworthy and prepared for fires.

More than 10,000 BP oil company employees, local, state and federal officials and volunteers have responded to the spill, and officials have applauded the coordinated public-private response.

Allen became the 23rd Coast Guard commandant in May 2006 and oversees more about 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,000 civilians and 34,000 volunteers. The president appoints the Coast Guard commandant to a four-year term.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 20, 2010; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door  
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