June 2nd, 2010
07:57 PM ET

A day with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen and the oil spill

Adm. Thad Allen has been called many things: Sir, commandant, TA, fearless leader and now, the latest headline in print calls him a “rock star.”

He laughs, but when it comes time for “down time,” it’s music that calms his mind.

“I am very careful who rents space in my head,” he tells me as I ask whether all the criticism over this oil disaster in the Gulf  gets to him.

Something else that doesn’t seem to bother him that much is his insane schedule. Believe me, it’s nothing like a real rock star - this man who is leading the response to the biggest oil disaster in history is a machine.

He wakes up at 4:30 a.m., and we caught up with him at 6:30. First line of business? Starbucks. His security detail knows where to find every coffee house in every state he’s traveling through. On Wednesday, it’s a café latte because he tells me he doesn’t get enough calcium.

Spike Lee enters the Starbucks and can’t wait to tell Allen about his latest movie on the oil spill. Allen turns to me and says, “only in NOLA.”

So that’s a little flavor, but listen to what happens in the next 32 minutes with Allen: He’s on his Blackberry, cell phone, wireless computer, reading report after report on the booming and oil flow.

He checks his iGoogle page, which has a leadership quote of the day, every Google news story with the key words, “oil spill” and “Thad Allen.”

He’s got sports scores, weather and even a Spanish word of the day. Tomar, “to take,” was on the screen today.

The admiral has been taking a lot this morning: calls from Cabinet secretaries, pleas for more resources from governors and many, many questions from the White House.

He’s already talked with energy and global warming czar  Carol Browner three times and the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gen. Van Antwerp, about building barrier islands to protect the marshlands.

The admiral is constantly negotiating deals, and this is one he really wants - those barrier islands, which he says will protect the shrimp, oysters and other seafood that all of us enjoy.

The White House wants to know how his dinner last night with BP CEO Tony Hayward went, and he’s told he’ll be seeing Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, in just a few hours.

Can I remind you? This happens all within 32 minutes. And, the rest of the day is just as vigorous.

We head to Houma, Louisiana, where one of the major arteries of the response is located. The Incident Command Post is where everyone from BP, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, National Guard, EPA and OSHA sit side by side, battling oil when it hits the surface. All operations are carried out through this center, and people are exhausted.

The admiral gets on a conference call with his Cabinet secretaries and holds a news conference with dozens of reporters. Then, we board a Coast Guard search and rescue plane and fly over the marshlands, Chandeleur Islands and the spot where the oil rig exploded. The skimming efforts around that gushing well are enormous.

Once we touch down, the calls start coming in again - this time, the attorney general, congressmen, senators and, of course, the White House. The admiral has to not only work with BP to cap the gushing oil, but he has to also protect a possible crime scene. AG Eric Holder  is not wavering  for a moment on his investigation.

Next stop is a staging area in Cocodrie, Louisiana. Huge USCG cargo pallets of booms line the road leading to the water. There’s dozens of trailers to house the contractors working 12 hours on, 12 hours off. All of a sudden, EPA chief Lisa Jackson comes into the room and it’s a walk-and-talk about toxic dispersants, which the EPA wants BP to use less.

Bottom line: This day is about full transparency, and I have seen it.

In fact, President Obama just granted Allen that "deal" he's been working on all day: building barrier islands to protect the marshlands. One more victory for the man whose trying to please everyone.

Allen has taken on the biggest challenge of his career. A strange request for a man who actually retired just less than two weeks ago.

soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. Damiao


    June 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • sf

      it looks much worse to me...anyone else?

      June 3, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • GG

      IF they are able to cap this well and start to bring some of the oil to the surface what are they going to do with it then. Call me dumb but I don't see any Super tankers around that are going to be able to accomodate the flow that is spewing out. What will the next excuse be? We have to wait until we get suitable transport? The wells in the area actually put out as much as 70k barells a day. I think when all is said and done we are going to find the 20k a day to be vastly underestimated. No mention has been made of the nitrogen based concrete used in the well anulus that was not allowed to cure sufficiently, only 16 hours before well was put into service , what about that the "strings" that hold well head together were not all connected, from the presentation I saw only 2 of the 9 were attached. The plumes of oil under the surface are vast and will cause untold harm to the larvae of the gulf marine life. Unlike freshwater fish most marine fish lay their eggs directly into the water column. Between the toxicity of the oil and the dispersants this has the potential to seriously harm if not destroy IE extinction, for many species.

      June 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • TejNM

      If they were able to basically "snipoff" the broken pipe with a large snipper, Why couldn't they "clamp" it shut? With sort of a large hydraulic visegrip device. Clamping the pipe would buy time till the relief well was completed...right? And I just heard that they couldn't get a comment from BP because they went home for the day? Did I hear that right?

      June 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig Sobczak

      My biggest problem with this oil spill has to be the fact that BP chairman does not seem to care about the fact they should be working around the clock to cap and fix this instead, I do not care about advertisements of being sorry. More wasted money, this has been going for 45 days and does not look like it will be done for 2 more months. This is unexplainable, the officials should be accessible 24 hours to fix this.

      June 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curtis Salopek

      This is just ridiculous. We should be using every recourse we have no matter what the cost to solve this leak and clean it up. Our pension isn't going to mean $$$$ if we don't have a planet to live on.

      June 4, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • VS

      Your hotline into the White House set this one up I am sure. Let's see videos of the Michigan graduation speech and the Correspondent's Dinner that the president thought were more important than the spill as he waited two weeks to visit.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • pennysaver128

      This is just pure b.s.

      June 5, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • pennysaver128

      Other than following the Coast Guard around, why doesn't the media actually figure out why the government can't fix the leak. Oh...wait...that's right. They don't care 2 cents about it. As long as they can turn it into a positive/neutral P.R. event, it's a non-event to them. This is ridiculous. At the very least, Obama could do a passable job of acting mad. He's pathetic.

      June 5, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      To: U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Tie 20 barges bow to stern into a circle, drop curtains between barges at bow/stern joints, place barges over the bubble up point of the oil where it reaches the surface, collect oil in circle, pump out oil into barges, move circle over bubble up point as current moves it around, pump out barges as they fill very quickly.

      June 5, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Fire people Put folks in Jail. Tell BP how to chew the cabbage. Good hard working People in La n Miss are already taking thier own lives from this imposed disaster. Murder charges for BP. 10 years from now BP will have the same commercials on TV. Telling us they are doing thier best to stop the leak. yall realize this well holds 50 million barrels of Oil. By the time they tell us they have FINALLY stopped the leak, the well will be dry. I know, lets stop up the Gulf at Florida and just replace the Gulf with Oil. No more drilling needed. Just scoop it up with your shovel and pour it in your gas tank. Gulf of OIL 2011.

      June 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Thud

    Biggest spill in history is Ixtoc-1 in 1979. Flowed for 9 months at 10-20000 barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico. An inconvenient fact that no one mentions. Why?

    June 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bishop.

    If I were President Obama's Press Secretary, this would be a great time for the President to do the same.

    June 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill Boswell

    What I want to know is, why is Thad Allen having dinner with the BP CEO. What are they talking about at dinner that they could not talk about at a formal meeting. This is concerning and should not be allowed. This is the same type of problem that the agency of the Interior Department, MMS was doing, cozing up to the oil compaines.Who paid for the dinner is the question I want answered and what did they discuss.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Blake Chiszar

    Before anything is done it is approved by the administration. The same administration that took several months of deliberation to increase forces in Afghanistan, six months to pick a dog and has zero experience managing anything. Even his supporters are starting to realize he’s incompetent. So he’s approving everything BP is doing. What a joke! Believe that and I have some ocean front property in Arizona we need to take about. Check out this video that I put together about the oil spill disaster. http://digg.com/d31SqVh

    June 2, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gerard Gauvin

    ATTN: Admiral Thad Allen
    Please contact me, I am a nobody from Canada with an idea to stop the oil leak. I am no scientist but I think my idea is worth a shot and just might work. Sometimes the easiest fix to a problem is the simplest solution.


    G Gauvin

    June 2, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy Johnson

      I am also a Canadian and my suggestion to my fellow Canadians is to not make the rest of us Canadians look as mother f'ing stupid as you mr Gauvin (probably a French Canadian anyway so please disregard this fool)

      June 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tom Warren

    Admiral: possible solution to oil spill- lower thirty feet of composition c-4 down into the drill hole one block of c-4 every foot,if possible remove pipe first. Explode c4. This should weaken walls enough to cause A cave in, Plugging hole. Good luck.

    June 3, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Somelia Wright

    Maybe if he plays his cards right HE'LL be the next CEO

    June 3, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Reinholds

    It is being reported that the Admiral had dinner last night with BP's CEO last night at an expensive New Orleans restaurant when confronted by James Carville. I wonder whether the restaurant was recommended by MMS staff. I bet he was really tough on BP during dinner. I am sure glad that the people representing us can sit down to a nice meal with the industry that they are regulating.

    June 3, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Kim Wilson

      .. the industry our representatives are supposed to be regulating and are opening criminal investigations into.

      June 5, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Pete Fletcher


    Is there a way a cylinder with pneumatic end seals and a pressure equalization valve could be slipped over the piping or domed over the wide spread area & piped to the surface can be deployed? This would enable a sleeve, dome what have you to be placed allowing for a bleed off of the oil/gas/depth pressure to the point the valve on the cap could be closed diverting the oil upward. Not a permanent solution but may work.


    Pete Fletcher

    June 3, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    Will there be an acid rain affect from the oil or the chemical dispersants being used? If this occurs, what would be the affect on Florida crops, people, pets, ect.?

    June 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Arlene

    Excellent information from the front lines.

    June 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. engineer

    To stop the oil in only 2 days: Drill a hole 50 feet deep at a distance of 10 feet from the blowout preventers. Fill the hole with ~200 to 500 pounds of high explosive this will most likely cause the well pipe to close and stop the leak. You can see how it can be done here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuJETgpozOw

    June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Andy

    Why not place a larger pipe with a viscous material in it directly over the leak.

    June 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Luke

    Adm. Thad Allen,

    Please resign.


    June 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stan

      Maybe you should actually read before you make an opinion, he retired as commandant 2 weeks ago.

      June 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Are you an idiot? Just a question.

      June 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      Dear Luke,

      He could have walked away from ALL of this two weeks ago when he retired however comma he is sticking it out, taking crap from folks like you every day.

      The only thing I can say is that it was my pleasure to serve with Adm. Allen several years ago for 2 years. I don't think the word quit or sleep is in his vocabulary.

      June 5, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
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