Monday, May 24, 2010

Farewell to Americas Admiral

I've been thinking about the phrase "the right man in the right place at the right time." It is overused jargon, and yet is a phrase that can accurately describe the factors that influence how opportunity bestows itself upon certain people. The thing about opportunity is that it never guarantees success or failure, rather represents the intersection of circumstances by which one may achieve great things - and in the case of our national leaders - opportunity for genuine impact often comes in the midst of tragedy.

On Tuesday Adm. Thad W. Allen will be relieved by Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr. Adm. Thad W. Allen was the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, but I think there is a good case to be made that Adm. Thad W. Allen has also been the most influential Admiral of the early 21st century in the United States. Having spoken to Admiral Allen, and followed him nearly daily over the last several years, I don't doubt that being the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard will always be considered his highest privilege and honor, but I would suggest he has been a great deal more than simply a service Commandant.

In September of 2001 when airplanes were crashing into buildings of national importance on the east coast, jurisdiction for all Coast Guard operations over that entire area falls under Commander, Atlantic Area and U.S. Maritime Defense Zone Atlantic. Thad Allen was that Commander.

In August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina caused devastation across the Gulf Coast, the Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard was appointed in charge of search-and-rescue and recovery efforts. Again, that person was Thad Allen, and when the Bush administration finally realized Michael Brown was incapable of leading overall relief efforts, Thad Allen was promoted to assume that responsibility.

When he became the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard in May of 2006, he inherited several major problems - including the troubled Deepwater program. In April of 2007 Commandant Thad Allen announced major reforms for Deepwater, and throughout 2007 the US Coast Guard made several additional reforms including an internal Command reorganization, hiring more experienced acquisition folks, and adopting several recommendations made by the GAO in regards to the program. It is noteworthy how Deepwater was the biggest challenge facing the US Coast Guard in May of 2006, and yet today we almost never hear about problems with Deepwater today - mostly because everyone (including lawmakers) appreciate the processes of the US Coast Guard established under Commandant Allen related to the Deepwater programs.

I know almost nothing about Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., but I do know he has enormous shoes to fill when taking over for a man like Thad Allen as Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Information Dissemination is a running dialog of modern maritime commentary, but all of the authors here try to relate current events through the prism of history. I strongly believe history will look on the first decade of the 21st century and remember Thad Allen as the most influential Admiral of that first decade. In an era of environmental focus, technological innovation, strategic communications, climate change, sea based economic activity, more efficient government spending, and leadership during times of tragedy and disaster - Admiral Allen stands out as a rare figure in US government who always led from the front on these issues.

Politicians talk a lot - often blame others for failure and often take credit for successes they often have little direct influence over - but in reality any government success is only possible when leaders like Admiral Allen are willing to go to the scene of disaster or turmoil and produce positive accomplishments during the most difficult and challenging situations. Admiral Thad Allen's record is one of a leader doing exactly that during every difficult situation where the US Coast Guard was present over the first decade in the 21st century.

We honor and appreciate his service to our country. We wish the very best to you Admiral Thad Allen; you have represented America brilliantly in your career and we at ID salute you for it sir.

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