USA — Gates Praises Outgoing Coast Guard Commandant

WASHINGTON — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today praised out­go­ing Coast Guard Com­man­dant Adm. Thad W. Allen for his close work­ing rela­tion­ship with the mil­i­tary, and said he looks for­ward to a sim­i­lar rela­tion­ship with Allen’s suc­ces­sor, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr.

Gates spoke at the change-of-com­mand cer­e­mo­ny at Fort Les­ley J. McNair here. Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano presided over the cer­e­mo­ny, as her depart­ment is the Coast Guard’s par­ent orga­ni­za­tion.

In Allen’s four years as com­man­dant, he over­saw the Coast Guard’s largest orga­ni­za­tion­al changes since World War II, Gates said. Those changes includ­ed “an over­due mod­ern­iza­tion and recap­i­tal­iza­tion pro­gram that will bet­ter equip the Coast Guard to meet 21st-cen­tu­ry chal­lenges,” Gates said in pre­pared remarks.

Allen’s tenure has seen a grow­ing lev­el of coop­er­a­tion between the Coast Guard and the Defense Depart­ment, Gates not­ed. A mar­itime strat­e­gy issued in 2007 was a prod­uct of all three sea ser­vices, signed by the chiefs of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, he said.

In addi­tion, Allen was the main advo­cate for the Mar­itime Oper­a­tional Threat Response pro­to­col, an inter­a­gency frame­work to deal with seaborne threats rang­ing from weapons of mass destruc­tion to pol­lu­tion, Gates said.

As nation­al inci­dent com­man­der for the Gulf of Mex­i­co oil spill, Allen has had the lead role in pub­lic brief­in­gs regard­ing Coast Guard and mil­i­tary roles in the cleanup fol­low­ing British Petroleum’s April 20 drilling dis­as­ter off the Louisiana coast. Allen said he will remain in that role for some time.

Although the Coast Guard is a com­po­nent of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, it main­tains close ties with the mil­i­tary ser­vices. Dur­ing his tenure as com­man­dant, Allen said, the Coast Guard enhanced its ties to the Defense Depart­ment and held unprece­dent­ed talks with the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army Corps of Engi­neers, and the Nation­al Guard Bureau.

“My over­ar­ch­ing goal as com­man­dant was for the Coast Guard to become more change-cen­tric,” Allen said. “Nowhere has this been more evi­dent than in our respons­es to the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in Haiti and in our lead­ing role to the ongo­ing oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­i­co.”

Gates said Allen’s record of lead­er­ship and accom­plish­ment includes his work as Coast Guard chief of staff when “he took charge and brought new ener­gy, focus and coor­di­na­tion to res­cue and recov­ery efforts after Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na” in 2005.

Gates out­lined the Coast Guard’s part­ner­ship mis­sions with the mil­i­tary under Allen’s com­mand, includ­ing patrolling the Ara­bi­an Gulf, pro­tect­ing oil infra­struc­ture, train­ing the new Iraqi coast guard, counter-drug oper­a­tions in the Caribbean, and human­i­tar­i­an aid to Geor­gia fol­low­ing the Russ­ian inva­sion there in 2008.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)