Day 69: Thad Allen Needs to Go

The federal response to the Gulf crisis has not improved this week as far as I can tell.  Admiral Thad Allen’s Friday briefing makes that abundantly clear.

This man need to be replaced.

At issue is the question of skimmers in the Gulf.  Karen Nelson of the Biloxi Sun Herald reported on the anger and frustration along the Gulf at the lack of skimmers along the Mississippi Gulf coast.  U.S. Representative Gene Taylor was apoplectic and beginning to sound like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal:

Back on land in Gulfport, Taylor let loose.

“A lot of people are getting paid to say, ‘Look! There’s oil’ and not doing anything about it,” Taylor said. “There shouldn’t be a drop of oil in the Sound. There are enough boats running around.

“Nobody’s in charge,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s in charge, so no one’s in charge.”  “If the president can’t find anyone who can do this job,” he said, “let me do it.”

Admiral Allen was asked about the lack of skimmers by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.  His response?

The discussions we are having with the Navy and other folks right now is the availability of skimmers that are on standby because they might be needed for a spill someplace else and how we might go about assessing the availability of those resources. So I would separate out the resources that the Navy had that they’ve already given to us and the discussions we’re having across the entire country where we have equipment that’s out there as a requirement—legal requirement to cover spill response of those areas and how we might free those up, and that’s a work in progress inside the administration right now.

Got that?  We’ve got skimmers on standby but can’t use them because they might be needed somewhere else. Her next question was whether or not the Jones Act has been waived.  Allen’s response:

Oh, there are a lot of foreign vessels operating offshore, Carol. The Jones Act—we have had no request for Jones Act waivers. If the vessels are operating outside state waters, which is three miles and beyond, they don’t require a waiver. All that we require is an Affirmation of Reciprocity, so if there ever was a spill in those countries and we want to send skimming equipment, that we would be allowed to do that, as well, and that hasn’t become an issue yet, either.

Allen should check his mail more often.  One request was made on June 17.  John Cornyn sent a request on June 22.  On June 18, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison filed a bill requesting waiver of the Jones Act.  Florida Senator LeMieux and Rep. Jeff Miller requested a waiver two weeks ago.

Allen’s excuse that foreign vessels are working the spill three miles and more offshore is lame.  A waiver of the Jones Act would get foreign skimmers near the shore where they could protect the fragile coast.

Overall there are just too many cooks in the kitchen.  What is needed is take-charge leadership to make the tough calls and get the job done.  There’s just no excuse for the lack of skimmers in the Gulf.  Every available asset should be utilized.
When does incompetence cross the line and become criminal?
(More at Memeorandum)