- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard is stepping down in May, and the White House is expected to nominate a successor soon.

One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because personnel decisions are confidential, said the nominee would be Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard chief of staff.

Adm. Allen burnished his reputation and that of the agency when he stepped in to take control of post-Katrina recovery operations from Michael D. Brown, the disgraced and later fired head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Adm. Allen is “far and away the best qualified candidate,” said Stephen Flynn, a 20-year Coast Guard veteran who went on to the National Security Council to serve the first President Bush and President Clinton.

Mr. Flynn said Adm. Allen was a favorite inside the agency long before his military bearing and take-charge manner helped reassure Americans that the Gulf Coast disaster area was in safe hands when he replaced Mr. Brown as the principle federal official responsible for the recovery effort.

“He’s hit every button and then some,” said Mr. Flynn, now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Adm. Allen’s first job as an admiral was as the Coast Guard’s director of resources, where he wrote the agency’s budget and developed long-range plans. Mr. Flynn said it was in that post that he met and became a protege of Adm. James Loy, who was the Coast Guard’s chief of staff.

Adm. Allen subsequently commanded the Coast Guard’s 7th District, covering South Carolina, Georgia, most of Florida and the Caribbean, which Mr. Flynn called “the most operationally important” of the guard’s districts.

After a year there, Mr. Flynn said, Adm. Allen went on to be commander of the agency’s Atlantic area, effectively overseeing the two-thirds of the Coast Guard based east of the Rockies.

Other administration officials confirmed that interviews had been conducted with candidates and that “all the information needed has been gathered. We’re just waiting for an announcement.” They declined to comment on the identity of the nominee.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas Collins was appointed for a four-year term that ends in May, said spokeswoman Angela McArdle. Although the law provides for the incumbent to be reappointed, she said, that would be “very unusual.”

She said the nomination would go through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is the primary oversight panel for the Coast Guard, although the agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is overseen by a different committee.

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