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Mr. Ersahaghi said the panel needed to include someone like Bob Bea, a prominent petroleum engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s an expert in offshore drilling and the management causes of manmade disasters.

Mr. Bea, who’s conducting his own investigation into the spill, told the Associated Press that his 66-member expert group will serve as a consultant to the commission, at the request of the panel’s co-chairman, William K. Reilly, Environmental Protection Agency chief under President George H.W. Bush.

Adm. Hal Gehman, who oversaw the Columbia accident panel, said his advice to future commissions is to include subject matter experts. His own expertise was management and policy, but he said his engineering-oriented colleagues were critical to sorting through official testimony.

“Don’t believe the first story; it’s always more complicated than they [the people testifying] would like you to believe,” Adm. Gehman said. “Complex accidents have complex causes.”

The oil spill commission will not be at a loss for technical help, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

For one, he said the panel will draw on a technical analysis that the National Association of Engineering is performing. Also, members will “consult the best minds and subject matter experts in the Gulf, in the private sector, in think tanks and in the federal government as they conduct their research.”

That makes sense, said John Marburger, who was science adviser to President George W. Bush.

“It’s not really a technical commission,” Mr. Marburger said. “It’s a commission that’s more oriented to understanding the regulatory and organizational framework, which clearly has a major bearing on the incident.”