Coast Guard admiral: United effort vital for disaster response

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The country needs an "agile and flexible" government to respond to disasters such as the Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Katrina, according to the man in charge of both response efforts.

"The more we can create that unity of effort, the better off we'll be," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, national incident commander for the Gulf oil spill response, said in an interview with The Day (Conn.) newspaper.

Allen said it is not easy to get government officials at the federal, state and local levels to work together, along with players in the private sector and non-governmental organizations. They are organized differently, with diverse responsibilities, jurisdictions and viewpoints.

Allen said he thinks social media and the Internet can link the parties to solve seemingly impossible problems.

Five years ago, Allen directed the response operations in the Gulf of Mexico after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region. Allen returned to the Gulf near the end of his four-year tour as commandant to oversee the response to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

"The best thing I can do for this country is to focus on this job and getting it done. It is a capstone event in my life and career and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of it," Allen told the newspaper.

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