Disaster by Committee is an Unmitigated Disaster

| June 17, 2010 | 13 Replies

A couple days ago, one of my left-wing commenters too umbrage with my idea that the President stop treating Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen like a “fierce advocate” and start treating him like a military commander with a distinct chain of command. The commenter in question claimed that Allen wasn’t a military commander (heh) but the head of “the Unified Command…which BTW has an extremely well-defined ‘chain of command’.”

I guess that “well-defined chain of command” isn’t very well-defined at all.

Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state’s oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor’s wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore.
Towns along the coast are through waiting for the government?s help.

“It’s the most frustrating thing,” the Republican governor said today in Buras, La. “Literally, yesterday morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges.”

Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP’s oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.

“These barges work. You’ve seen them work. You’ve seen them suck oil out of the water,” said Jindal.

Real results can not stand against stultifying bureaucracy, though, and so the barges sat idle for an entire day. The oil was not so idle. And why did the Coast Guard keep the barges at the dock? Apparently, the USCG couldn’t confirm that the barges had the requires fire extinguishers and lifejackets on board.

The situation could ahve been resolved sooner with a command decision from someone high up the ladder but Unified Command seems to be a bit of an oxymoron these days. It’s neither unified nor in command.

The governor said he didn’t have the authority to overrule the Coast Guard’s decision, though he said he tried to reach the White House to raise his concerns.

“They promised us they were going to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said. But “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.”

The situation isn’t any better in Alabama either, where Governor Riley is on record with his frustration over the lack of executive presence.

While the Gulf Coast governors have developed plans with the Coast Guard’s command center in the Gulf, things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It’s like this huge committee down there,” Riley said, “and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

In other words, Admiral Allen seems not to be in charge at all, since his decisions are subject to reversal by agencies which have no business at all in the command structure at this point. That is not Allen’s fault, but a failing of his boss in the White House.

Now remember, folks, this is the same government that says it can get you high-quality health care without rationing at little to no cost to you.

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Category: Thinking About Energy

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