Cool, calm and collected
Rear Adm. Peter Neffenger, Allen's deputy in the Gulf, describes his colleague as extremely collaborative and someone who knows how to overcome obstacles.
"He looks for ideas wherever they happen to appear," Neffenger says. "He is, at base, a very humble individual and somebody who wants to help people understand what's going on."
Allen describes his own approach this way: "I learned a long time ago you have to manage your morale and stress level, and make sure you are not part of the problem. First thing is not to get too excited, keep a level head and keep your eye on where you need to go."
Although he's eyeing an Oct. 1 departure date to head back into the ranks of anonymous private citizens, Allen does not intend to leave his post until the people and operations are in place for the long-term restoration of the Gulf.
"The near-term focus has been to cap the well and kill it and create an effective transition to natural resources and recovery," he says.
But he adds quickly, "There's still a lot of oil in the marshes, especially Louisiana. We need the commitment to stay on task until the marshes and beaches are as clean as we can get them."
As for his future, Allen will do some public speaking — he'll talk about the oil spill at his alma mater, George Washington University, on Sept. 24 and will teach a course there next spring. He says he'll also consider working for a nonprofit think tank and perhaps write a book.
And what about that vacation in Ireland? Well, that's likely to be on the Allens' calendar for next spring or summer.
Judi Hasson is a writer in McLean, Va.