Adm. Thad Allen took ownership of the government's response to the oil spill Sunday, saying that he reports to President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano but as the man on the ground in the Gulf of Mexico, he makes the calls on the day-to-day containment and cleanup effort
Allen told "Fox News Sunday" that he consults with the secretary and the president and deals regularly with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, but as the national incident commander, the buck stops with him.
"The final call has to be made to the federal on-scene coordinator by law, and that's a Coast Guard officer," Allen said. Asked if that Coast Guard officer is him, the retired commandant said, "Yes."
BP announced Sunday that the cap it has put on the gushing well has enabled the oil giant to collect 10,000 barrels over 24 hours. But officials and scientists still don't know for certain how much oil is spilling out each day -- estimates range from 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day, so the containment cap could be collecting as much as 80 percent or as little as 40 percent of the oil.
As thousands of marine animals die and the Louisiana marshland is polluted with the sticky slick, Allen said BP is responsible for getting out the resources to clean up the mess.
"We are accountable for oversight. BP is the responsible party, supposed to put the resources out there. In the long run the government is accountable. And frankly, I'm accountable." he said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that he is glad to hear Allen say that the U.S. has the "human and physical assets" to deal with the problem, but he's still confused about who's in charge.
"Is it the president of the United States? Is it the CEO of British Petroleum? Who is it? Is it Admiral Allen? So I think really, we need the president to step up and assert himself and to say, 'Let's cut through the red tape, let's cut through the chain of command, and let's get the assets where they need to be in order to protect the beaches and the people of that important region,'" he said.
But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said he couldn't be happier to have Allen running the operation.
"You interviewed Admiral Allen, who, by the way, we think the world of. He came in here after (Hurricane) Katrina and did a great job," Barbour said on "Fox News Sunday."
"You know, governors have a little bit different attitude about things like this than Washington. You know, Washington -- everybody's playing the blame game. Who's at fault? ... Governors -- we're trying to solve a problem. We're working the problem here."
Barbour, who is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and currently heads the Republican Governors Association, said when he asks Allen -- or BP -- for something, they try to get it done. He added that Americans want to see problems solved and "don't need Republican politicians like me piling on."
"The American people are making up their minds pretty clearly about what they think of the administration's performance in this disaster. And I'll let it stand at that. You know, Napoleon said never interfere with the enemy while he's in the process of destroying himself," Barbour said, adding that a complete shutdown of the oil spill is the only truly satisfactory response to the spill.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said it's fashionable to blame the Obama administration, but "every major person in the administration" has been to the Gulf coast and the "best minds in the country" are consulting on the cleanup.
"Here's what's important. Not to be throwing the blame around, but to put America on the course to true energy independence and self-reliance and to begin to wean ourselves from our addiction to oil," Kerry, who is leading the charge for a climate change bill on Capitol Hill, said on ABC's "This Week," where he appeared with Cornyn.
Kerry, whose bill would tax carbon emissions while trying to promote alternative energy development, said the U.S. imports more oil now than it did before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, so the only way to prevent future catastrophes is to look for safe alternatives.
But Barbour said if the U.S. wants to achieve energy independence it should continue to drill because a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling that has been instituted by the Obama administration means oil companies will start drilling elsewhere, putting the U.S. into a more dependent relatinship.
"If you shut this down, don't kid yourself, you're not shutting it down for six months. ... In six months, these oil rigs aren't going to be sitting around the gulf waiting. They're going to be in west Africa. They'll be in Indonesia. They're going to be in China. They're going to be drilling oil wells elsewhere in the world. And the loss of production that we're going to suffer will make us even more dependent on the Middle East, on Venezuela, on people that aren't our friends," he said.