Gulf Oil Spill: 50 Days Into Crisis, Where Do Things Stand?

On this, the 50th day since the oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said that the federal government has been aggressive with its response, but acknowledged room for improvement.

In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Allen shared the difficulties the government still faces as it copes with a disaster that has already put millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and soiled hundreds of miles of coastline.

"We need to flatten and streamline this and cut the cycle time from when oil is sighted until we get a response team on it," Allen said.

A flow chart detailing the National Incident Commander's support organization gave some indication today of the bureaucracy that's already involved in the cleanup effort.

The chart shows 13 agencies involved in the response effort, as well as three sub-departments, including the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The chart, dated June 6, shows a maze of responsibility, all leading back to Adm. Allen himself.

"It's not easy to go from town to to town and see the level of frustration and the anger of the American people out there," Allen said. "I worked on the water all my life. [...] And I completely empathize with the folks down there having such a hard time. That's the reason it's very critical that we bring unity of effort to this entire thing."

When pressed about why boats remain docked along the coast, unused in the cleanup effort, Allen defended the government's actions.

"Diane, we qualified over 2,600 vessels of opportunity and in the last couple of days, for example, in Alabama, we've deployed over five or six hundred. It's a matter of reconciling the type of boat, the operator competency, getting them trained and reconciling them with the equipment. We're actively doing that," he said.

50 Days In, Flow Rate Still Unknown

BP and the government said they were able to collect some 620,000 gallons of oil on Monday using the containment cap device, up from a 460,000 gallons on Sunday.

Though authorities say that they're now collecting anywhere from a third to three quarters of the oil that is coming out of the damaged well, no one can truly be sure because a precise measurement of the flow rate is still unavailable.

When asked today whether the flow could be as high as 60,000 barrels per day, Allen said he simply didn't know.

"Everything we know and everything we see is through either the remote sensors or remote-operated vehicles that are like looking through a particular keyhole at a particular time," Allen told Sawyer.

A Coast Guard team has been assigned to nail down the rate of the leak. Underwater video shows inky oil still billowing out of the damaged well.

Government Admits to Undersea Oil Plumes

For the first time today, the federal government acknowledged that some of the oil that has already gushed into the ocean has not risen to surface but instead remains deep below in huge, undersea plumes.

Scientists have been warning of the plumes since mid-May, but thus far, both BP and federal officials had denied their existence.

"There aren't any plumes," BP CEO Tony Hayward said on May 30, echoing his company's suggestion that the oil would rise to the surface.

And back on May 17, NOAA dismissed university researchers' claims about plumes as "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate."

Today, NOAA acknowledged a different reality.

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