Allen was chosen as the NIC 11 days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, caught fire and sank, and the Macondo well it was drilling began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Allen was chosen because he was the veteran of Katrina and Rita recovery operations.
Allen took a lot of heat from local and state politicians (it’s an election year, after all).
I know some people may disagree with this assessment, but overall, Admiral Thad Allen did an excellent job, given the task, the resources and the political environment he had to work in. His (almost) daily briefings were informative. He always sounds like he knows what he's talking about, regardless of the subject's technical difficulty. Whether its booming, skimming and beach cleaning activities or complex engineering and physical characteristics of a runaway oil well and malfunctioning mechanical devices, Allen communicated exactly what was going on and why.
That shows a penchant for listening to the people working for him, and making decisions based on the best information he has available. He had no agenda and since he was already officially retired, job security was not an issue.
While Allen’s leadership was completely apolitical, the biggest challenge he faced was making decisions in an environment completely controlled by a White House for which every decision was run through the political sieve. He got things done anyway. Maybe not always at the speed the locals liked, maybe not always choosing the path the White House wanted. But he got stuff done.
Admiral Allen should go into retirement knowing that his was a job (mostly) well done.