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    Monday, May 27, 2024

    Outgoing R&D leader considered job a daily voyage of discovery

    Capt. Alan Arsenault, left, and Capt. Matthew Sisson inspect personnel at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center change of command ceremony at Fort Trumbull State Park in New London Thursday. Sisson was relieved by Arsenault.

    New London - Every day when Capt. Matthew Sisson arrived for work at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, he said he felt like the gadget man in a James Bond movie.

    "It was always 'What amazing thing do I get to discover today?' " Sisson said.

    Sisson turned over command of the center Thursday to Capt. Alan Arsenault in a ceremony at Fort Trumbull State Park. Sisson has led the center since 2008 and oversaw its work in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    The center collected thousands of ideas from the public, academia and private industry on how to best respond. It also determined how much oil was spilled- an average of 60,000 barrels a day and 4.9 million barrels total, key figures for levying fines and determining the environmental impact, Sisson said.

    Sisson had wanted to serve at the center since he was a young lieutenant in New Orleans working with people from the center who visited his station to improve infrared sensors. He saw how the technology could help save thousands of lives.

    The center is still improving these sensors. Just last month, as one of his last tasks, Sisson jumped into 43-degree water off Cape Cod wearing a fisherman's survival suit so the Coast Guard could test how well the infrared sensors detected him.

    "What an experience," Sisson said of his time as the center's commanding officer. "I'm thankful for every day I was here."

    Arsenault was previously at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. As the project manager for interagency operations centers, Arsenault was in charge of bringing federal, state and local partners together to better protect the nation's ports.

    A 1988 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Arsenault has been involved in project management for the Coast Guard for 20 years.

    The research center works on up to 85 projects at any point in time. Arsenault said he wanted to make sure that the center's research would be put into practice in the field. Given budget constraints, Arsenault said this would mean prioritizing and pooling resources with partners.

    Sisson will next serve as the Coast Guard's liaison to the Federal Aviation Administration.

    j.mcdermott@theday.com

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