U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell named Salerno as the director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The BSEE is the federal safety regulator for oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Salerno retired from the Coast Guard last year. He'll serve as the third BSEE director since it was created in 2010 to replace the Minerals Management Service.
Salerno played a lead role in the Coast Guard's response to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2011, he testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee that Spanish energy company Repsol provided assurances it would be responsible with a drilling campaign off the Cuban coast.
"Salerno is an accomplished professional who brings proven expertise in maritime safety and emergency response management to the job," Jewell said in a statement Wednesday.
The BSEE helped lead the response to last month's natural gas explosion and partial rig collapse off the Louisiana coast.
Salerno takes office Aug. 26. His appointment as BSEE director does not require Senate confirmation.