The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will finally have an administrator after an 18-month, politically contentious search for a replacement.
Early this afternoon, the Senate unanimously approved FBI Deputy Director John Pistole as chief of the much maligned agency, reports CNN.com. He is the first person to head the TSA since the Obama administration took office last January when Bush-era administrator Kip Hawley resigned.
(To read more about TSA criticism, see "TSA Needs to Conduct Risk Assessments for Transportation Systems, GAO Says.")
The two previous nominees never made it through the confirmation process. First, Erroll Southers nomination was blocked by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) because of concerns the DeMint had about airport screeners unionizing as well as prior misconduct by Southers during his time at the FBI. The second nominee, Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, withdrew his nomination after questions were raised about his work as a defense contractor.
The long-term absence of a permanent administrator at an agency like TSA stifles innovation in a dynamic threat environment, officials tell Security Management, because career officials are reluctant to implement changes only to have them rolled back by new leadership.
According to CQ.com, Pistole's up-in-the-air position on collective bargaining rights for airport screeners was sufficient for him to earn unanimous approval.
Pistole did not take a position on the issue but his open mindedness appeared to satisfy skeptics. “He told me he did not predetermine his position on collective bargaining, that the FBI did not have collective bargaining, and that was the environment he was used to, and that security absolutely had to come first,” said Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Pistole will oversee an agency with approximately 50,000 employees working to protect and secure the U.S. transportation sector from all hazards.
♦ Photo by FBI