Friday, June 25, 2010

After 17 Months Without One, the TSA Finally Has a Director

The Senate confirmed John Pistole today as the new director of the TSA, which has been floundering without a permanent director since George Bush left office.

Here's a news story that, alas, falls into the trap of regurgitating the Accepted Narrative on the mess of naming a new TSA head. That is, the first of two previous unsuccessful nominees by President Obama, Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and a well-respected law enforcement intelligence official, was scuttled because of some irregularities in the way he described doing a background check on a boyfriend of his ex-wife's. In fact, Southers' nomination really failed because South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint put a personal hold on it -- because DeMint considered Southers to be insufficiently opposed to unions.

Here's the White House announcement on John Pistole when the nomination was made last month

Meanwhile, there are calls for Pistole to move expeditiously to address longstanding problems at the TSA. Rep. John L. Mica, the ranking Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that Pistole needed to get the "the bloated bureaucracy" at the "rudderless agency" back on track.

"It is difficult enough to get things done in a federal agency when someone is in charge, but it is nearly impossible in a headless bureaucracy of 60,000," Mica said, adding:

"Mr. Pistole will take over a top-heavy TSA, with more than 7,000 supervisors in the field and 3,526 staff at headquarters where the average salary tops $106,000."

He added, "TSA’s performance must be improved. Recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports highlight just the latest examples of the agency’s failures. In May, GAO found that TSA completely bungled the development and deployment of a behavior-detection program for the nation’s airports. GAO’s most recent report outlines TSA’s poor performance in all modes of transportation.

"Earlier airport screening penetration tests have repeatedly demonstrated TSA’s failure to detect threats to our aviation system. Unfortunately, penetration testing continues to show that even with new screening technology and the behavior detection program, the aviation screening system is not working."

He urged Pistole to "promptly begin a reevaluation and reorganization of this unwieldy and poorly performing bureaucracy."


1 comment:

Che Grovera said...

Seriously, is it possible for the TSA to be effective in any capacity ever -- anywhere? I consider myself a fairly sophisticated traveler (Alert! Alert!), but it was my infrequently traveling wife who noticed that the TSA was getting lax about gels and liquids when she was able to get "normal" sizes of her products through security. Mind you, I think the existing security regimen is pure bullshit...but I was surprised at how conformist I had become when she pointed this fact out to me. She was getting her 8+ ounce bottles through security without a peep, and I was being docile with my travel sizes. What a wakeup call.