Obama Taps Coast Guard Vice Commandant Neffenger To Lead TSA

Moving to fill the only open senior position at the Department of Homeland Security, President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated the number two official at the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger, to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Neffenger, 59, has been the vice commandant of the Coast Guard since May 2014. Before his current assignment he was deputy commandant for Operations, which gave him responsibility for strategy, policy, resources and doctrine for the use of Coast Guard forces worldwide.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Peter Neffenger. Photo: Coast Guard

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Peter Neffenger. Photo: Coast Guard

Neffenger also has crisis management experience having served as the deputy National Incident Commander for the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“The talent and expertise Vice Admiral Neffenger brings to his new role after more than three decades at the U.S. Coast Guard will be valuable to this Administration’s efforts to strengthen transportation security,” Obama said in a statement. “He has been a recognized leader in the face of our nation’s important challenges, and I am grateful for his service. I look forward to working with him in the months ahead.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which will review Neffenger’s nomination before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee acts on his confirmation, said in a statement that the committee will promptly consider the appointment.

“Admiral Neffenger’s lengthy military service offers a strong indication of essential leadership skills and an understanding of the threats our nation faces,” Thune said in a statement.

Once the two committee's have their say, Neffenger will go to the Senate for confirmation.

Former TSA Administrator John Pistole left the agency in December 2014.

According to his biography posted on the Coast Guard’s website, Neffenger has also served as director of Coast Guard Strategic Management and Doctrine, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, which controls the service’s operations throughout the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway region, and commander of Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, where he was also Captain of the Port and the Federal Maritime Security Coordinator.

Neffenger has also led the Coast Guard’s budget office among other operational and staff assignments.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that Neffenger is “one of the brightest and most capable flag officers in the U.S. military I have ever met” and “I have no doubt that his skills, intellect and energy that have up to now been devoted to maritime security will be easily translatable to aviation security.”

If confirmed, Neffenger will be the second Coast Guard officer to lead TSA. The agency’s first administrator was former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. James Loy. A Coast Guard spokesman told Defense Daily that Neffenger would retire from the service if he's confirmed as TSA administrator.

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