The chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), David Pekoske, who is currently the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, expects to return to the agency to complete his five-year term, Patricia Cogswell, the acting deputy Administrator of TSA said on Thursday.
“So, I get asked almost every week, ‘Is the administrator coming back,’” Cogswell said. “The number one thing I need to pass along to you is, he has a five-year term, he intends to come home and finish it. He is coming home. He wants to come home. He misses us every day. I am not joking. I get routinely, emails and other messages. He believes so much in this work and so much in this mission and wants to be part of it going forward.”
Pekoske joined TSA as its administrator in August 2017 and following the ouster of Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security in April, he was named the acting deputy of the department, reporting to Kevin McAleenan, who is the acting secretary.
Congress last year mandated that the TSA administrator have a five-year term in an attempt to help stabilize top leadership at the agency and provide it with continuity.
Cogswell spoke at a TSA Industry Day and was billed as the acting deputy Administrator of the agency, although she is leading the security organization.
Cogswell shared the dais with Soraya Correa, the chief procurement officer at DHS, for a fireside chat between the two. In response to a question from Correa, Cogswell said that nothing has changed at her agency despite the shifting leadership.
“The good news from my perspective is nothing has slowed down whatsoever,” she said. “We are still full steam ahead, fully executing on our plans.”
Moreover, Cogswell said, with Pekoske holding down the number two position at DHS, this gives her access to the department’s top leadership.
“And frankly, I have better access than ever to get decisions made because I might know someone,” she said, adding that Pekoske is still “part and parcel of everything we’re doing and still is fully supports and still really wants to be part of this mission.”
Correa said that despite the “acting” leadership, it hasn’t been a detriment to the DHS mission. She said the workforce knows what to do.
“All of us understand our mission, our goals, our objectives and we’re able to accomplish them and we just rally around our leadership and make it happen,” Correa said.
McAleenan, who was commissioner of Customs and Border Protection before being named acting Secretary of DHS when Nielsen left, and Pekoske, who spent 30 years in the Coast Guard, have important operating experience at DHS, Cogswell and Correa highlighted.
McAleenan and Pekoske know people throughout DHS, they “understand the budget process, they understand the rule sets, they understand the tools to bring everything together,” Cogswell said. “So, there’s no learning curve, right. They just hit the ground running. No start over from scratch.”
Correa agreed, saying they don’t have to be taught anything or briefed on how DHS works.
Pekoske, when he was the head of TSA, pushed hard for the agency to begin rolling out new technologies at the checkpoint to improve efficiencies and further strengthen security.