Outgoing Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) Peter Neffenger said on Tuesday that he has yet to meet with members of President-elect Donald Trump’s homeland security transition team but that he’s in the process of creating a “roadmap” that will outline the challenges ahead for his successor.
The roadmap will look at what the agency has accomplished the past 18 months, which is about how long Neffenger has led TSA, why certain things have been done, and what is critical going forward, he said at the annual American Association of Aviation Executives Aviation Security Summit.
The document will speak to incoming administration, Congress, and industry, Neffenger said, adding he hopes it serves as an “inoculation against wholesale changes at TSA” and that changes that have been implemented during his tenure were not arbitrary.
TSA isn’t a political organization, Neffenger said, pointing out that beneath him the management ranks, including the deputy administrator, are filled with careerists by careerists who he expects will be staying on when the Trump administration moves in late in January.
Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee, speaking later at the conference, said he would like to see the TSA administrator’s job given a set term so that there is less turnover in the position and more certainty in the leadership role.
Neffenger joined TSA in the late spring of 2015 just when the classified findings of an audit by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Office were leaked to the media showing that the body scanners at aviation security checkpoints were not detecting threats most of the time. Part of the problem had to do with the training of Transportation Security Officers and also with the fact that the agency’s leadership was pressing its ranks to speed passenger throughput, which came at the expense of security.
As a result, Neffenger revamped training throughout TSA’s ranks and established a new training academy.
Earlier this year, ahead of the summer travel season, some airports in the country were experiencing long wait times for travelers queuing at the security checkpoint. TSA successfully pressed for additional screening officers to alleviate the congestion but one of Neffenger’s key takeaways from the experience was the need for more innovation at checkpoints.
To help speed throughput at checkpoints, TSA has begun to work with airlines and airports to install automated screening lanes that include more passenger divestiture stations, automated bin returns, motorized conveyors and other features that enable more travelers to get their carry-on belongings through the X-ray systems and to do so more conveniently. Neffenger said these screening lanes, of which there are now 17 deployed, have improved throughput by 25 to 30 percent.
TSA expects to have 100 lanes equipped with the automated screening systems by the end of 2017 as part of an ongoing data collection and requirements process meant to drive the acquisition of automated screening lanes at more airports.
Late Monday afternoon the incoming Trump administration announced additional members of its transition team for the Department of Homeland Security. They include John Sanders, the former head of TSA’s security capabilities office who was also an executive with the former Reveal Technologies Corp., and Hugo Tuefel, a former privacy official with DHS during the administration of George W. Bush. Tuefel currently works for Raytheon [RTN].