Tomorrow is the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for the third (yes, THIRD) nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration. On June 10, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole is likely to face some of the same scrutiny that his failed predecessors faced and will have to answer the same questions that led to their demise.
As a quick refresher, Erroll Southers (nominee number one) endured a five-month long nomination process before withdrawing on Jan. 20. Basically, his nomination became a political brawl over the possibility that, if confirmed, Southers would grant TSA employees collective bargaining rights. Those unionization concerns, coupled with reports that he misused his power when he conducted background checks of the boyfriend of his ex-wife, resulted in the stalemate of his confirmation process.
The second nominee, retired Army Major Gen. Robert Harding, on the other hand, only lasted 18 days before withdrawing his name after issues involving his work as a defense contractor arose during his confirmation hearing.
So, what's in store for Pistole tomorrow?
Now, I usually don't link to (or even acknowledge, for that matter) our competing publications, but this time, I think it's worth it. HSToday.us published an interview with one of those former nominees, Erroll Southers discussing what he thinks Pistole will face.
On the topic of collective bargaining rights, Southers believes Pistole will take the same approach as he did:
"I would assume that he would take the position that I took and that General Harding took, which is one of a comprehensive assessment to determine what kind of impact that kind of action would have on the organization and whether or not it would be prudent to make that kind of recommendation to the Secretary or to the President," Southers told HSToday.us.
Here's more advice from Southers:
Outside the issue of collective bargaining, Southers stressed he would advise any incoming leader of a large organization to focus on three elements of the organization--people, partnerships, and the public.
"I would never profess to suggest how a nominee should proceed," the professor emphasized, but focusing on those elements would lead TSA to success.
First, the people of TSA, regardless of the issue of collective bargaining, need support and opportunities to develop and advance, Southers said.
Second, TSA must foster strong local, state, federal, and international partnerships to accomplish its missions.
"TSA deals with a transnational threat. In that regard, policies need to be harmonized, relationships built, and resources leveraged from all over the globe to make the organization successful at the end of the day," Southers commented.
Finally, TSA must engage the public to educate them and raise awareness as to TSA's goals and methods.
"In those societies that are more resilient to terrorism like the UK and Israel, people tend to be more supportive when they become part of the system. We could accomplish that if the public is educated about policies, practices, procedures, and changes in those things that are going to affect them as a traveler," noted Southers, who also serves as managing director of counterterrorism and infrastructure protection for international security consulting firm Tal Global Corp.
I would say those all seem like reasonable and achievable goals and Pistole would be wise to adopt them, but, above all, what the TSA really needs is strong leadership.
Or wait, what it actually needs is any leadership at all. My goodness, let's just get someone in there and stop messing around. After all, third time's a charm, right?
Check back for reports from Pistole's hearing tomorrow...