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A year after Pistole’s confirmation, TSOs have collective bargaining representation


WASHINGTON—After months of battling, the American Federation of Government Employees on June 23 won the right to be the exclusive bargaining agent for the nation’s 44,000 Transportation Security Officers.

Pistole solicits feedback from aviation experts, public


BOSTON—John Pistole, the new administrator for the Transportation Security Administration, on July 16 visited Logan International Airport to officially announce his top goals for the agency.

DHS steps up transit security, partners with Amtrak


WASHINGTON—On the day that John Pistole was sworn in as the new head of the Transportation Security Administration, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano took the opportunity to focus on improving the nation’s surface transit system.

Pistole's rounding third, heading for home?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I just finished listening to the Webcast of John Pistole's second round of committee hearings, this one before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (you can watch too, just click on the 'view archive webcast' link).

It's looking pretty good for Pistole, I must say. The chairman of the committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman, more or less praised him for his work at the FBI and said he had the right credentials and experience to take on this leadership role.

This committee hearing felt a lot less 'gotcha' than the hearing with the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last week. While those senators obviously approved of his nomination as they voted unanimously for him, there was considerable discussion about collective bargaining, the use of technology and other controversial subjects that subsequently caused his predecessors to withdraw.

While at the end of the HSGA hearing, Sen. Susan Collins did bring up the collective bargaining issue, she seemed okay with the fact that Pistole really didn't answer her questions. He once again reiterated that he would need to conduct a more thorough investigation with stakeholders on this subject before making a decision. However, he likely appeased her by reminding everyone that during his 27 years at the FBI, there was no unionization or collective bargaining rights (so is it assumed he wouldn't put that in place at the TSA? We'll just have to wait and see, I guess).

Pistole outlined his top priorities, were he to be confirmed. Not surprisingly, his first priority is improving the TSA's intelligence program:

"I would ensure the TSA is a threat- and risk-based, intelligence-driven agency that's not only able to pull information, but also that information is pushed out on a daily basis," he said.

His second focus would be work-force development issues:

"I want to ensure work with all the employees of TSA to hear their concerns and make sure they have the tools, techniques, training and technology to do the best job possible," Pistole said.

This hearing didn't just focus on aviation security, but also included concerns regarding other forms of transit. Sen. Lieberman asked Pistole what about his general assessment of the threat to rail and transit systems.

"There are a number of threats," said Pistole. "If confirmed, I would ensure a comprehensive rail and surface threat assessment was completed - there are portions of it done already. I would also ensure resources are where threats are, and we can’t be everything to all people, but make sure we're allocating resources based on risk."

There was also discussion about technology: "I would make sure operational testing done sufficiently to assess if it's the best technology available today," he said.

And information sharing: "There's a dynamic tension between who to share information with and how much. Part of the challenges comes down to case-by-case determination, but try to find the best way forward," he said.

All in all, the senators seemed to approve of Pistole's answers, so it looks like he'll be making it to the Senate floor for a full vote. You know he has a pretty good chance when Sen. Lieberman says this: "Our goal is to make sure you get confirmed before we break for the July 4 recess, so hopefully we'll get you out of the committee sometime next week and passed on the floor as soon thereafter as possible."

And this: "There's an old saying that the third time's a charm," said Sen. Tom Carper during the hearing. "This time, I certainly hope so."

Hear, hear.

After all the shootings, how is it possible that some schools still don't get it?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Despite all the school shootings and all the focus on improving security at our nation's colleges and universities, apparently there are still some schools who are frighteningly unprepared for a campus incident.

I was rather stunned after reading this Washington Post article regarding a shooting at Northern Virginia Community College last fall.

A student walked into a classroom with a .30-06 rifle in December and fired two shots at his instructor. Fortunately, he missed and just sat down and waited for police to arrive. No one was injured in this incident.

After the shooting, the school issued a review of the incident. Obviously, it's difficult for school authorities to prevent this type of incident from happening, but the review found the response to the incident was, quite frankly, embarrassing to the school as well as to the educational security community:

Campus police responding to an active shooter on the campus in Woodbridge last fall did not have floor plans or master keys to enter rooms or buildings, and 36 of the 45 security cameras on campus were not working, according to internal reports the college has release

I can't understand how the police didn't have keys to the building. That just seems ridiculous. And, not having properly functioning video cameras? I can understand one or two not working, but only having nine out of 45 functioning? This is basic stuff, people.

Apparently, the school was in the process of installing a mass notification system, but it wouldn't have mattered if they had had one or not because the report found that "officers were too busy to activate emergency alerts to the campus community. It also noted that 'the campus was not prepared to immediately issue emergency alerts' and that the 'limited access and functionality' of the security cameras 'made situational awareness difficult.'"

Not enough time to issue a notification? Well, that could be because there doesn't appear to be a proper security administration structure in place. One of the report's recommendations was that the school should consolidate security responsibilities (hence, the security director title we know and love here at SDN).

The commission report notes that business managers on each of the college's six campuses are also the designated emergency response coordinators, and suggested that they have limited time to focus on security and probably have insufficient training. "The college needs to clarify organizational responsibilities," the report concluded.

But, despite all the rather damning findings from the report, administrators are apparently defending their response:

John Dever, the college's executive vice president for academic and student services, chaired the commission. He said the college took many security steps after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, "and all of that was severely tested on Dec. 8. In many ways, we came through well," particularly in communication with Prince William police. He said the commission recommended strengthening mental health treatment and coordination among campus emergency responders.

Let's pull it together, people. We know better.

Take three: Obama nominates FBI's Pistole to head TSA


WASHINGTON—A White House press release yesterday announced President Obama has nominated John S. Pistole to head the Transportation Security Administration (technically Assistant Secretary, DHS). Pistole is currently deputy director of the FBI, a position he has held since October 2004. He has also been in the FBI’s Counterterrorism division, and he began his career as a special agent with the FBI in 1983.