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."