Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 20, 2014

John Pistole made it ok to work for TSA

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Merle Dixon Niles on October 20, 2014

Last week, John S. Pistol announced he will retire as the Transportation Security Administrator at the end of the year.   Here are my reflections on what Pistole accomplished as Administrator.

“Hard work,” “Professionalism,” “Integrity” these words point like true north to what a public servant ought to be, can be, and will be.  This is evidenced by the more than thirty year Federal career of outgoing TSA Administrator John Pistole.  In his first address to his last address, and anytime in between, John Pistole used these words whenever speaking with the employees of TSA.

The critics and cynics will say they are just words, a gimmick, for show. Not to John Pistole. He lives these words and brought them to the TSA, changing a culture.

Prior to his arrival, if an employee were asked where they worked, they would state DHS.  Four years later, when asked where they work, they proudly state, TSA.  John Pistole made it okay to work for TSA, okay to be a public servant.

Thirty years of living these words and putting them into practice drove significant achievements involving seemingly incompatible concepts.

Every administrator before him had determined that providing security and allowing employees to unionize was incompatible.  Yet after listening to all stakeholders and studying the issue, John Pistole formulated a novel new structure that granted employees bargaining rights and led to improved security.

Likewise, it is often stated that in order to increase security, we must sacrifice our civil liberties.  Despite this, John Pistole has given meaning to the words Risk-Based Security.  By leveraging intelligence, technology, and the law, TSA has executed Risk-Based initiatives benefiting passengers every day.  The programs implemented have both increased security and protected our civil liberties.

A career of hard work, professionalism, and integrity also provided a bulwark against the fierce partisanship and maneuvering for political capitol.  When appropriate, Mr. Pistole pushed back against misinformation and inaccuracies directed at his Agency and employees.  He went to the mat for those in the arena.

Hard work, Professionalism, Integrity, the proof is in the pudding.  Reduced budgets, fewer employees, more passengers, smaller wait times, and improved security.

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4 Comments »

Comment by Ben

October 20, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

I do not doubt that Mr. Pistole sought to improve the reputation of the agency he headed.

However, I am yet to see a national discourse on the effectiveness (and economy) of operating an agency with a $7.3 Billion annual budget that has not contributed to the interception of a single terrorist, and has been shown by the GAO to have engaged in waste at a massive scale.

Good administrator he may be, but he has been running an organization founded upon irrational fear of risk. There is certainly room for further decreasing of budgets and employees, and returning the simple dignity to people that they once took for granted.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 20, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

What prompted this tribute from its author? Hoping it is accurate.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

October 21, 2014 @ 8:08 am

Really? If I (we) have to be subjected to TSA regulations, then No one should be allowed on board w/o the same scrutiny….No one!

“The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says in a new report that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses its Secure Flight Program — which sorts passengers into high risk, low risk, or unknown risk categories — to privilege many government employees.

In addition to members of Congress and federal judges, millions of employees of the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies are automatically being considered low risk. As a result, they’re able to use the less invasive and more convenient Pre-Check line at the airport.

As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pointed out, this program creates something of a caste system in which government employees get special privileges, while civilians placed in the high or unknown risk categories can’t even find out the rationale for their categorization. “Ultimately,” the ACLU argues, “when we start rewarding or punishing people because of who they are, as opposed to what they’ve done, we drift farther from the principles at the heart of our Constitution.”

Comment by Max

October 24, 2014 @ 10:10 am

“Prior to his arrival, if an employee were asked where they worked, they would state DHS. Four years later, when asked where they work, they proudly state, TSA. John Pistole made it okay to work for TSA, okay to be a public servant.”

Would be curious to know how much is attributable to DHS’ deteriorating reputation as opposed to a rising regard of TSA. I’m tending to think this is a perspective issue, without belaboring the point, respectfully I have a different perspective.

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