Panelists argue for set term for TSA administrator
Congress should reinstate the 5-year-term provision for the top position at the Transportation Security Administration, Tom Blank, a former TSA executive, said July 10.
Blank, who was acting deputy administrator at TSA in 2006, spoke at a hearing of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation security.
He noted that when TSA was created in 2001, as part of the Transportation Department, its leader had a stated term of 5 years. That provision ended when TSA moved to the Homeland Security Department. TSA has now had six administrators and six deputy administrators in its 11-year history.
Blank said that a guaranteed term would ensure leadership consistency and nonpartisanship, and that more policy and operational buy-in--both by government and private sector stakeholders--would follow.
The head of the Federal Aviation Administration gets a 5-year term for similar reasons, he said.
Along with a set term, Blank added, the TSA administrator should have an executive rank near the status of the DHS deputy secretary. He noted that rank matters in dealing with agency counterparts and international partners.
Before TSA joined DHS, its leader had the third-ranking position at DOT was equal to the DOT deputy secretary.
Rick "Ozzie" Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also highlighted the importance of leadership continuity, but said TSA might want to follow the FBI's lead and give its leader a 10-year term.
Like Blank, he argued that a set term would depoliticize the position and make long-term plans more feasible.
Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said problems might arise if the DHS secretary can't fire the TSA administrator, but Blank said a more independent TSA head could be able to focus on security objectives more effectively.
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and archived webcast available)