Kevin McCarthy

Mar 12, 2010

What the TSA needs now is a good makeover; hopefully Major General (retired) Robert Harding is going to be the one to bring in the new broom. TSA has languished for years under a cloud of mistakes, errors and just plain carelessness with respect to their public image and their overall effectiveness. Most recently, a disgruntled TSA worker injected a virus into the computer server containing the Terrorist Screening Database; news reports indicate this part of the system contains the no-fly list.

Last year in Philadelphia, a TSA officer required the 4-year-old disabled son of a local law enforcement officer to remove his leg braces to pass through screening.  TSA later admitted this was in violation of their regulations, which, by the way, TSA mistakenly posted online some months ago. These regulations, the Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures manual, initially had critical portions blacked-out. Unfortunately, it proved very easy to remove their blockages, giving anyone access to this very sensitive information. The list goes on.

It is time for Secretary Napolitano to take full responsibility for this critically important public contact portion of DHS by assuming the public face of TSA. Bring in the retired U.S. Army major general and let him do what he does best; run an operation efficiently and effectively while the Secretary meets the press and Congress.

After all, the question of whether the TSO’s are permitted to seek collective bargaining really is not a decision of the assistant secretary. It belongs squarely with the Cabinet Secretary, and she is the only one able to give Sen. DeMint the answers he is demanding.  

Generals lead by implementing policies set down by their civilian leadership. They are take-charge experts, not politicians. It is long past time we let the professionals do their jobs and expect the politicos to do theirs.  

This process is clearly already underway. In January this year, Sec Napolitano traveled to Europe to meet with representatives of the international airline community.  Clearly she sees the need for senior leadership in overseeing aviation security. I will be pleased to see TSA under the operational leadership of Bob Harding while Sec Napolitano takes over as the public persona of the organization. 

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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