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John Pistole to retire from leading TSA

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DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement this morning announcing John Pistole’s retirement as TSA Administrator, effective at the end of 2014. From the Secretary’s release:

Since assuming his role as Administrator in June 2010, John Pistole has led the TSA workforce of over 60,000 and has overseen the security operations of more than 450 airports throughout the United States. Under John’s leadership, TSA launched its “Trusted Traveler” program, TSA Pre ✓™, which over five million passengers per week now use at 120 U.S. airports. John brought to TSA extensive experience in national security, counterterrorism and fighting organized crime.

Pistole issued his own statement, posted here on TSA’s website. Pistole will retire as the longest serving TSA Administrator since it was established in November 2001. Overall, I think Pistole has been very effective at running TSA, particularly with respect to measures taken in direct response to AQAP’s aviation plots (e.g. the Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot, a partnership with CBP) and finding ways to make the aviation screening system more efficient and risk-driven through programs like Pre-Check, which have helped TSA to weather a difficult federal budget environment.

I also think Pistole deserves credit for his candor and directness in engaging with Congress while leading TSA, which I observed on numerous occasions while working as a Senate staffer for much of his tenure. This sentiment is reflected in Chairman Michael McCaul’s statement this morning responding to Pistole’s retirement, commending Pistole for doing an “outstanding job” in leading TSA.

One open question is how long it will take the Administration to nominate someone to replace Pistole, and if the nomination is announced soon, whether it will be possible to get that person confirmed by the Senate prior to Pistole’s departure at the end of the year. Given the timeline, this may be difficult, but it should be a high priority to find a qualified nominee and get that person confirmed expeditiously, given recent concerns about aviation-related terrorist threats.


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