By Keith Laing - 04/29/15 09:56 AM EDT
President Obama is being praised by lawmakers for his choice of Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Neffenger will replace longtime TSA chief John Pistole, who left his post at the end of 2014. The agency tasked with security at the nation’s airports has been run by an acting administrator for the past four months.
Lawmakers in both parties said the Coast Guard Vice Admiral is well prepared for the TSA job he is about to embark on now if he is confirmed by the Senate.
“I commend the Administration for nominating Vice Admiral Peter Nettenger as the next TSA Administrator,” House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said. “I am confident that his extensive experience in homeland security, as well as the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, will serve the TSA workforce and the American traveling public well.”
Members of Congress had previously criticized the president for not appointing a permanent leader more quickly.
Neffenger has served as vice commandant of the Coast Guard since 2014. A 34-year Coast Guard veteran, he also directed port security in Los Angeles and was deputy national incident commander during the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.
Neffenger must be confirmed by the Senate. Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said his nomination would “receive prompt consideration,” though he needled the Obama administration for allowing several other transportation-related regulatory posts to remain vacant.
“After months of bipartisan concern about the vacancy at TSA, the nomination of Admiral Neffenger to lead efforts securing our nation’s key transportation systems will receive prompt consideration by the Commerce Committee,” Thune said.
“Admiral Neffenger’s lengthy military service offers a strong indication of essential leadership skills and an understanding of the threats our nation faces,” he continued. “While filling the TSA vacancy is critical, the Obama administration also needs to focus on finding qualified nominees for safety focused transportation posts that remain vacant.”
The vacancy that Neffenger is being nominated to fill was created when Pistole announced in October 2014 that he was resigning after nearly five years at the helm of the agency.
The TSA has been led in the interim by acting Administrator Melvin Carraway.
Pistole, who was appointed TSA administrator by Obama in 2010, led the agency through a high-profile transition to a risk-based airport security system that has been touted as a sea change in the federal government’s approach. The new system allows TSA employees to focus on searching for explosive devices by easing the screenings of passengers who volunteer for background checks.
Aviation industry groups expressed support for Neffenger’s ability to continue that work after his nomination was announced on Tuesday.
"We are delighted that the President has nominated an eminently qualified individual to fill this critical position, and we look forward to working with Vice Admiral Neffenger in helping assure that security is paramount in our nation's transportation network," Airforwarders Association Executive Director Brandon Fried said.