Senate seeks progress on TSA nomination

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The Obama administration has made little progress on selecting a new Transportation Security Administration chief, despite growing pressure from congressional Republicans to fill the position, which has been vacant for three months. 

The TSA’s long-time former head John Pistole retired at the end of the year, and the agency has been helmed by acting Administrator Melvin Carraway ever since. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday about the TSA’s budget for fiscal 2016, and lawmakers on the panel have noted that they expected to have received word on a TSA nominee from the Obama administration by now. 

{mosads}“Acting Administrator Carraway assumed his position in January 2015 following the retirement of Administrator John Pistole,” the panel said in announcement of its hearing next week on TSA’s funding. 

“Carraway has served as the Deputy TSA Administrator since July 2014,” the panel continued. “Administrator Pistole announced his plans to step down on October 16, 2014. A recent bipartisan letter from Senate Commerce Committee leaders urged President Obama to prioritize the formal nomination of a permanent TSA Administrator in this time of evolving terror threats.” 

The letter, which was signed by members of the panel in both parties, took the Obama administration to task for dragging its feet on the TSA nomination. 

“We write to urge you to prioritize the formal nomination of a qualified, experienced, and dedicated individual to serve as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA),” the lawmakers wrote. 

The letter was signed by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). 

The TSA has said that Carraway is well qualified for the temporary administrator post, although the Obama administration has not yet given any indication if he will be considered for the full-time position. 

“Since joining TSA in 2004, Carraway also held various positions within the Offices of Security Operations and the Law Enforcement-Federal Air Marshal Service,” the agency said in a bio of Carraway that is posted on its website. 

“He has spent his TSA career as an engaged leader, improved TSA’s incident management and security capabilities, and forged partnerships with federal, state and local stakeholders in support of TSA’s mission,” the TSA’s bio of Carraway continued. “Under his leadership, TSA will continue to transform as a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting our transportation systems.” 

Pistole announced in October 2014 that he was resigning after nearly five years at the helm of the agency.  

Pistole has been tapped to lead his alma mater Anderson University in Indiana, and he left Washington in January to assume the new position. He was appointed to the TSA administrator position by President Obama in 2010.

Under Pistole, the TSA made a high-profile move to risk-based airport security technique that has been touted as a sea change in the federal government’s approach to airport security because it allows the agency’s employees to focus more on searching for explosive devices while ruling out passengers who have volunteered to have their backgrounds checked. 

Pistole ran into resistance from lawmakers when he tried to weaken the TSA’s rules for prohibit small knives onto planes, however.

Tags Bill Nelson Deb Fischer John Pistole John Thune Kelly Ayotte Maria Cantwell Melvin Carraway Transportation Security Administration TSA

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