Thanks mostly to the efforts of the agency’s former administrator, Edmund S. Hawley, who left the job in January, security lines at airports are flowing more smoothly, tempers flaring less often. After about eight months without a permanent head, the agency is expected to get a new administrator soon. Last week, the White House said that President Obama planned to nominate Erroll G. Southers, a former F.B.I. special agent with a strong background in counterterrorism intelligence. Mr. Southers is now the assistant police chief for Homeland Security at the agency that operates Los Angeles International Airport and several other airports in that region.
The next boss will have a tough job at the agency, which has an annual budget of about $7 billion. Among the biggest challenges is integrating new technology — including so-called body-imaging machines and other machines that detect liquid and solid explosives — into the checkpoint routine.
But the new boss will also have to deal with some longtime problems at the checkpoints … increased passenger vigilance and fortified cockpit doors make it unlikely that anyone armed with nothing more than a blade will ever again be able to commandeer a plane. Still, old checkpoint habits die hard. Many security experts say that security officers still direct far too much effort at enforcing (and sometimes misinterpreting) the prohibited items list (available at www.tsa.gov). Rather, they say, more effort needs to be spent developing better intelligence, as well as addressing existing vulnerabilities in airport baggage handling and employee and vendor access.