In the next several days, there will likely be a lot written about the debacle of the nomination, then withdrawal, of General Robert Harding to be Administrator of TSA. There will be many opinions, strident posturing and more than a few vituperative rants about how TSA needs a leader. There will likely be calls for a head or two to roll in the White House personnel office.

TSA needs strong leadership, of that there is no doubt. TSA also needs (and deserves) the unwavering public support of the DHS Secretary and the White House, and right now, there is as much of a vacuum in that area as there is in the personnel office at the White House. President Obama and Secretary Napolitano need to inject some stability and more confidence in the people and programs of TSA. Why they are not doing that today is a mystery, at least to me.

But what is missing in all of the rhetorical barbs about filling agency vacancies is the impact this rhetoric has on the good, decent, hard-working and well-intentioned employees responsible for carrying out the mission – a mission that helps protect our people, property and way of life.

Gale Rossides, the acting TSA administrator, is doing an admirable job of holding things together, and her experience and knowledge of TSA makes her a worthy consideration for permanent head of this agency. It is debatable whether she would be interested, given the political football the White House has let this position become – and no one would blame her if she told the White House that being a political piñata was not her idea of a long-term federal career.

It is OK that she was not the White House’s first or second choice. In fact, someone should take due notice that she has hung in there at a time when others might have fled. What matters is that she is highly capable and can provide leadership at a time when the agency has an image of being adrift – even though homeland security insiders know that image is inaccurate and serious work is being handled in a serious manner.

If Rossides is not appointed, then it would be highly advisable for the White House to make a quick recess appointment, much as it should have done last December in the aftermath of the NW Flight 253 incident. This would not be a political move as much as it would be a recognition that important decisions need to be made (many of which are believed to be “on hold” pending the confirmation of a new Administrator) about the future direction of a critical federal agency.

Transportation is a vital component of our national economy. To create chaos in the public arena by inept White House personnel decisions does not recognize the importance of TSA’s mission. It is time for positive action, and one of the first steps should be bringing stability to the TSA’s front office.

David Olive focuses his blogging primarily on the “business of homeland security” — the interaction of the private sector with the Department of Homeland Security and other national security agencies. Read More
  • Ray Murfree

    Mr. Olive – with all due respect — You, sir, are out of your mind. Just ask any TSA employee (with assurance of anonymity of course) if they would like to see Ms. Rossides as the permanent head of TSA, and I am confident you can count the endorsements on two hands, tops.

    • Interested

      Staying in your permanent position hardly qualifies you as a leader among the employees. There is a reason this agency is a fiasco. Everything done starts out as a reaction Planning has just started in the last year. Gail was at the helm for all of this. I vote that you could use one hand to endorse G

    • David Olive

      Mr. Murfree:

      Thank you for your response to my blog posting on Security DeBrief. You may well be right about how Gale is perceived by TSA employees. I didn’t talk with a large number of them. However, the ones that I did talk with were of one voice: TSA needs stability and it needs a vote of confidence from higher-ups, and it needs it quickly before things deteriorated further. That was the message I was trying to get across.

      As someone who has been placed in an “interim” position before, I can tell you that it is difficult to do much of anything other than maintain status quo unless you have the unconditional backing of your superiors. Gale has not been given an opportunity to act without a cloud of suspicion being held over her head, in my opinion. I think she should be given that opportunity. The first two selections (both of whom appeared to be qualified) did not make it through the process and TSA remains in limbo.

      And one must remember, if Gale is nominated she still serves “at the pleasure of the President” and she could be asked to step down at any time the White House finds someone better qualified (assuming it gets its personnel operation on track.)

      While this may not tip the scale for you and others in her favor, it was enough to persuade me. Time will tell which of us (or maybe neither of us) is right and if we ever meet in person you will come to know that one of my favorite sayings is “I’ve never learned anything from someone who agreed with me” so I appreciate your willingness to challenge my position.

      Thanks again for your comments. I am glad to know that smart people are reading Security DeBrief.

      David Olive

  • ad

    We not only need a new leader, we also need a thorough house cleaning of our entire organization. As an LTSO in PHX for over seven years, I can assure you that our organization is a cesspool of cronyism, corruption, and mismanagement, the majority of which occurs in the ranks of our management. The only thing that is keeping our turnover low is the high unemployment rate yet in Phoenix, we still found it neccessary to hire an additional 175 employees

  • It looks good,I have learn a recruit!
    Recently,I found an excellent online store, the XX are completely various, good quality and cheap price,it’s worth buying!