Sometimes I get reader mail that causes me to stop and think a few minutes beyond the airline knowledge I have in my head or at my fingertips. This week’s reader mail is the kind that makes me stop and really think about my answer.
This week’s reader mail comes from Joyce in New York City. Joyce asks this “Each time you write about the Transportation Security Administration you paint the agency in an unflattering light. With all the changes in the agency why does it seem you hate the TSA?”
Joyce you pose a very interesting question … and in fact a question that caught me off guard. While I do question various aspects of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) somewhat often … I actually do not hate the TSA in any way shape for form.
The actual primary driver for creating the TSA, which was to create standardized airport security screening process, is something I support. I also, in theory, believe in the TSA’s Mission “The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,” and the TSA’s Vision “The Transportation Security Administration will continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security through its people, processes, and technology.”
If you read the Core Values of the TSA it is hard to not support the agency … in theory … however my issues with the TSA arise in the way the agency has been ineffectively managed and become a fairly bloated agency that is often unaccountable for its actions.
The reasons I began writing about the TSA’s need for a permanent administrator months before the main stream media was not because I was seeking to be critical of the TSA, but because I believe the TSA needed a long term leader to give the agency new direction. A 60,000 person agency needs a strong leader, especially when it is floundering.
I have written about a number of positive things within the TSA, such as the TSA’s Self Select Lanes. This initiative was very forward thinking of the agency, and once the kinks were ironed out it appeared to be working quite well at many airports.
On many occasions in various forums I have pointed out that the TSA has many professionally minded agents in place. I have seen a lot of excellent front line TSA agents in terms of the human element of the TSA. On two occasions TSA agents at Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN) have helped me catch a flight when I was late and should have missed my flights. When I look at TSA TSO & DFS agents I see them for who they are and do not judge them on poorly executed TSA policy.
While I may not have agreed with policy decisions created by former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, he was forward thinking in engaging his critics directly. Mr. Hawley in the process of engaging TSA critics would personally enter forums, often in the middle night, and respond to people directly. In the process of engaging TSA’s critics, Hawley pushed the TSA into being the first major Federal Agency to establish a Blog and Twitter account. In the process of establishing a direct personal link between the TSA and those traveling in the United States, Mr. Hawley also brought Curtis Burns on board to create the “Blogger Bob” content on the TSA’s blog … this I believe was a genuinely brilliant move by Mr. Hawley.
On many occasions I have praised the former Acting Administrator Gale Rossides, now the Deputy Administrator, and pointed out that I believed she had the potential to be an excellent Administrator, but her hands were tied by being in limbo as the Acting Administrator. A day ago I even praised the newly appointed TSA Administrator, John Pistole.
…so, while I have been critical of the TSA on many occasions, and believe the agency needs a sweeping overhaul, budget revision and a hard definition of its scope of jurisdiction to avoid furthering its mission creep … in fact I don’t hate the TSA.
Even in the worst of situations I have encountered when dealing with the TSA, this past December when two TSA Special Agents (ie: Federal Agents who carry guns) showed up at my house multiple times over a two day span and served me a subpoena (that was outside the scope of their Jurisdiction), I wrote this “I hope 2010 is the year the TSA can find a permanent Administrator the agency can find its defined focus to become a shining star within the Department of Homeland Security.”
So Joyce, hopefully that explains why I don’t hate the TSA.