The TSA, Leaderless Again

The 31st of December 2014 was the last day the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had a leader, as Administrator John Pistole stepped down from his role to become the President of Anderson University, where he had attended college.


The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have known the TSA would need a new Administrator since late October, as Pistole announced he would be stepped down on the 27th of October; but as of today there is no short list of candidates for the position, no likely appointments, no scheduled confirmation hearings … and it appears that the agency will be rudderless once again for an extended period of time.


The departure of John Pistole is not the first time the TSA has been left leaderless, during its short existence. From January 2009, when Kip Hawley stepped down, through June 2010 when John Pistole took office, the TSA was lead by one its founders, Gale Rossides, who stepped in as the Acting Administrator. Gale Rossides was a good leader for the agency, but she had little control, virtually no political clout and those below her often viewed her as a seat warmer, until a new Administrator was appointed.


As the TSA has a history of being its own worst enemy in many ways, and pushing the boundaries of what its mission should be, leaving the agency with out a permanent leader firmly in place is significantly problematic.


Unfortunately the process of appointing a new TSA Administrator to lead the agency is fraught with political pit falls, and ultimately deters some of the best possible candidates for the job.


Leading an agency that is often in the political and media spot light, rarely for positive reasons, that is diverse in missions , is in need of internal reform and is often resistant to change … even some minor things that can greatly improve its operations … is a daunting task. Some logical choices may exist within the agency itself, but likely its next leader will not be selected from within the ranks, as politics makes that nearly impossible.


Let’s hope a new TSA boss is found quicker than the last, with their eye on the long term rather than solely on the here-and-now.


Happy Flying!




  1. As the TSA Administrator is a political appointee, there will be neither time in President Obama’s remaining tenure as President nor appetite within a Republican-controlled Congress to confirm a nominee selected by a Democratic president. The next head of TSA will likely not be named until after the 2016 presidential elections, and only after a number of other political appointees are named. Don’t look for a new leader to be seated at TSA before mid to late 2017, at the earliest.

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