BY COLLEEN CHAMBERLAIN
New TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, a recognized expert in crisis management, port security, and oversight of the commercial maritime industry, will need to use his vast
expertise and management skills to lead TSA at a time
when the agency is facing critical reports by the DHS
Office of Inspector General (OIG), increased scrutiny
and legislative action by members of Congress, low
employee morale, high-profile breaches of security by
air carrier employees, and, as always, media eager to
expose any flaws or missteps.
Here is an overview of a few of the top priority issues
that undoubtedly will dominate the administrator’s
attention during his first weeks and months on the job.
Airport Access Control
and Employee Screening
In late December 2014, the discovery of a gun-smuggling
scheme in which a former Delta Air Lines employee
carried backpacks and carry-on baggage full of guns and
ammunition on nearly 20 commercial flights was made
public. TSA responded to the incident by convening an
ad-hoc working group of the Aviation Security Advisory
Committee (ASAC) to review employee screening and
airport access control.
The working group’s final 90-day report on access
control was submitted to TSA on April 8, 2015. The
report contained 28 recommendations in the areas
of employee vetting; random security screening and
inspection; internal controls and audit of badges; risk-
based security for higher-risk employee populations;
intelligence and intelligence sharing; and security
awareness and vigilance. The report also contained
a discussion and analysis of 100 percent employee
screening, which the group concluded would not be a
“silver bullet” solution. The group noted that other more
effective and less costly methods of securing the sterile
areas of airports are available. The recommendations
in the report collectively take a risk-based and multi-
layered approach to employee screening and airport
access control with shared responsibilities across the
aviation community, including TSA, air carriers and
On April 20, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a
press release announcing steps to address the potential
insider threat vulnerability at U.S. airports, stating that
they were the result of the ASAC report.
Following the recommendations contained in
the ASAC report, Johnson directed TSA to take the
following immediate actions:
1. Until TSA establishes a system for “real-time,
recurrent” Criminal History Background Checks
for all aviation workers, require fingerprint-based
criminal history records checks every two years for
all airport employee Security Identification Display
Area badge holders.
2. Require airport and airline employees traveling as
passengers to be screened by TSA prior to travel.
3. Require airports to reduce the number of access
points to secured areas to an operational minimum.