Senior leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, across the Department, and Admiral Neffenger’s family and senior leaders of TSA, thank you all for being here on an important day.
A little over a month ago the preliminary results of an Inspector General’s test of TSA’s screening at airports leaked to the press. The IG’s tests were fairly discreet -- just 70 tests across eight airports. But, the results were completely unsatisfactory. The American traveling public is entitled to know that air travel is safe, and that, as taxpayers, they are getting what they pay for.
To put all this in context: Aviation security involves layers of protection seen and unseen. As was the case here, our IG, who has the benefit of an insider’s knowledge, routinely conducts tests of various isolated parts of the system, without passing through all of it like the traveling public must do.
Nevertheless, upon receiving the preliminary results of the IG’s tests, I immediately directed and TSA has undertaken a series of things that constitute a 10-point plan to address the concerns raised. Many of these measures are already underway, and address the concerns raised by the IG’s tests.
One, I directed that all Federal Security Directors at every airport in the United States be briefed in detail on the Inspector General’s preliminary test results. This has been done.
Two, I have directed “back to basics” training for every TSA officer in the country. TSA will conduct training for all transportation security officers and supervisory personnel to inform them of the specific vulnerabilities identified by the testing. TSA is now implementing this in a phased and layered manner. The first phase began on May 29, 2015. We project that all TSA officers will have received this training by the end of September.
Three, TSA has increased manual screening measures. Therefore, since mid-June TSA has reintroduced the use of hand-held metal detectors at security check-points across the country.
Four, we have increased use of random explosive trace detectors. This also went into effect in mid-June.
Five, TSA is re-testing and re-evaluating the type of screening equipment that was tested by the IG at airports across the United States, to ensure that it performs as expected. Senior TSA officials and I have personally met with the chief executive officer of the manufacturer of the equipment, and he has pledged the company’s full support and cooperation in this effort.
Six, and longer term, we are assessing the existing performance standards for the screening equipment and identifying areas where the operability of the equipment can be enhanced.
Seven, we are re-evaluating the practice of “managed inclusion.” Managed inclusion is the process at airports by which travelers are diverted from standard screening lanes to expedited screening lanes, along with members of TSA Pre-Check.
Eight, we are revising TSA’s standard operating procedures to address the specific vulnerabilities identified by the Inspector General. This includes the possible greater use of TSA supervisors to help resolve situations at screening check points. As part of this, on June 26, TSA began field testing new standard operating procedures at six airports. Lessons learned will be incorporated and deployed nation-wide later this month.
Nine, the Inspector General and TSA will conduct continued random covert testing to assess the effectiveness of these new actions.
Ten, I have appointed a “Tiger Team” of DHS and TSA officials to monitor implementation of these measures. The team is already well underway with its work, has already given me status reports, and will continue to do so every two weeks.
Finally, and in addition to this 10-point plan, I want to take this opportunity to introduce our new TSA Administrator, confirmed by the Senate on June 22: Retiring Coast Guard Vice Admiral and Vice Commandant Pete Neffenger. Like the second TSA Administrator, Admiral James Loy, Vice Admiral Neffenger will now translate his maritime security skills and experience over to aviation security.
Pete Neffenger is one of the brightest and most capable military officers I’ve ever met. I know he will be a strong and effective leader of TSA. I salute him for stepping away from a distinguished and successful career in the Coast Guard, retiring to civilian life, and taking on this other, very demanding job serving his country.
Pete, my charge to you is to be an energetic leader, and to not hesitate to think out-of-the box, re-think old assumptions, encourage your people, your subordinates to raise ideas and points of view, and make hard choices if you have to.
The 10-point plan I described here today is in reaction to the latest round of tests by the IG, and is not meant to be the all-inclusive future for TSA. We must continually and comprehensively evaluate and re-evaluate what is best for aviation security. We must question assumptions, and never become comfortable or complacent when it comes to aviation security.
Pete, you should also know that, in my personal observation, the rank and file of TSA is filled with good and dedicated people who care about their important mission. They are ready to embrace you as their new leader and follow your directives.
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