The pending nominee to be the next administrator of the Transportation Security Administration will provide testimony at a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Thursday, May 21, 2015, at **10:15 a.m.
In a letter to President Obama on January 27, 2015, U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with subcommittee leaders Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) urged the President to “prioritize the formal nomination of a qualified, experienced, and dedicated individual to serve as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration." This request was made following the October 2014 retirement announcement by the former TSA administrator, who stepped down on December 31, 2014, which left the TSA without a Senate-confirmed leader for this critical security related position. On April 28, 2015, the president nominated Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, the current Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to fill the post.
Nomination Under Consideration:
- Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger to be Assistant Secretary, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Full committee nomination hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. A live video of the hearing will be available here.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John Thune
"Today we will consider the nomination of Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to be the next Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
"The TSA Administrator position has been vacant since last December, when John Pistole resigned. In January, I, along with Ranking Member Nelson and Senators Ayotte, Cantwell, and Fischer, called on President Obama to send us a qualified, experienced, and dedicated individual to serve as TSA Administrator. Late last month, Admiral Neffenger was nominated by the president to head this important agency, which has been without Senate-confirmed leadership for too long.
"While I’m disappointed at the length of time it took for the president to send us a qualified nominee, I am encouraged by Admiral Neffenger due to his qualifications and service to our country. Admiral Neffenger currently serves as the Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and he has had a long and distinguished career, serving over 33 years in a wide range of positions, each with more responsibility and importance than the last.
"During an assignment to Mobile, Alabama, he helped to lead the multi-agency response to the 1993 Amtrak Sunset Limited train derailment into a remote waterway in the Mobile River Delta, which killed 47 people. This is a particularly significant experience in light of last week’s tragic Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. Admiral Neffenger also has substantial experience serving right here in the Senate, having been a Coast Guard Fellow and Detailee for two years at the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"As some of my colleagues from the Gulf Coast can attest, Admiral Neffenger also served as Deputy National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In that role, Admiral Neffenger coordinated and led over 50,000 people from federal, state, and local agencies, tribal representatives, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector throughout five Gulf Coast states in the clean-up and response effort.
"Admiral Neffenger has proven himself as a leader, and the TSA is an agency in need of strong leadership. Former Administrator Pistole deserves credit for improving the agency’s use of risk-based approaches to security and implementing programs to streamline the screening of travelers who pose little or no threat to the public. At the same time, just last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General testified in the House that, “[u]nfortunately, although nearly 14 years have passed since TSA’s inception, [the IG’s office] remain[s] deeply concerned about its ability to execute its important mission.”
"That is unusually blunt testimony from a government witness, and underscores the need to get a qualified and capable leader in place at TSA – especially with the evolving security threats our nation faces..
"This Committee will do its part to make that happen. I look forward to a meaningful exchange with Admiral Neffenger today, as well as written questions for the record following today’s hearing. Then, if members are satisfied with the nominee’s responses, we will likely hold a markup to consider the nomination during our first week back after the Memorial Day recess.
"That will be followed by a previously agreed-upon referral to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as has been done for the last several nominees to head the TSA. I look forward to working with Chairman Johnson, who is also a valued Member of this Committee, to ensure timely consideration of this nomination. In both settings, as well as in personal meetings with senators, Admiral Neffenger will have a chance to address important policy issues, and how he will address the challenges facing TSA, if confirmed.
"With that, I turn now to the distinguished Ranking Member for any remarks he may have."
Ranking Member Bill Nelson
Thank you Admiral Neffenger for joining us today to discuss your nomination to be the next administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. And I want to thank you for your continued public service.
We’ve worked together in the past on the response to one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters ever, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where you played an important leadership role as the deputy national incident commander.
I expect that your 34 years of service with the Coast Guard has prepared you to lead TSA in its critical, 24/7 security mission.
TSA is tasked with protecting our transportation systems and the traveling public, while also ensuring the flow of commerce. Though TSA is most visible to the public at 450 commercial airports across the nation, the agency’s security responsibilities cut across all modes of transportation; including transit, railroads, pipelines, and maritime.
As threats to our transportation systems evolve, TSA must respond to meet new challenges and anticipate future risk.
For instance, last December it was discovered that a few employees at the Atlanta Airport had developed a scheme that exploited the limited screening of employees at that airport to transport guns to New York onboard commercial airplanes.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Johnson announced that baggage handlers in Oakland are being charged with illegally transporting drugs. It appears these individuals used the same scheme as in Atlanta.
The employees in both cases used their secure access badges to bring contraband into the sterile area of the airport, then transferred the drugs or guns to a passenger on an outboard flight, who had already passed through TSA security.
In both Atlanta and Oakland, these were criminals and not terrorists, but this is exactly what we are trying to prevent: weapons getting on airplanes.
Secretary Johnson has directed TSA to implement recommendations made by the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, including steps to improve the screening and vetting of all airport-based employees.
One of those recommendations is to reduce the number of secure area access points at airports and increase screening, as they did in Orlando and Miami years ago.
There are also ways to improve passenger screening, and I hope that we can discuss ways to strengthen the TSA PreCheck program.
Vice Admiral Neffenger, I look forward to hearing how you would approach these issues, and how your experience at the Coast Guard has prepared you to lead this 50,000 member workforce and protect our transportation networks.
Witness Panel 1
Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffengerto be Assistant SecretaryTransportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security