By Jason Lim, program analyst, Office of the Deputy Administrator
Transportation Sector Network Management (TSNM) remains a mystery to many at TSA. Even John Sammon, TSNM's assistant administrator, admits that it takes some explaining for people to understand what transportation security has to do with network management.
"We could just as easily call the office, ‘stakeholder engagement,'" Sammon explained, "since that's what we actually do. We reach out to our various stakeholders and lead a collaborative effort to develop and implement security plans that are operational. It's about working together to achieve the security mission."
And who are these stakeholders?
They are key law enforcement agencies like the N.Y. Police Department and the L.A. Sheriff's Department. They are Amtrak and Metro; Southwest Airlines and UPS. They are the pilots, conductors, commercial drivers, cargo shippers, insurance underwriters and private security companies. They are the people who run the different modes of transportation: aviation, rail, mass transit, maritime, pipelines, highways and air cargo. In fact, TSNM was created out of the realization that transportation in America is actually a network of these different modes of transportation, with multiple operators who have to run them on a daily basis.
"With the important exception of in-flight security through our FAMs [federal air marshals] and checkpoint and passenger baggage security by our TSOs, most transportation security is not provided by TSA," Sammon said. "Everyday security is provided by the operators of these various modes. So our job at TSNM is to actively engage these network stakeholders to work together to put operationally effective security measures in place that will work day in and day out."
Engaging with stakeholders from the beginning pays huge dividends. For example, by working with our industry partners early, TSA met the Feb. 3 deadline to screen 50 percent of commercial passenger aircraft cargo with a solution that achieved the goal while minimizing disruptions to the flow of commerce.
"We don't want to be a government agency that just hands down regulations and policies to industries and then assumes the job is done," Sammon emphasized. "We want to lead the whole process by engaging and including key players at every step of the way."
The key to engaging this transportation network is the team of knowledgeable, committed individuals TSNM has assembled. "You can't lead without the subject matter experts who know their industries, are committed to the mission of TSA, and will work tirelessly to make it happen," Sammon said. "I can't emphasize enough how indebted I am to the GMs [general managers] and their staffs who have taken charge of their respective modes of transportation and created a cohesive team that cuts across all the different players involved. It's a truly monumental effort. Our people are our greatest achievement to date. Personally, working with them is an inspiration every day."
Sammons' message to his team has remained consistent: Great job; let's remain focused with a clear sense of the mission; and keep the pedal to the metal. "When Kip and Gale first asked me to take charge of TSNM, they told me it would be the hardest job I'd ever have – and they were absolutely right," Sammons recalled with a laugh, referring to former Administrator Kip Hawley and Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. "But they also knew it would be the most rewarding job ever. They let me find that out for myself."