Each day, Federal Security Directors provide direction and oversight to TSA’s airport staff and security operations, and they do so with the agency’s mission in mind.
Two, in particular, have shown exemplary leadership and a profound commitment to the workforce – from being ever-present in supporting those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and creating airport action plans to staying on the job during severe storms until each and every employee makes it home safely.
Because of their extreme dedication, TSA awarded upstate New York’s (UNY) Bart R. Johnson and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport’s (DFW) Kriste Jordan-Smith with the FSD of the Year Awards during the agency’s 2021 Honorary Awards ceremony.
Bart R. Johnson, upstate New York (Albany International Airport hub and spokes)
Johnson makes overseeing 13 airports covering 48 counties spread out over 46,280 square miles outside New York City seem easy.
The key, he said, is that he and his team manage the area by staying dedicated and committed to executing TSA’s mission and modeling the Administrator’s Intent.
“We accomplish that by adhering to directives, ensuring we have local processes in place to optimize our security posture and measure its effectiveness,” Johnson explained. “More importantly, we are always supporting the great security workforce. We aim to communicate why we do what we do with the workforce to ensure they are confident in their critical role and have the tools and training to get it done right, each and every time.”
Throughout each phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery process, Johnson has shown a great responsibility to the UNY workforce. He personally reached out to several employees going through tough times, ensuring they were supported. Johnson also made sure employees remained educated and aware of any developments.
Johnson spearheaded the creation of UNY’s COVID-19 Action Plan, Tactical Response Plan and the Infection Control Monitor (ICM) audit protocol that became a best practice used at airports nationwide.
He also coordinated the UNY Normalizing of Operations training curriculum for officers, reacquainting them with job knowledge skills necessary for returning to pre-COVID passenger flows as numbers plummeted during the pandemic.
Johnson said adapting to the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented was the UNY team’s biggest achievement in 2021.
“It is not the individual leader who gets things done; it is those around you in your leadership team who get it done by modeling – like I have – to treat people fairly, empower and support them to the best of your ability,” Johnson said. “It is in that regard this award should not be titled the FSD of the Year; it should be titled the TSA FSD and Staff (Team) of the Year Award.”
Kriste Jordan-Smith, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Jordan-Smith also embodies the Administrator’s Intent of “Commit to Our People” and promotes TSA’s mission and strategy in measurable ways.
During severe ice storms in Dallas, several employees, from TSA officers to inspectors, stayed overnight and slept on cots at DFW due to the weather conditions. Jordan-Smith stayed the entire time until each and every employee was able to return home.
“Jordan-Smith's selfless dedication to her workforce, the traveling public and mission set the standard as to what a true leader should be,” said Executive Director of Domestic Aviation Large Hub Operations Paul Leyh. “Her actions demonstrate care for our people, being adaptive and resilient, and devotion to the mission that set an inspiring example for other leaders.”
Jordan-Smith attends and greets every new hire class to discuss the importance of their role, clarifies expectations, answers questions, and sets each person up for career and personal success.
Communication across DFW’s massive five-terminal footprint is a challenge. To improve this, Jordan-Smith led the development of a ‘one-stop’ desktop icon to help employees stay up-to-date on airport events, which resulted in over 55,000 hits.
“Better information means less confusion for employees and more time focused on delivering great security with a positive passenger experience,” Jordan-Smith said.
Jordan-Smith spends much of her time ensuring employee feedback drives improvements, including engaging with employee advisory groups and collaborating with the local American Federation of Government Employees. She said she also appreciates the innovative partnership between TSA, the airport and its stakeholders, such as consolidating operations into an unprecedented, world-class integrated operations center.
Her championing of fair, inclusive, and transparent growth opportunities resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of employees participating in TSA’s leadership development programs.
Under Jordan-Smith’s leadership, the DFW team received 36 FSD coins of excellence and 72 monetary and non-monetary awards, dozens of Texas Trail tokens, and several employees were nominated for regional and national awards in 2021.
“Her continued excellent performance at DFW sets her apart,” Leyh said. “She truly exemplifies that actions and deeds speak louder than words.”
By Ariana Diaz, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs