TSA viewed as gold standard, goes beyond all boundaries

Thursday, April 18, 2024
Brian Krenzien photo

Enhancing vital relationships with aviation leaders around the world is the work of 27 TSA professionals known as Transportation Security Representatives (TSARs). Their primary focus is to raise the global bar on transportation security.

“In many corners of the world, including mine, TSA is viewed as the gold standard when it comes to aviation security procedures, policies and technologies,” said TSAR Brian Krenzien. “Most of the countries in my portfolio look forward to increasing their collaborative efforts between their country and TSA.” 

The TSAR’s work is essential in keeping international aviation security standards high, especially for countries who provide last point of departure (LPD) security. That means that once an aircraft departs that country’s airspace, the next stop is at a U.S. airport.

“I primarily work at the ministry level and with the civil aviation authority of the various countries to understand their challenges and opportunities and see how TSA can help close those gaps,” explained Krenzien. “Additionally, I work with the U.S. State Department and the host nation government to develop bilateral international agreements between the U.S. and the nation concerning Federal Air Marshal agreements, sharing of sensitive security materials, visa waiver programs and joint testing opportunities.” 

For Krenzien, whose area of responsibility includes 10 countries in central and eastern Europe, two of which are at war with each other, diplomacy is a key skill.

From left, TSAR Brian Krenzien, the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy and the Polish Minister of Infrastructure
From left, TSAR Brian Krenzien, the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy and the Polish Minister of Infrastructure

“I have the unique situation of figuring out how to manage civil aviation concerns in the midst of an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine,” said Krenzien, who mentioned prior to the present war, both Ukraine and Russia had LPD service to the U.S. Currently, all flights from Russia to the U.S. have been suspended. On the other side of the conflict, he explains, “The airspace in Ukraine has been shut down since the early days of the war.”

TSARs partner with 16 TSA international industry representatives (IIRs) stationed around the world who are responsible for working with various foreign air carriers. IIR Dan Love works that beat in central Europe and is co-located with Krenzien in Warsaw, Poland.

“Ironically, no two countries in my area of responsibility (AOR) speak the same language,” said Krenzien whose AOR includes Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Romania along with Russia and Ukraine. “So, every country I go to for work or pleasure, I have to learn how to say good morning, please and thank you.”

Compliance staff at six regional operation centers (ROCs) across the globe round out TSA’s international  organizational chart and are focused on assessing the level of compliance to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for foreign airports providing LPD service to the U.S. ROCs are instrumental in helping Krenzien assess international airports with a large passenger volume to the U.S.

“All of the countries I work with were part of the Soviet Union, but now have turned their focus west to become part of the European Union and possibly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” said Krenzien, acknowledging their strong desire to improve their civil aviation security. “I work closely with the Transportation Sector Security Assistance Branch to identify and arrange technical and educational training in aviation security, insider threat and cybersecurity. I’m deployed to the field, so I rely heavily on the desk officers back at TSA HQ to help me arrange and choreograph all these moving parts.”

A makeshift memorial in Kyiv to fallen soldiers in the Russia-Ukraine War. (Photo by Brian Krenzien)
A makeshift memorial in Kyiv to fallen soldiers in the Russia-Ukraine War. (Photo by Brian Krenzien)

Krenzien’s personal journey began after his retirement from the Coast Guard, where he had international responsibilities similar to that of a TSAR. His TSAR role came into focus while working as a senior program manager for a corporation collaborating with DHS to develop screening technologies for land and sea borders. He’s quick to mention the present group of TSARs come from very diverse professional backgrounds.

“Some have come through traditional pipelines of working their way up from transportation security officer to more senior roles including federal security directors, deputy federal security directors and assistant federal security directors, then transitioning over to the TSAR role,” said Krenzien. “Others have come up through the Federal Air Marshal Service, or with a background in compliance, and some have come up through a background as program analysts.”

For Krenzien, understanding the Polish culture is one of the benefits of the TSAR role. His penchant for team sports has allowed him to meet a wide and diverse international social group who he spends time with outside of work.

“Coming to Warsaw has provided an amazing opportunity to step into a completely different culture and to explore a part of the world most Americans don’t get to see,” marveled Krenzien. “I think that is true of most of the stations where TSARs are posted. As with most things in the day-to-day lives of TSARs, each post is different and has its own unique challenges. For me, Polish is not the easiest language to learn, so there is that challenge, but the city is cosmopolitan enough that most people speak some English.”

As countries continue to restore air travel post COVID-19, Krenzien points to the interest in family ancestry as a reason international travel is ripe for expansion.

 “The countries in this portfolio are eagerly looking westward for their futures and recognize that many of their citizens have ties to family members in the U.S.,” said Krenzien. “Opening up these transportation routes will in turn enable Americans to better understand their own roots, and it is my job to help ensure that travel can be done in a secure manner for American citizens and host nation citizens to travel to and from the United States. By working closely with the government of each of the countries in my portfolio, I feel my goal is to facilitate this travel in an efficient and secure means, further protecting the interests of U.S. citizens at home and abroad.”

By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs