Remarks at U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2018 Aviation Summit

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Administrator David P. Pekoske
Thursday, March 1, 2018
As Prepared for Delivery


Thank you Carol for that introduction and good morning to you all. I am honored to be invited to kick off this summit today. You have a great agenda ahead of you with a distinguished group of panelists. I see you even have some real life astronauts!  

I wish I could stay and participate further, but I have to head up to DHS Headquarters right after this for a DHS birthday celebration. Believe it or not, on this day 15 years ago, the Department of Homeland Security first opened its doors and brought TSA into the fold. 


In my first 6 months as Administrator I have traveled around the country and had the opportunity to meet with many of you. And those meetings gave me a new understanding of the strong relationship TSA and industry have developed and fostered over the years. I’m here today to continue our great work together with renewed energy.

We all have our roles to play in the aviation system – and when we play them well, we create a choreographed partnership defined by a shared commitment to security and passenger experience. The continued growth of the aviation sector is predicated on the quality of both. And we can never fail to look at our system from the passenger’s perspective.

Passenger Perspectives

Think about the brand new Grandparents flying across the country for their Granddaughter’s baptism. They get up at the crack of dawn to drive to the airport for an early morning flight. When they pull into the garage they see that open spaces are now indicated with a greenlight, so they can park quickly. The airport has installed new moving walkways so they can take a break from rolling their heavy bags and rest their knees.

On their way to the to the ticket counter they notice that the airport authority has installed a new sculpture and the friendly ticket agent tells them it’s by a local artist. At the security checkpoint they are guided through the process by courteous but focused Officers. As they are leaving security one of the Officers goes out of his way to return a sweater one of them left at the checkpoint. They buy a newspaper and a mystery thriller at the revamped bookstore and read by the gate before they are called for boarding.

A college student has been looking forward to a study abroad year in Italy. He’s a classics major so it only makes sense to start in Rome. On the day he’s supposed to leave his whole family wakes up late and they rush to the airport.

After their goodbyes, the student gets in the security line. He’s concerned because it looks a bit long, but it moves fast. Once in the brand new international terminal he is amazed to see that there is a new coffee shop with great breakfast sandwiches. And on the plane, the inflight entertainment is great and the seats seem a little more comfortable.

A small business owner is presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to pitch a new client. When she gets to the airport she realizes that her presentation is not quite done and she desperately needs to access her cloud files to finish.

Luckily she discovers that there is strong Wi-Fi in both the airport and the plane so she’ll be able to get the project done on time. And she has PreCheck so she’ll spend less time in line and more time working.

Our Roles in Aviation Security

All of us here have roles to play in each of these stories.

Airline leaders – I know you are making significant investments on many fronts – upgrading your fleets; optimizing physical and digital check-in experiences; focusing on human capital to hire and train the best pilots, maintenance staff, and crew; and doing everything you can to encourage passengers to make your carrier their carrier of choice.

Airport leaders – You’ve shared with me some of your great plans for expansion, and exciting designs that integrate security. And you’ve taken me through your impressive airport operations centers. You are working to accommodate new technologies, and along with our airline partners, have bought some of those technologies to the checkpoint. I commend you for all of your efforts to make the airports of tomorrow available today. And for doing everything you can to make your airport an airport of choice and not just necessity.

Cargo leaders – You are also upgrading your facilities to move cargo through the system quickly and securely, and making adjustments that allow our inspectors to screen cargo more efficiently. The rise of online shopping has required you to rethink the way you operate (we won’t name names here).

We have many other aviation industry leaders here today, as well as international partners – I don’t want to leave anyone out – you also have made significant investments in security and customer experience.

TSA’s Role

I am here today on behalf of TSA and our 60,000 plus professionals who come to work every day with one mission: to secure the transportation system.

We have also made significant investments these areas and we have an important role to play screening passengers and bags, vetting airport workers, inspecting cargo, and working with international partners to raise the baseline of security around the world.

As TSA Administrator, I am, of course, focused on security, but I am also deeply invested of quality of your customers – our passengers – experience. And I am working with my team to create a security system that considers the needs of passengers and cargo and also allows us to continually improve aviation security in the face of serious threats.

I expect our employees to approach everything they do with integrity, with respect and with commitment. And you will hear me continue to echo those values as long as I am Administrator. Next week I will releasing TSA’s Strategy that will guide our approach between now and TSA’s 25th anniversary in 2026.

Many of you took the time to collaborate on that document and I really appreciate your time and your honesty. There is nothing in there that should surprise you.

Passenger Expectations

Before I leave you, let’s go back to our passengers. What do all of those passengers expect when they embark on their journey?

They expect – and trust – that we in government and industry are working together to ensure their safety. They are trusting us. And we must earn that trust every day.

Those stories illustrate that aviation security is a collective effort and we all share ownership in it. I enthusiastically welcome your continued partnership in shaping the future of aviation security.

To borrow our theme of the day, only together can we go further in flight.