Examining Management Practices and Misconduct at TSA: Part II

Peter Neffenger, Administrator
Statement of Peter Neffenger, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Thursday, May 12, 2016

Good morning, Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and distinguished Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.  I sincerely appreciate the Committee’s oversight of the management practices at TSA. It has been of concern to me as well. I commit to you and the American people that, under my leadership, TSA has established high standards of performance and accountability. I also want to thank Inspector General John Roth for his support. I greatly value the oversight that his office provides to improve our agency and I have been working closely with him during my tenure.  

My leadership perspective is shaped by more than three decades of national service and crisis leadership. Throughout my career, I have emphasized professional integrity and duty to mission as foundational elements of service for myself and for the dedicated civil servants and military members I have been entrusted to lead.

Since taking the oath office on July 4th of last year, I have traveled throughout the country and around the world to meet with employees at all levels of our agency. I have been impressed by their patriotism and sense of duty, servants who every day perform demanding tasks under difficult circumstances. I deeply respect and appreciate our employees who rise to the challenge of service to a mission and an oath of loyalty as a condition of employment. Their success requires the utmost professionalism from all of our employees, from frontline officers to the most senior leaders.

My overarching priority is to fulfill the core mission of TSA to secure the Nation’s transportation systems. In just ten months, we have undertaken a range of transformational efforts. I immediately prioritized our counterterrorism mission I set a renewed focus on security, revised alarm resolution procedures, made investments in new technology, and retrained the entire workforce. We are holding ourselves accountable to high standards of performance, and are supporting our frontline officers in their critical counterterrorism mission. We have reinvigorated our partnerships with the airlines, airport operators, and the trade and travel industries and are working closely with Congress to address our security mission.  

We simultaneously undertook a broad evolution of the entire TSA enterprise with respect to our core mission and our people. I am systematically and deliberately leading the transformation of TSA. I have made it clear that we are focused on our security mission.

Most importantly, I am investing in our people. With Congress’ help, I directed a complete overhaul of our approach to how we train our workforce at all levels of the agency. We established the first ever TSA Academy on January 1st of this year. This intensive training will enable us to achieve consistency, develop a common culture, instill our core values and raise performance across the entire workforce. Establishing a culture of mutual respect and trust between leaders and the workforce will instill confidence and pride, and is a prudent investment in the future of the Agency.

I also ordered a review of all personnel policies and practices. This led to a number of significant changes – elimination of the arbitrary use of directed reassignments, restrictions on permanent change of station relocation costs, and placed significant controls on bonuses at all levels. 

We are overhauling management practices – conducting an independent review of our acquisition programs, building a planning, programming, budget and execution process, and building a human capital management system that addresses recruitment, development, promotion, assignment, and retention.

To ensure the effective integration of our leadership team, I have brought in new staff from outside the agency, a new Deputy Administrator, new Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations, a new head of Intelligence, and other key positions.

I assure this committee that under my leadership TSA treats its employees fairly and affords them every legal and available means to exercise their due process rights.  We review management controls regularly, revise them when needed, fully investigate and adjudicate misconduct at every level; and we hold those who violate standards appropriately accountable.

With respect to leadership, my experience tells me that good leaders set high standards and inspire people to perform at their best. I have demanded much of my leaders over the past ten months. I have set high standards for my leaders. I expect them to work hard, and I supervise them closely.

Finally, we must deliver a highly effective, intelligence-driven counterterrorism and security capability. To do so, we must have fully trained, highly-motivated, professional employees supported by a mature and efficient Agency with a common set of values.

My guiding principles, which I expressed in my Administrator’s Intent, are Focus on Mission, Invest in People, and Commit to Excellence. We are pursuing these objectives every day. As Administrator, I will continue to do so until we achieve and sustain success in every aspect of this Agency, in every mission, in every office and location where we operate, and with every single employee.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and for the Committee’s support of TSA’s important mission. I look forward to your questions.