TSA nominee is diplomatic about screener bargaining rights

President Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration sailed through his confirmation hearing Thursday, doing a diplomatic dance to avoid saying whether he supports giving federal airport screeners collective bargaining rights.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he plans for his panel to vote next week to confirm John Pistole for the TSA, which has been without a permanent leader for more than a year.

But Pistole, who now serves as FBI deputy director, might have given heartburn to federal employee unions that want collective bargaining agreements for transportation security officers.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., asked Pistole if unionizing FBI agents would improve national security. Pistole said no, explaining that the bureau needs to be able to deploy agents quickly around the world on short notice.

Republicans like DeMint argue the government needs flexibility to provide a surge of screeners to airports around the country, so the same logic should apply at TSA.

TSA screeners can join unions, but have never had collective bargaining rights. And Pistole would not say whether he supports giving them those rights. Instead, he said he would review the matter and consult with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who ultimately would make a recommendation to President Obama.

Pistole is Obama's third choice to head TSA. Republicans placed a hold on Obama's first pick, Erroll Southers, largely because they feared he would support collective bargaining rights for screeners. Southers ultimately withdrew his name from consideration after questions arose about his misuse of FBI data when he worked at the agency.

Obama's second pick, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, also withdrew from consideration amid questions surrounding the work done by his former defense and intelligence contracting business.

But Pistole is a career civil servant who joined the FBI in 1983, and Democrats and Republicans alike Thursday said they believe he is the right choice for the job. Rockefeller said he "certainly" will vote to confirm Pistole.

During the hearing, Pistole said he would prioritize TSA's security work if confirmed, while acknowledging that doing so must be balanced with protecting the privacy rights and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.

He said he wants TSA employees to view the agency as a "threat-based intelligence agency with a national security focus." Pistole said his top priority would be ensuring that TSA has the latest intelligence and threat information to make informed decisions.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also has the option of holding a confirmation hearing with Pistole.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.