In the aftermath of the attempt to get Erroll Southers confirmed President Obama has finally selected another person to head the TSA, Robert Harding.
I must admit, I do now know very much about Mr. Harding nor does anyone else in the aviation community. Certainly not enough to comment intelligently upon his skills and abilities with respect to this job. But as noted today in the Washington Post, Harding is an outsider to the aviation security industry.
I do want to make one point about a quote in the Post with respect to Steve Lott’s comment on Harding being from outside the industry:
“But that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Steve Lott, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents about 230 domestic and foreign airlines. “Certainly someone from outside aviation and transportation might bring a fresh perspective to the job.”
The unfortunate fact is that we’ve NEVER had anyone from inside the aviation industry run TSA. The fact that Harding will bring an outside perspective is interesting, because that’s all TSA has ever had. From former Secret Service agents, to Navy and Coast Guard Admirals to transportation network management experts, we’ve never had anyone from the ranks of aviation security head TSA. Erroll Southers was the closest.
Now we have a former Army General. Well, at least we’re making sure all of the military services are getting their chance. Maybe the next TSA director will be from the Marine Corps.
The good news about Harding that I can see on it’s face, is that he comes from a strong intelligence background. That’s a key component in ANY aviation security system, and in any security system period. Good intelligence can often help tell you where to put your assets, your focus and how to spend your money. We cannot afford to chase around every threat possible. We have to use good intelligence gathering and dissemination to focus on the most likely threats.
So, yes, it will be interesting to see what an outsider can bring to TSA, that all the other outsiders already haven’t. Hopefully Harding will do one thing — listen. Listen and understand that the purpose of aviation security is to minimize risks, reduce vulnerabilities, all while still allowing the system to operate, without damaging the benefits of commercial and general aviation.