by Mickey McCarter
Monday, 10 August 2009

Erroll Southers has a strong background in aviation law enforcement

The White House is rumored to be considering the nomination of a former FBI special agent to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as early as this week, according to reports from the Associated Press.

Erroll Southers currently serves chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism for the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, the law enforcement agency of the airport authority that oversees four airports, including Los Angeles International Airport.

He also acts as a professor on homeland security and public policy and as associate director of the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at the University of Southern California. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Congress have called upon Southers for his expertise, particularly in aviation law enforcement.

Southers first became a law enforcement officer at the Santa Monica Police Department and later joined the FBI, where he became a special agent in counter-terrorism. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger later recruited Southers to become deputy director for critical infrastructure protection in the state's Office of Homeland Security.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Southers would lend his expertise to TSA at a time when the agency has been engrossed in several long-standing projects such as Secure Flight, air cargo screening, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, and many others.

At least one federal employee union also sees Southers as someone who could successfully manage relations with transportation security officers and other TSA employees, who have suffered from high turnover rates and low employee satisfaction.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said in a statement Friday, "We are very pleased that the administration has heard AFGE on the dire need for a TSA administrator to be appointed We look forward to working with Mr. Southers to turn this agency around to one that its employees and the American public can be proud of."

The AFGE is particularly invested in gaining collective bargaining rights for airport screeners, arguing that they have been unable to correct poor working conditions and a lack of training, among other complaints, because they have been barred from collective bargaining by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

"The question of bargaining rights at TSA is not a matter of 'if' but 'when,'" Gage said. "We are confident that the appointment of a new administrator will help put that matter to bed."

Gage cited poor health and safety efforts, discrimination, selective hiring practices, nepotism, "intimidation" by management, and lax oversight as issues a new TSA chief should overcome to bring professional opportunities and confidence to airport screeners.

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