There is increased scrutiny on the government's intelligence programs and security protocols on the heels of an attempted Christmas airliner attack, a shooting at the Pentagon, and last month's suicide plane attack at an IRS building in Texas.
Today, the President is expected to announce the appointment of Gen. Robert Harding (USA, ret.) to head the Transportation Security Administration, "the most important unfilled post in the Obama administration," according to an administration official talking with the Associated Press. Harding has been the Defense Department's top human intelligence officer and managed a $1 billion intelligence collection program.
Ralph Basham, a former chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration, told Federal News Radio that selecting someone with an intelligence background for TSA makes good sense.
It's important that we gather, analyze, and disseminate to the frontline troops the kind of actionable intelligence that they need to do the job. So I think he'll be an excellent pick. He's got a great team he's joining over there with (Acting Administrator) Gale Rossides at TSA who's a very competent leader. He's inheriting a very competent group of people.
Basham said the focus on intelligence was emphasized by former Administrator Kip Hawley, "so I don't think this will be a change of course for TSA because... they have been developing this capability all along."
That same, steady, stay the course approach, said Basham, is to be expected following the shooting at the Pentagon.
They will go back and they'll review the procedures and they'll look at what happened there and they'll determine whether or not there needs to be some change in their method of operations. As you know, these officers trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and they're trained on close quarter shooting incidents and, fortunately, the individual did not have the training they had. Therefore his shots did not hit the target, although they did strike the two officers. This incident probably lasted all of ten seconds. Probably. And the officers reacted based on their training. They didn't stop and think "okay I have to pull my weapon and shoot." No. This is all based on their training and their instincts. I commend them and applaud them for their very quick and decisive action because they saved dozens of lives as well as their own.
Ralph Basham, is a former director of the U.S. Secret Service, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, and chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration. He is also the founder of Command Consulting Group.