With the withdrawal of two previous nominees, filling the TSA job has become a high priority for President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano , both of whom have emphasized the importance of the agency’s mission and the adoption of new passenger-screening technology after the attempted Dec. 25 bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight.
Pistole will appear before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV , D-W.Va., has already given his blessing to the nominee, who is currently deputy director of the FBI.
“I have worked with Mr. Pistole over the years, and I believe he is a strong manager capable of getting the job done,” Rockefeller said. “I know he is well regarded in the intelligence and law enforcement communities, and I look forward to working with him.”
Some congressional aides have said that Pistole’s intelligence background will be a plus, especially considering that many in Congress considered the Dec. 25 incident a breakdown of information-sharing among security agencies. Pistole also was one of the officials involved in briefing Congress about this year’s attempted Times Square car bombing.
But committee ranking Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas took a more cautious tone on Pistole, noting the trouble that the Obama administration has experienced in appointing leadership to the agency over the past year and a half. The administration’s first two picks, former FBI agent and homeland security expert Erroll G. Southers and retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding, withdrew earlier this year in the face of scrutiny about their professional conduct and honesty with congressional staff.
“This is the third nominee put forward by this administration, and I will be carefully reviewing his qualifications,” Hutchison said. “Considering the many credible threats across all modes of transportation, there are many challenges ahead for TSA and the American traveling public demands a qualified candidate who can be swiftly confirmed in a bipartisan manner.”