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Industry Weighs In On New TSA Chief

Posted by Joshua Hebert on Sep 17, 2009 10:24:00 AM

Organizations representing general aviation in Washington know that Errol G. Southers has been nominated by President Barack Obama (D) to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and that Brian Delauter has been named the new general manager of that department's GA division. Of the two Delauter is the better known quantity, having been named acting manager in July. But Southers is known to the community mainly through his resume.

And it is an impressive one, including long experience in law enforcement with both the FBI and police departments. His most recent position was as Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for Homeland Security and Intelligence. He is also a member of the faculty at a terrorism think tank at the University of Southern California.

Southers testified before Congress in May 2008, and a transcript captures some of his then current thinking about airport security, but with an emphasis on an airline environment. He told the House Committee on Homeland Security that using counter-surveillance techniques could identify terrorist organizations, including auto license plate scanning technology to spot frequent drive-bys and connect the plate numbers to national databases. In his testimony, he said, "Surveillance is typically conducted in a covert manner and can involve any number of collectors (surveillants) either on foot or in vehicles. Successful counter-surveillance can yield indications of an attack-planning phase. The problem is separating 'terrorism' from 'tourism.' Herein lies the importance of employing a strategy that facilitates 'looking for the bombers and not the bombs.' "

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) issued a statement saying it is "pleased" with the selection. Association President Jim Coyne added "Southers' vast experience with homeland security and terrorism will serve him well as the next administrator of the TSA."

The National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) statement reserved judgment pending the approval process, saying, in part, "As the White House prepares to submit this nomination, the business aviation community has a number of very important concerns before the TSA. We will be closely monitoring the progress of Mr. Southers' nomination, and working to ensure that he has a full understanding of the unique operating needs of our Members."

How will they do that? Today NBAA vice president for safety, security & regulation Doug Carr told AWIN, "As is the case with every new nominee, we'll have an ability over the next few weeks and months to work with Congress and meet the new leaders. TSA is no different from any other agency, and it's just important that we do our part to ensure the agency knows us." He says the NBAA is well known among career staff at the TSA who maintain a continuity and history. "The more minds to the table, the better," he added. "You can get more done."

NATA vice president Eric Byer says of Delauter that, "Brian has been in the community for a while, and he knows the drill." Byer's top three issues for the incoming TSA officials are industry communication and outreach, the Large Aircraft Security Proposal (LASP-"It needs to get wrapped up in the next 12 months"), and the onerous badging requirements and background checks that have FBOs up in arms.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that TSA spokesman Jon Allen told AWIN that Delauter's top three priorities are to improve communications with stakeholders, to come to a resolution on LASP and to remove waiver requirements for international arrivals. So they agree on two out of three. The AOPA will meet with Delauter at its upcoming Aviation Summit on November 5, and he'll be at the NBAA meeting in October.

George Larson - AviationWeek

Topics: NBAA, Aviation News, Private Jet, TSA