The Transportation Security Administration is one step closer to having a new administrator after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nomination of Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger.
Neffenger has served as the vice commandant of the Coast Guard since May of 2014. He joined the Coast Guard in 1981 and has served as the deputy commandant for operations, the director of strategic management and doctrine, the deputy national incident command for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in other capacities.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the chairman of the committee, said Neffenger was highly qualified to lead TSA and take on the difficult challenge of creating a culture of accountability.
"Terrorist groups like ISIS want to hit us where we are most vulnerable – the 50,000 men and women of TSA have an incredibly important job and little margin for error. Commerce Committee members, on a bipartisan basis, have been asking President Obama for a nominee since January and worked together to expeditiously to consider this nomination," Thune said.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the ranking member, said recent inspector general reports show that TSA is not fully up to the task of protecting the American public. The comment was in reference to a recent report that showed IG agents were able to smuggle banned items and fake explosives past TSA checkpoints.
"That's why we need to get new leaders like Admiral Neffenger in there quickly," Nelson said. The inspector general at DHS was able to get banned items – including fake explosives - through the screening process 67 out of 70 times it conducted the tests, according to officials familiar with the report. The details were first reported on by ABC News.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement June 1 that acting administrator Melvin Carraway will be reassigned to serve in the Office of State and Local Law Enforcement at DHS headquarters, while acting deputy director Mark Hatfield will serve as the acting administrator for the time being.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee now has 30 days to consider the nomination before the entire Senate considers Neffenger's nomination. President Obama originally nominated Neffenger on April 28.