TSA head remains lost in transition

Wednesday - 5/19/2010, 10:55am EDT

Erroll Southers, former nominee, TSA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

As President Obama's latest nominee to head the TSA prepares for the confirmation process, Federal News Radio talks with a former nominee about what to expect and the toll it can take.

FBI Deputy Director John Pistole is the next nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration. Former nominee, Erroll Southers, said he should brace for more of the same.

"He's going to have some challenges that remain to be addressed, namely unionization," said Southers, "which in my opinion was a real fictitious fear that was being used to discredit the President and really was destabilizing this agency."

The key to success, at least in terms of getting confirmation, according to Southers, will be the ability to walk a very fine line. "The real challenge here, if you will, is to remain apolitical yet politically astute and address the concerns and... challenges that the agency has had over the past several years as it relates to the members on the Hill."

While the financial disclosure process "borders on nightmarish," Southers said Pistole should steel himself for being questioned about the same things over and over again.

It was one of the items that was pointed out in a study that was done when there was a real concerted effort to reform this process back in 2000. Dozens of former nominees were interviewed and their number one complaint was the redundancy of questions from the various committees as they were going through the vetting process.

And while answering and re-answering questions, the rest of your life, said Southers goes on hold.

You are in employment limbo and the confirmation process becomes a job, especially for someone like myself who was living and working in Los Angeles as opposed to the second nominee who was in the D.C. area, and I believe that Mr. Pistole is also in the D.C. area. So you have to have a job that's supportive, family and friends that are supportive, as you're preparing to go through this process.

In the end, said Southers, that same support group may be needed again. He told the Federal Drive that's what kept him going.

Thank God for the family and your friends, the University of Southern California and Los Angeles World Airports - those organizations supported me throughout. It is extremely difficult, but one thing I want to say now, and as i said then: the process ended for me but my personal goals and passions remain the same. So that is why I continue to be engaged academically in counter-terrorism. The position in my situation would have been politicized to the extent that I would have been rendered ineffective and instead of working with Congress, the relationship would have turned adversarial further jeopardizing the efforts to enhance our national security. So I had to do what was best for the country. I'm very lucky that I had friends, families and organizations that supported me and I was able to fast-forward my life, re-engage and do the things that I'm doing now to support our national security posture.

For more advice from Erroll Southers, Associate Director of CREATE (Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events) at the University of Southern California, from a March interview on the Daily Debrief, click here.