Future of security administration in doubt as chief steps down

| 4/11/2005

Transportation Security Administration chief David Stone has announced he will resign his post in June, leaving many with questions about the agency’s future.

Stone announced his resignation April 8, but some in Washington say the handwriting was on the wall even before that.

“David Stone didn’t always play nice with the other (Bush supporters) on the hill and in the administration,” Rod Nofziger, government relations representative for OOIDA, said. “He didn’t always tow the line of the administration. Stone tended to listen to the advisement of his people more than he listened to the advisement from above.”

The Washington Post reported that Stone was in fact asked to step down by the Bush administration.

While neither TSA nor the White House is commenting on the future of the organization, some experts say Stone’s departure could be the latest sign that TSA its on its way out or, at the very least, on its way to a serious downsizing.

“With (Homeland Security Secretary Michael) Chertoff coming in, there have been indications that they were going to try to consolidate,” Nofziger said. “Or at least make sure everybody was working from the same page.”

Several pieces of legislation seem to point to the end of the TSA, not the least of which is President Bush’s 2006 budget proposal. The budget contains language calling for more privatized contract screeners at airports. Airport screening has been one of the signature programs of TSA.

Nofziger, however, said most Washington insiders did not see screening services being privatized.

“There is some talk that folks want to come in and replace the public airline screeners with private airport screeners,” he said. “But that most likely is not the case.”

The administration has come under fire before for privatizing security services. Most recently, the trucking industry was outraged at the news that TSA is using private companies to collect fingerprints and personal information and conduct security assessments for truckers who haul hazardous materials.

Chertoff is currently working on a review of the Department of Homeland Security that, when completed, could bring further changes for TSA.

A retired Coast Guard admiral, Stone was the third TSA chief since the organization was created as a reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. John Magaw, former head of the Secret Service, was the first to hold the position. He was replaced by James Loy, a former commandant of the Coast Guard.

When he leaves in June, Stone will have served the longest tenure in the post at 16 months.

– By Terry Scruton, senior writer