On the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Obama announced his intention to nominate a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent with airport police security experience to be the new head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a moved met with pledges of cooperation from general aviation interests.
Erroll Southers currently serves as Los Angeles World Airports Police Department Assistant Chief for Homeland Security and Intelligence. He also is associate director at the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California.
Prior to joining the University of Southern California faculty, Southers was deputy director on homeland security for the state of California. He had been a police officer with the Santa Monica Police Department and a special agent with the FBI.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano applauded the announcement, citing Southers’ experience in public safety and homeland security. She said his expertise would be used “to oversee efforts to protect America’s highways, railroads, ports and mass transit systems, the security operations for 450 federalized airports throughout the United States and the Federal Air Marshall Service.” Her statement did not explain what was meant by “federalized airports” nor did it include any reference to other aviation airports or flight issues.
General aviation interests welcomed the impending appointment saying they intend to work closely with Southers while making sure he understands all segments of aviation.
Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), said that association looks forward to continued dialog with TSA “to ensure the security process is transparent and make sure TSA recognizes the nation’s pilot population as an asset in the ongoing efforts to enhance aviation security.”
Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), said that organization has regularly reached out to TSA and advocated for policies that enhance security without restricting mobility. He added NBAA will follow the nomination of Southers and work “to ensure that he has a full understanding of the unique operating needs of our members.”
Jim Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), said Southers’ background “will serve him well as the next TSA administrator,” adding there are many critical issues facing the general aviation industry and the airline service community.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.