NETU president issues statement on Southers withdrawal

Erroll Southers, President Obama’s choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration, announced Wednesday that he has withdrawn his name from consideration amid growing political controversy over his nomination. Following the announcement, National Treasury Employee’s Union President Colleen Kelley issued a statement in which she expressed disappointment with the events that led Southers to withdraw his name and added that he was “extremely well-qualified” for the position. Kelley’s full statement appears below:

I am disappointed with the withdrawal of Erroll Southers to be administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was clear from the beginning that Southers was extremely well-qualified for this critical homeland security post. Two Senate committees agreed and he had more than enough bipartisan support to overcome politically-motivated delays to his confirmation.

TSA has a number of issues that continue to contribute to its high attrition rate and low workforce morale. Many of these issues, such as insufficient training, low pay, inconsistencies in workplace policies and injury rates, will only be successfully addressed with a permanent administrator. Unless and until such leadership is in position, TSA will continue to fall far short of its clear goal of becoming a world-class law enforcement agency.

In a letter to President Obama, I have asked that he include TSA policies and practices in his larger review of policies, systems and actions surrounding the Christmas Day attempt to down a U.S. airliner. Even though TSA personnel were not involved in that episode, including the agency would draw immediate attention to the needs of the agency and lead to positive steps to strengthen TSA’s ability to achieve its mission. With the withdrawal today of Erroll Southers nomination, this is even more critical.

I spoke with Erroll Southers this morning and this conversation only confirmed for me NTEU’s belief that he would have made a difference and TSA would have been strengthened by his leadership. At the end of the day, it is disappointing that politics convinced a qualified nominee to withdraw his candidacy and has left this agency unable to reach its full potential in securing the safety of the traveling public.