John Pistole confirmed to head TSA

After nearly a year and half without a leader, the Senate on Friday unanimously confirmed the appointment of FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to head the Transportation Security Administration.

President Barack Obama nominated Pistole to lead the agency last month after his two previous picks, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding and Los Angeles International Airport Chief of Homeland Security Erroll Southers, both withdrew their names from consideration.

Billie Vincent, an aviation consultant and former director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security, said that Pistole should finally bring the agency some stable leadership.

"His confirmation will hopefully give the agency much needed legitimacy from a leadership standpoint," he said. "(Acting TSA Administrator Gale Rossides) has been holding the job under some rather difficult circumstances and there have been some serious gaffes over the last few months that have affected the reputation of the agency."

Aviation Security Consulting President and Founder Lori Beckman, who formerly served as director of security at Denver International Airport, said that the TSA will finally be able to move forward with programs that had been stalled at the agency due to the lack of an administrator.

"This is very good news for the TSA. The change of administration in 2009 created a bit of dormant period for the TSA," she said. "TSA staff have worked hard to keep programs moving forward, however a lot of activity has been on hold pending a new administrator. The appointment of John Pistole is welcome news and we look forward to Mr. Pistole working with the aviation industry to ensure a secure transportation system."

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, also praised Pistole’s confirmation in a statement.

"I applaud Senate action in finally filling this void that has lasted too long in the leadership ranks of TSA," she said. According to the statement, Kelley has already requested a meeting with the new TSA director.

During his confirmation hearings, Pistole was noncommittal on the potential unionization of TSA workers, an issue which had been a sticking point for several senators during the confirmation process for Southers.

Pistole, a graduate of Anderson University and the Indiana University School of Law, has served as deputy director of the FBI since 2004. He joined the Bureau in 1983 and has worked in several divisions within the FBI including the organized crime sector in Washington, D.C., as well as the white collar crime and civil rights squad in Indianapolis.

After Sept. 11, Pistole was appointed to the counterterrorism division as deputy assistant director for operations. In 1999, he helped lead the investigation into the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 off the coast of Rhode Island. More recently, Pistole was involved in the search for Faisal Shahzad, the man who allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square.