Coast Guard admiral tapped to lead TSA shares lawmakers' worries about airport security woes

WASHINGTON – The Coast Guard admiral picked by President Barack Obama to lead the Transportation Security Administration is as concerned about reports of rampant security gaps at airports as lawmakers, he said during a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee he will fully identify those gaps and close them if he is confirmed by the Senate.

Neffenger has been nominated to replace John Pistole, who left his post as TSA administrator in December.

TSA in recent weeks has come under scrutiny from lawmakers amid reports of serious security breaches.

Last week it was revealed that auditors from the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general were able to sneak mock explosives, weapons and other items through TSA security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 times tries. Another report released earlier this month disclosed that 73 airport workers with unspecified ties to terrorism were allowed to work in secure areas.

Neffenger said Wednesday that the inspector general reports were disturbing to him and they show a need to “refocus on the mission.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that there are people out there who have found ways to beat the system,” Neffenger told lawmakers. “But the question is how you are going to deal with that.”

When pressed by Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska to grade the agency’s performance, Neffenger said only “they aren’t where they need to be.”

“The day you think you’ve got the security system right is the day that you are going to be defeated in that security system,” Neffenger said.


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