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The Senate was voting Monday to confirm a new leader for the Transportation Security Administration in the wake of reports of startling security gaps at U.S. airports.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger was nominated by President Barack Obama in April, before revelations that auditors for the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general were repeatedly able to sneak mock explosives and weapons through security checkpoints.
Neffenger addressed the issue during his confirmation hearing this month, telling senators he would fully identify those gaps and close them if, as expected, he is confirmed by the Senate.
Neffenger would replace John Pistole, who left his post as TSA administrator in December after 4 ½ turbulent years leading the agency best known for its role screening passengers at U.S. airports. With a workforce of more than 60,000 employees, the TSA runs security operations at more than 450 airports.
Neffenger would take over an agency that has come under scrutiny amid reports of serious security breaches. It was revealed earlier this month that auditors were able to sneak prohibited items through TSA security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 tries. Another report disclosed that 73 airport workers with unspecified ties to terrorism were allowed to work in secure areas.
Neffenger said at his confirmation hearing that the inspector general reports were disturbing and showed a need to “refocus on the mission.”
Neffenger has served as the Coast Guard’s vice commandant since 2014 and has been with the Coast Guard since 1981. He once oversaw port security in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California and also served as deputy incident commander for the oil spill that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.