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Saturday, March 2, 2024

State of TSA: Committed to an Expanded and Evolved Mission

The challenge and responsibility today is not only to mitigate current threats, but to pre-empt evolving threats as our adversaries continue to adapt.

Forged on an anvil of cruel necessity

and blood shed innocently,

TSA was built urgently

in a time of war, to preserve peace.

These powerful words begin the oath we recite at our 9/11 ceremony each year to recommit ourselves to TSA’s vital mission. The words are inscribed on the TSA Cornerstone, which was presented to TSA in 2003 by then-Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta to commemorate TSA’s creation and transition to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. The Cornerstone is proudly displayed in Mission Hall in our new TSA headquarters where it serves as a constant reminder that our focus can never waver and we must always stay one step ahead of the threat.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, our nation emerged more united and determined than ever before, and that determination – to strengthen the security of our nation’s transportation system and ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce – led to the birth of the Transportation Security Administration. Thousands of Americans, from all walks of life, were called to serve their country in ways we never previously imagined. Many people from diverse backgrounds left their careers to come to TSA so that they could be a part of the new organization and many more have made their careers transforming TSA into the dynamic security organization it is today.

Though we began 20 years ago with the urgent and specific task of preventing another 9/11-style attack, our agency’s mission and operations have expanded and evolved across the entire transportation landscape, from aviation and surface to the physical and cyber domains. We remain focused on our founding mission and we are guided by our vision to be an agile security agency that engages our partners and the American people to outmatch a dynamic threat.

Our challenge and responsibility today is not only to mitigate current threats, but to pre-empt evolving threats as our adversaries continue to adapt. In the 2000s, hijackers used planes as weapons, and concealed bombs in shoes, underwear and soft drinks. In the 2010s, adversaries hid explosives in electronics directed attacks on the public side of airports. Now in the 2020s, the threat landscape is made up of extremely sophisticated dangers, from state and non-state actor cyberattacks to concerns about hostile and non-hostile Unmanned Aircraft Systems. At the same time, we are confronted with a current range of threats such as those from lone wolves and domestic violent extremists.

While the threat landscape has grown more complicated over the years, one thing has not changed: we face ambitious adversaries who are intensely focused on finding a point of attack and waiting for their opportunity. We have also faced another unprecedented and unexpected adversary: a global pandemic. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is that we must remain vigilant and adapt quickly, because not all threats look the same. Just like 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the future of transportation.

“We face ambitious adversaries who are intensely focused on finding a point of attack and waiting for their opportunity”

Looking ahead to TSA’s next 20 years we will continue to be a nimble and entrepreneurial agency focused on implementing intelligence-based security solutions for the American people. We will continue to develop and care for our workforce, strengthen and expand our partnerships around the world, and focus on improving technology to strengthen security.

Solutions like Computed Tomography X-ray machines, Credential Authentication Technology identity verification systems, and Advanced Imaging Technology advancements for on-person threat detection will continue to improve security outcomes and reduce physical contact during screening. Establishing an open and modular system architecture will advance our risk-based screening objectives, promote rapid response to evolving threats, and expedite the delivery of innovative capabilities to the frontlines. TSA is committed to leveraging all available industry, academic, intragovernmental and international partners to meet the mission. We are also placing a renewed focus on biometric technology, which improves security effectiveness and screening efficiency. Biometrics are a powerful tool in security environments and we will continue to ensure stringent passenger privacy safeguards are in place.

Our nation’s transportation systems are without a doubt safer than they were 20 years ago but our work is never done. As we remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks and send our sympathies to their families, let us all recommit ourselves to our roles in safeguarding the nation.

David P. Pekoske
David P. Pekoske
On January 20, 2021, President Biden designated David Pekoske as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. David Pekoske was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA's) seventh administrator in August 2017. His five-year term expires in August 2022. He leads a workforce of approximately 64,000 employees and is responsible for security operations at nearly 440 airports throughout the United States. TSA is also the lead federal agency for security of highways, railroads, mass transit systems and pipelines. Under his leadership, TSA improved security for both aviation and surface transportation through close partnerships and alliances, a culture of innovation, and development of a dedicated workforce. In addition to his role as Administrator, Pekoske served as the Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from April to November 2019. He was also a commissioner on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission that developed a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against attacks of significant consequence. Before joining TSA, Pekoske was an executive in the government services industry where he led teams that provided counterterrorism, security and intelligence support services to government agencies. He served as the 26th Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, culminating a Coast Guard career of 33 years that included extensive operational and command experience. As the Vice Commandant, Pekoske was second in command, also serving as the Coast Guard’s Chief Operating Officer and Component Acquisition Executive. He is a recognized expert in crisis management, strategic planning, innovation and aviation, surface transportation and maritime security. In addition, he has been twice awarded the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal.

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