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TSA administrator speaks at SHU, discusses re-imagination of the system

In his talk with students, Neffenger said that he wants to change the public’s negative view of the TSA. One of his initiatives is to end pat downs, which are currently conducted by TSA officers. Katherine Boland/Staff Photographer.

As his last address as acting administrator for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Peter Neffenger spoke to SHU students on Tuesday, Nov. 29 about being servant leaders.

Neffenger said he wants to change the American public’s view of the TSA as a slow, unnecessary agency following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he wants the public’s view to change from “a running gag on every late night comedy show” to “nice, quick and significant.”

Neffenger has helped institute training methods for ground level employees of the TSA, such as those who work the airport security lines. The TSA has also been implementing his ideas and solutions much faster in recent years. Neffenger said he first imagined the idea for automatic screening in March 2016 and it was implemented in May 2016 in Atlanta. He added it worked so well that now there is automatic screening in some parts of the Newark Liberty International Airport.

During the student discussion, Neffenger said he is trying  to put an end to illegal pat downs. He added that pat downs are in place because agents need to find and then “resolve a potential threat.” Neffenger said the TSA has the ability to access information from intelligence agencies, analyze means of the perceived threat and adjust its operations as necessary.

Neffenger said that he wants to reimagine the system to “meet threats and challenges of tomorrow.” He said he believes you have to be “connected to your mission” and that “no matter what your role is, know that you can drive change.”

Heather Kwityn, a junior diplomacy and economics major, said that “the TSA definitely does have bad connotations everywhere, I feel like what he’s trying to do is really try and change it, and it seems like he is, which is good.”

Some students were impressed with Neffenger’s approach to things.

Matthew Minor, a freshman diplomacy major, said the way that Neffenger “approached his government service as an entrepreneur and not like a bureaucrat” was refreshing. “It was just a different spin on it that you don’t hear very often.”

“His [Neffenger’s] approach to leadership was very interesting,” said Mark McGuire, a freshman diplomacy major. McGuire added that Neffenger “felt that questions are really the best way to derive an answer rather than working backwards.”

Mariah McCloskey can be reached at

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