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Eye Opener: A 10-year term for TSA administrator?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! The Eye gets plenty of e-mail with good (and bad!) ideas about government operations. But here's one worthy of debate: The administrator of the Transportation Security Administration should serve a 10-year term that overlaps presidential administrations, a House Republican proposed on Wednesday.

As TSA awaits Senate confirmation of Erroll Southers to serve as the agency's next leader, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) thinks future TSA administrators should serve for a decade in an effort to divorce the agency from partisan politics.

Wolf's bill "takes the exact language that we have for the FBI," he said in an interview. FBI directors serve 10-year terms.

"If it’s worked well for the FBI, I think it’ll work well with TSA," Wolf said.

"Being a director of the FBI and being director of TSA is not political," he added. "You really don’t want a political person in the job. Do you want a doctor who’s political or a doctor who’s really good at taking out your kidney? You want a good doctor."

Wolf sits on the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, and said his new bill grew out of his interactions with the FBI. Most of all, Wolf believes his bill would help stabilize the agency's rocky existence.

"Since 9/11, TSA has had six administrators. Six! I think five permanent, one acting," he said. "I think the average amount of time is 1.5 years. You can’t learn it in that period of time."

The bill would first have to clear the House Homeland Security Committee, and a staffer there said colleagues had not heard of Wolf's proposal but planned to review it. The Department of Homeland Security would not comment on the bill.

What do you think? Should the TSA administrator serve a 10-year term? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

The government's Response to the Haiti Earthquake: Continuous updates here.

U.S. Olympic Committee May Look to Uncle Sam: A topic once virtually off-limits is now up for discussion. The group's chairman and other officials agree the organization's hazy economic future brings with it the responsibility of contemplating new sources of revenue, with possible government funding high on the list.

Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates cancel their trips to the Pacific Rim to lead the U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake. Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will meet Thursday to discuss the economic stimulus. Biden then meets with Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board Chairman Earl Devaney. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hosts a town hall meeting with department employees this afternoon and promises a decision on the Cape Cod Wind Farm by April. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and OMB Director Peter R. Orszag disagree on Yucca Mountain funding. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urges China to ensure a secure business environment following Google's threats. Lawmakers want Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's communications about the Federal Reserve's payouts to counterparties of insurer AIG. In an employee memo, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson lays out the agency's 2010 priorities.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Army charges single mom who refused deployment: Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a 21-year-old Army cook, has been charged with missing movement, being absent without leave, dereliction of duty and insubordinate conduct.

Former Army captain sentenced for stealing $400K: He stole $400,000 from the U.S. government while stationed at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.

Morphine found to help stave off PTSD in wounded troops: In a study of about 700 troops who were wounded in Iraq, those who received morphine soon after being injured were about half as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as those who did not get the drug.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES:
One-third of American adults are obese: Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics showed 34% of American adults age 20 and older were obese in 2007-08 while 68% were considered overweight or obese.

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION:
New FDA deputy to lead food-safety mandate: In July, Michael Taylor became an adviser to the agency's commissioner and last Wednesday was named deputy commissioner for foods, a new position that elevates food in an agency long criticized for placing greater emphasis on drugs and medical devices.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Justice Dept. fights bias in lending: Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division, is expected to announce Thursday in New York that the administration is creating a new unit that will focus exclusively on unfair lending practices.

OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET:
Republicans respond to House OMB investigation: Oversight committee members want answers from the White House counsel's office.

White House seeks tech advice from corporate chiefs: The Obama administration has invited dozens of the nation's top executives to the White House on Thursday seeking tips on how the federal bureaucracy can become leaner and meaner.

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION:
SEC proposes new rules to make stock trades fairer: The regulators proposed closer supervision of so-called naked access to public markets by unlicensed high-frequency traders.

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT:
Administration loosens purse strings for transit projects: Officials said they were reversing guidelines put in place by the Bush administration that called for evaluating new transit projects largely by how much they cost and how much travel time they would save.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Comments

Quite an eyeful for this morning!

The fact that the Bush Administration was not successful in keeping a TSA Administrator is not a valid justification for putting the administrator in the same category as the director of the FBI (and J. Edgar Hoover was certainly not political) and Chair of the Federal Reserve.

FEMA also is primarily not supposed to be political. Would anyone rational consider having made Michael Brown irreplaceable across the terms of two presidents?

Posted by: edallan | January 14, 2010 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Completely agree with Congressman Wolfe on the 10 year term limit. It is both detrimental to the safety of those who fly not to have the permanent nominee in place nearly a year after the president has been in office. There are always methods to remove a director for incompetence if need be but first they have to be in office and not held back by one the narrow minded mentality of a SC elected official. Mr. Wolfe should procede with his objective.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | January 14, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

disagree. no more kings.

as an agency employee the same argument can be made for every agency head.

no titles of nobility says the constitution. agency heads are essential lords over fiefdoms.

bad bad idea and unconstitutional at that.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | January 14, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Congressman Wolfe. We should also establish term limits for congresspeople.

Posted by: brit89 | January 14, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Before the Democrat Controled Congress always does. Giving long term positions of authority until we know if the agency is really necessary or if the agency has been goiven carte banc to make "cockamamie" decissions. That;'s amn old "HOLE" that needs to be stopped right now. SO..... WHAT IS TSA what American Freedoms does TSA have comntrol of and who do Americans really want for the position?>????

Posted by: jackolantyrn356 | January 14, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

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