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TSA Weekly, March 9-13, 2009


A Message from Gale

TSA Workforce Initiatives: We’ve Come a Long Way

Acting Administrator Gale Rossides (right) reaches out to 
shake hands at a Town Hall event.
Acting Administrator Gale Rossides (right) reaches out to shake hands at a headquarters event. Photo by Mike Simons

Ever since our beginning in 2002, our goal has been to make TSA the preferred place to work in all of federal government. Our ability to fully execute our vital mission depends upon our abilty to create an environment that encourages and supports an engaged and empowered workforce.

It takes many things – process, people, and technology – coming together to successfully achieve our mission. But the glue that seamlessly binds them together is the full engagement of the frontline workforce. To achieve this, TSA had to become a workplace where employees have a real say to improve the agency and share in its success.

We are well on our way.

Numbers bear us out. Did you know that the latest fiscal 2009 voluntary attrition of full-time officers is 7.5 percent? That’s more than 40 percent improvement since fiscal 2006. Did you also know that 44.4 percent of all officers have been with TSA for 5 years or more and the average tenure for an officer is approximately 4 years? Or that 99 percent of our officers received a pay-for-performance incentive in fiscal 2008 based on exemplary fiscal 2007 results? Are you aware that airports have enthusiastically rolled out ENGAGE! and COACH! training to 90 percent of the workforce in less than six months? How about the fact that the number of workplace injuries per year has fallen over 75 percent from fiscal 2004 to 2008, and continues to fall?

I realize that we still have long way to go, but we need to acknowledge and celebrate our significant improvements.

We have been steady in our purpose and direction to do everything that we can to positively impact workforce morale and mission performance. And we have been doing this together by listening to and collaborating with one another across all levels of the agency through various channels. And it is working!

Through the IdeaFactory you can suggest innovative ideas to improve TSA. With the support of the Integrated Conflict Management System at every airport, you can safely raise issues and resolve conflict. The National Advisory Council, Diversity Advisory Council, and FSD Advisory Council provide insight and advice to leadership on ways to maximize the phenomenal and diverse talents within TSA.

Other workforce systems, programs and initiatives that contributed to our ability to achieve these improvements include:

  • Career progression and professional development opportunities;
  • Work schedule optimization and incentives;
  • Nurse case-management programs to reduce lost time due to injury;
  • Whistleblower protections;
  • Full-time benefits for part-time employees;
  • Enhanced IED skill training;
  • Peer Review Program; and
  • Pilot AA in Homeland Security Degree Program.

For more details, please click here for a one-page summary chart.

Of course, workforce improvements are not limited to our TSOs. Our FAMS working groups, listening sessions and informal breakfast meetings have made an incredible difference in the quality of life and ability to deliver at peak performance for OLE/FAMS.

So, how do we take TSA to the next level?

Throughout the rest of March, I will provide you with a few snapshots of these programs in action – not in theory or on paper, but making a difference day-to-day in the work lives of all TSA employees across the country.

And I will issue a series of challenges on the IdeaFactory to give all of you the chance to give me ideas on how to continue to improve upon issues of concern to you. And, I will be empowering all of you to tell your story, your colleague’s story, the TSA story, and stories of the great ideas and great work done locally that can be best practices across the country.

As I have said to thousands of you during ENGAGE! and COACH! – Go Rock the World!

Gale Rossides' signature

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Evolution Banner

More News

Tactical trainer instructs participants in a CMSD Training 
class in Denver.
Martin Garland, a tactical trainer, instructs participants in a Crew Member Self-Defense Training class provided by TSA in Denver. Read more. Photo by Carrie Harmon

Watch The Top TSA Questions Web Cast
Watch The Top TSA Questions Web cast.

The second annual Sensitive Security Information poster contest’s winning entry is now available. (PDF 1.26MB)

Help Build TSA’s Online Media Gallery - We Want Your Photos

From the Office of Strategic Communications/Public Affairs

If you have pictures from your airport – or from other modes of transportation – that help tell TSA’s story, please upload the photos to the Public Affairs image library SharePoint site.

On the site, in the Pictures folder on the left-hand side of the screen, you can create a folder to save the photos. In a Word document – which should also be uploaded to the same folder – include a description of what’s in the photo or identifying TSA employees in the photo.

Selected photos will be used for a Web Media Gallery that we expect to make available to the public and media later this year. We acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our appreciation for your efforts will be no less should your photo not be selected. Please do not submit group photos.

Minimum artwork specifications are 2,496 x 1,664 pixels, using the camera’s “super fine,” “fine,” or “large” setting. The final size of the file will be 1.5 – 2 megabytes (MB) or larger and set for a minimum print size of 5 x 7 inches.

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Security Evolution Fosters Changes, Teamwork in Saint Louis

By Rich Pater, Evolution Jump Team, Outagamie County Airport, Appleton, Wis.

From left, Lead TSO Pete Williams, TSO Michelle Triplett 
Supervisory TSO Marion Eckhard.
From left, Lead TSO Pete Williams, TSO Michelle Triplett and Supervisory TSO Marion Eckhard. Photo by Lisa Rabbitt

At Saint Louis International Airport, things are changing. And it’s no surprise that the change comes on the heels of ENGAGE! and COACH! training.

Supervisory TSOs are now encouraging TSOs to be more engaged with passengers, which includes being more involved with Explosives Trace Detection alarms. TSOs are now more responsible for clearing those alarms, with oversight from supervisors or leads.

To help TSOs learn skills to go along with their new level of passenger engagement, Lead TSOs Pete Williams and Mike Rushing put together a 20-minute training session that reviews basic SOP procedures, how to conduct physical inspections of different items, what kinds of open-ended questions to ask, and what different types of alarm substances could mean.

In the past, when an alarm would sound, the officers would yell, “STOP!” and operations would cease until the alarm was cleared. After taking the ENGAGE! class, Supervisory TSO Marion Eckhard changed the process to create a greater sense of calm for officers and passengers and make it easier to spot anyone in the checkpoint who might be trying to use a distraction to advantage.

Now, when an alarm sounds, officers create calm by focusing on the passenger in their control and the remaining available officers secure the rear of the checkpoint and scan the crowd at the front. They know they have the all- clear when the audible alarm has stopped.

“This application of ENGAGE! and COACH! principles has been successful in allowing us as officers to maintain a greater sense of focus and gives a greater sense of ownership in the process,” said Vikki Bryson, TSO and Evolution Support Team member, Saint Louis. “This also allows us to work as a team, with our leads and supervisors, to more closely monitor passenger movement.”

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Evolution: In the FSD's Own Words

TSA officers have screened billions of passengers since roll-out. Billions of passenger interactions represent a remarkable amount of experience and “Evolution” puts that experience to work by empowering frontline employees to use what they’ve learned. TSA has accomplished just that across the nation with over 40,000 employees in only a few months. It may be true that terrorists need only one shot to succeed, but it’s also true that TSA has found a way to harness billions of interactions to improve security where it really counts – at the checkpoint, in a face-to-face engagement between an officer and a passenger. “Evolution” by itself is no guarantee of success, but it is a great example of smart security that leverages our most valuable asset – our frontline officers. – FSD Peter J. Boynton, Bradley (Conn.) International and Tweed - New Haven airports

Engage the Evolution team with your questions and suggestions at

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TSA Denver Provides Crew Member Self-Defense Training

By Carrie Harmon, Office of Strategic Communications/Public Affairs

A course participant practices defensive techniques at the 

CMSD Training class in Denver.
A course participant practices defensive techniques at the Crew Member Self-Defense Training class in Denver. Photo by Carrie Harmon

Nearly two dozen airline flight crew members – including flight attendants and pilots – recently attended Crew Member Self-Defense Training (CMSDT) in Denver, where they learned advanced techniques to protect themselves and passengers from an onboard attacker or potential threat.

Starting in May, the course will include scenario-based training and provide students opportunities in a real- life situation to practice defensive techniques. Instructional modules on behavior recognition and survival mindset also have been added.

“We are currently offering Crew Member Self-Defense Training at 20 locations around the country, and plan to add eight more by the end of this year,” said Michael Rigney, assistant special agent in charge, Federal Air Marshal Service, and CMSDT program manager. Classes are conducted under a cooperative agreement with the American Association of Community Colleges.

TSA began offering the optional training in 2004 and a year later the Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service (OLE/FAMS) assumed responsibility for the program. OLE/FAMS continues to further refine the training curriculum in response to participant feedback, instructor observations and program requirements.

While airlines offer basic security training for flight personnel, CMSDT offers advanced, hands-on instruction for deterring a threat. The training is free to eligible commercial crew members and cargo flight personnel, and participants can take the course as often as they wish.

Tony Hedges, special agent in charge of the FAMS Denver field office, said, “These dedicated pilots and flight attendants took time out of their busy schedules to learn skills that will help ensure the safety of their passengers and fellow crew members.”

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TSA Louisiana Hosts Safety Conference

By Jon Allen, Office of Strategic Communications/Public Affairs

Safety was the focus of TSA employees who gathered from six Louisiana airports.

The TSA Louisiana Statewide Safety Conference was recently hosted by Alexandria International Airport and attended by staff from Baton Rouge Metropolitan, Monroe Regional, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, Shreveport Regional and Dallas/Forth Worth International airports.

Participants discussed safety issues and solutions at their airports and shared ideas in their common mission of promoting workplace health and safety.

“The conference was very effective in communicating safety requirements and facilitating dialogue between different airports,” said Robert Nunnery, assistant FSD for screening at Shreveport. “Learning how to be a good safety leader and discussing issues with other airports who may be facing the same ones are great ways to advance this important program.”

Nunnery, co-chair of the National Advisory Council Safety Committee, discussed the “I’ve Got Your Back!” safety initiative. Paul Lewis, branch chief, Plans, Policy and Oversight in the Office of Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment spoke about goals and objectives of the office and answered questions.

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Share Your Newsletter on iShare

From the Office of Strategic Communications/Public Affairs

As part of an ongoing effort to encourage the exchange of ideas and showcase talent on iShare, local TSA newsletters will be featured on the Intranet homepage. For that, we need your help.

One newsletter submission will be rotated on the iShare homepage flashbox every week and a link will be featured in Weekly. A newsletter will be chosen based on criteria such as how it localizes a national TSA policy or the creative use of photos and graphics. To the extent possible, submissions should comply with DHS branding guidelines, including font and color.

Submissions are not limited, but with more than 100 local TSA newsletters being published, editors should recognize that more newsletters are likely to be received than can be posted. Do not become discouraged.

In addition to posting a PDF version of the newsletter on iShare, a brief description will be provided, outlining why the issue was chosen.

When you have a particularly good issue, please send it to as a PDF. Include the editor’s name, e-mail address, phone number and home airport in the body of the e-mail. If a submitted issue becomes dated without being posted, please submit another issue.

E-mail questions or comments to We look forward to hearing from you.

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From the Blog

Kudos & Clips

We dropped our eldest daughter at her entry gate for her flight back to Phoenix, and watched as she wound her way through the “ropes” to get to the first security check. Once we saw her successfully check in, she turned to wave goodbye. My wife and I waved back, and immediately afterwards, every TSA employee within eyesight grinned, waved, and called “good-bye” back to us – and that was at least six TSA employees! Talk about releasing the usual “pressure” of checking through the security hurdles of entering an airport boarding area. We all got tickled, waved again and left our daughter in their care. Mark A. Cross, Tullahoma, Tenn., to Michael Hendrix, Evolution Support Team, headquarters, Arlington, Va. Feb. 27, 2009.

Your officer, TSO Denise Grant, was extremely kind and caring toward me. So was the whole TSA staff at Concourse B at Charleston (S.C.) International Airport. God bless them. Really kind people. Ben Stein, Beverly Hills, Calif., to Jennifer A. Smith, customer service and quality improvement manager, Charleston International. Feb. 26, 2009.
Editor’s Note: Ben Stein is a writer and actor.

Got a Python in Your Bra? You're Right at Home at our Airports
By Tony Doris, Palm Beach Post, March 08, 2009
If there's a python in your bra, don't board a commercial airliner. Read more.

Chestnut Hill's McFadden Does it all for Team and his Son
By Mike Kern, Philadelphia Daily News, Feb. 26, 2009
This is a story about love. Doing the right thing. Responsibility. And family values.

It's about a young man growing into adulthood. In a hurry. Not necessarily because he felt obligated, but because he wanted to. Read more.
Editor’s Note: TSO Julian McFadden, featured in the story, works at Philadelphia International Airport.

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TSA Experience

‘TSA Softball Champs? This Isn’t About Softball!’

By Tim Lewis, FSD, Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood, Key West international airports

The San Juan and JFK teams congratulate one another after 

the championship game.
The Fort Lauderdale and JFK softball teams give one another high fives. Photo by Maya Gayot

Over 80 security officers from five airports recently completed the 5th Annual (Unofficial) TSA Softball Championship in Fort Lauderdale. Teams from San Juan, Puerto Rico; John F. Kennedy, New York; and Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, all in Florida, slugged it out over two days to determine the best of TSA (for that weekend, at least). Everyone won – but on Feb. 28 the “Islanders” from San Juan were crowned champions with their win over the Bronx Bombers from JFK.

It is important to note that they all pay for their own travel, hotels, food, uniforms, the fields and umpires, and use their own annual leave – “their dime and their time.” So, you can play softball at home for nothing on your RDOs; why the expense just for a chance at an “unofficial” title and to nurse aching muscles for the following week?

TSOs from very different areas wanted to build on a culture of mutual respect and admiration for each other. Not for their softball skills, but for their TSA roots. Sports, on the field, inspire a different level of teamwork, camaraderie, and fair play that follow us to the workplace. More cohesive and supportive workers mean better mission accomplishment.

Although congratulations are well deserved for the “Islanders” – this wasn’t about what team placed first. This was about a small group of TSA security officers having a vision five years ago of taking morale, team building and camaraderie to another level. I think they are succeeding more than they imagined.

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More TSA Experiences

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