WASHINGTON — The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, said Thursday he will retire from government at the end of this year and expects to be named to a position in academia early next year.
Pistole, who was the agency’s administrator for four and a half years, instituted a “risk-based” security philosophy that has enabled the agency to move passengers deemed to be low risk through airport screening more quickly. The Trusted Traveler Program is used by 5 million passengers per week at 120 U.S. airports.
Pistole was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010. Prior to that, he had spent 26 years with the FBI.
TSA has a workforce of over 60,000 employees and security operations at more than 450 airports throughout the United States.
Pistole ran afoul of flight attendants, airlines and Congress last year when he announced his intention to allow passengers to carry small knives, sports equipment like bats and golf clubs, and other previously prohibited items onto planes. Pistole said the odds of the items being used to threaten the safety of a plane were extremely low, but critics said they worried unruly passengers might use the items as weapons. Pistole was eventually forced to back down.
“John Pistole has been integral in leading TSA’s transformation to a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting our transportation systems,” said Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “Because of his efforts over the past four and a half years, our country’s transportation systems are more safe and secure.”