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"U.S. Shakes Up Airport Security at Newark"
Saturday, March 11, 2006
U.S. Shakes Up Airport Security at Newark By PATRICK McGEEHAN The New York
The federal government is shaking up the management of security operations
at Newark Liberty International Airport, which has been plagued by screening
lapses and poor morale.
The Transportation Security Administration removed Marcus Arroyo from his
position as federal security director at the airport and named Mark O.
Hatfield Jr., who was Mr. Arroyo's deputy, as his temporary replacement,
employees of the agency said yesterday. Russell White, who oversaw
aviation-security inspectors at the airport, also was relieved of his
duties, they said.
Mr. Hatfield, 45, whose father was a United States senator and the governor
of Oregon, said he would seek a permanent appointment to the top job and
would immediately begin looking for people to take the roles he and Mr.
White had filled.
Newark's airport has been a sore spot for the security administration in the
last few years. Screeners have repeatedly failed to spot weapons in luggage
and carry-on bags.
Last year, the administration decided to reduce the number of screeners at
the airport by about 15 percent, leaving the staff complaining about being
overworked. Mr. Hatfield said that developing a more flexible workforce and
improving morale had been among his main goals since he moved to Newark from
the agency's headquarters in Washington in September.
He has been an assistant administrator of the agency and its chief
spokesman. He has spent his entire career in politics and communications,
but once was a member of the police reserves in Portland, Ore.
Neither Mr. Hatfield nor a spokeswoman for the agency, Ann Davis, would
discuss Mr. Arroyo's departure. In a statement, the agency said only that
Mr. Arroyo was "considering other employment options, including one within
T.S.A." Ms. Davis said that Mr. Arroyo was not available for comment.
Some local officials and employees of the agency said the shake-up was a
long time in coming. More than a year ago, Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman
of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, complained to Rear Adm.
David M. Stone, who was chief of the security administration, about "serious
weaknesses" in security.
Mr. Coscia said that in recent months, under a new administrator, Edmund S.
Hawley, the agency had cooperated with the Port Authority in improving
security at the region's three big airports, but that he was unhappy about
the cutback in screeners.
"We're hopeful that T.S.A. will continue to be cooperative," he said. "We
are by no means done with what we need to get done. Clearly we have had
issues, and in all likelihood will continue to."
In his October 2004 letter to Admiral Stone, Mr. Coscia referred to an
internal report of the security administration that found that screeners at
Newark had failed 25 percent of the tests of their ability to spot fake
explosive devices or real weapons that passed through their checkpoints.
In December 2004, a suitcase with a fake bomb passed by screeners in
Terminal C and into the cargo hold of a plane going to Amsterdam. Less than
two months later, a woman carried a butcher knife through Terminal A and
onto a plane.
Mr. Coscia said he was not aware of a similar recent event that might have
precipitated Mr. Arroyo's departure.
Representative William J. Pascrell Jr., a Democrat from Paterson, said he
was not satisfied with the agency's response to criticism of its Newark
operation. He said it should return a "full complement" of screeners and
spend more money to close the gaps in the baggage-screening system.
"Replacing Marcus is not going to be the solution," Mr. Pascrell said.
"T.S.A. has a lot of problems."
Mr. Pascrell said that Mr. Arroyo had alienated many of the screeners and,
along with other officials of the agency, had withheld information from
Congress about operational shortcomings.
"He chose to parrot the party line," Mr. Pascrell said. "He took that path
and the path led out of the building."
Mr. Hatfield said he planned to hire more part-time screeners to reduce the
high use of overtime at the airport and to allow adjustments in staffing to
match the peaks and valleys of passenger traffic. He said that about 10
percent of the 1,100 screeners at Newark were part-timers but that he hoped
to double that number.
More importantly, he said, he intended to reverse the airport's poor
reputation for security. He said his mantra at staff meetings had become,
"Our reputation will be one of a center of excellence."
"That's the kind of reputation that I think this airport can very definitely
have," Mr. Hatfield said. "You've got to build it one brick at a time."
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