Stone resigns from top post at security agency

 - October 31, 2006, 10:57 AM

Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Stone, who earned high praise from general aviation groups as head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), is departing the agency next month after little more than a year in the top job. He is the third administrator to leave the TSA in its three-year existence.

The Washington Post reported that the Bush Administration asked Stone to resign, but the TSA merely said in a press release that Stone “has informed [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff] of his intention to step down from the TSA and has agreed to the department’s request to remain until June to assist with the transition of a successor.”

Stone maintained a high profile among general aviation organizations, speaking at last year’s NBAA Convention and AOPA Expo and this year at Aviation Industry Week. He also supported NBAA’s Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate (TSAAC) as well as other initiatives to restore access to airports and airspace for general aviation.

The TSA was created in the aftermath of 9/11, and it took over many of the security duties previously controlled by the FAA and other agencies. Later, the TSA was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and President Bush’s 2006 budget proposal will further strip it of many of its high-profile programs.

Some predict the TSA will ultimately be reduced to managing about 45,000 airport security screeners, and that its responsibility will be further diluted as private-screening companies replace TSA employees. The agency’s existence is already in question because the legislation that created the DHS contained a clause that allows the agency to be eliminated as a distinct entity after November 2004.

Stone succeeded former Coast Guard Commandant James Loy, who was promoted to deputy secretary of the DHS under Secretary Tom Ridge in December 2003. He too was seen as being friendly to general aviation. He provided the introduction for AOPA’s “Airport Watch” video.

Stone was named acting director of the TSA in December 2003 and confirmed as assistant secretary of Homeland Security for the TSA last July. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen called Stone an effective partner with the business aviation community. “His approach to security policy has always taken into account the importance of economic realities and individual liberties,” said Bolen.

“They almost need revolving doors to handle the comings and goings of TSA and Homeland Security officials,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer. “We need consistent and steady leadership by the individuals who shape our fragile flight environment.”

Ridge resigned from his post in December and Loy followed him shortly thereafter. Chertoff took over for Ridge in February.