Newark Airport's security director departing for Miami

July 16, 2007

Mark Hatfield Jr., who worked to revive morale and helped plug some security gaps at trouble-plagued Newark Liberty International Airport as federal security director over the past 16 months, is transferring to assume the same post in Miami.

Hatfield, 47, informed his top subordinates with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at Newark Liberty of his impending departure during a late afternoon meeting Friday. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Barbara Powell, the airport's current deputy federal security director.

Starting with TSA as the agency's media spokesman, Hatfield made the transition to security operations in 2005 when he assumed the post of deputy federal security director at Newark Liberty under Marcus Arroyo. In March 2006, Hatfield got the top job on an interim basis after Arroyo was ousted as federal security director following years of embarrassing security lapses and sagging staff morale. The interim title was removed in September.

"Mark Hatfield is a proven problem-solver with his two-year turnaround at Newark Liberty International Airport," said Morris McGowan, assistant administrator for TSA's Office of Security Operations, in a statement about Hatfield's transfer to Miami. "We are fortunate to have a strong caliber of eligible candidates to fill the Newark position."

The pending transfer still awaits an official final approval from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA, but that is expected to occur quickly, according to a TSA official.

Hatfield, who declined to comment on his transfer, is expected to assume the top job at Miami International Airport in about a month.

"Mark helped morale," said one TSA official at Newark Liberty, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the agency does not want employees speaking without permission. The official also said security operations at Newark Liberty have been "running a little bit better" under Hatfield's direction.

Upon taking over for Arroyo, Hatfield corrected one of his predecessor's failings by completing a security plan for Newark Liberty that should have been done long before, two senior security officials said at the time. The required report details how to safeguard planes, evacuate terminals, protect runways and prevent breaches at passenger checkpoints.

Hatfield also replaced the top six leadership positions during his tenure and worked to improve fairness in staff promotions and scheduling.

But troubles at Newark Liberty, one of three airports used by the terrorists who hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, persist.

In October, for example, screeners missed 20 of 22 security tests conducted at checkpoints throughout the hub by undercover agents, missing an array of explosives and guns. The poor results came just two months after toughened TSA security standards in the wake of an alleged plot foiled by British authorities to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners using liquid explosives.

In January, Hatfield had to oust a top subordinate amid accusations the individual gave test questions to a favored promotion candidate for a managerial post.

Additionally, Newark Liberty screeners remain unhappy because of continued staffing shortages at the airport based on national caps on TSA's work force. Screeners have said they feel rushed to perform their duties because of pressure from superiors and airline personnel to move passengers quickly.

In addition to selecting Powell as Hatfield's interim replacement, the TSA also named Russ McCaffrey as the airport's interim deputy federal security director.

Hatfield, the son of former Oregon senator and governor Mark Hatfield Sr., will relocate to Florida from Manhattan, where he resides with his wife, Kathleen.

Before beginning his TSA career, Hatfield had been a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and had held jobs in the administrations of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.