SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger discussed the future of Newark International Airport and local travel security as a guest lecturer at Seton Hall on Tuesday night.

Neffenger spoke about his career as head of the TSA, as well as the success of the administration’s Instagram account @TSA, which has over 500,000 followers. He cited rehabilitating the public image of the TSA as a major project during his time with the organization.

“For a lot of people, the [Travel Security Administration] was the group who got in your way and made getting through the airport a hassle for your family,” said Neffenger. “For a long time people didn’t like us.”

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To lower the amount of time devoted to security checkpoints, Neffenger encouraged airports such as Newark Liberty International Airport to adopt fully automatic conveyer belts to scan carry-on items more quickly. He explained that this means smaller lines, less wait time for customers, and less strain on TSA employees.

“By standing still and refusing to innovate, you are already defeated by definition,” said Neffenger. “The bad guys don’t stand still.”

In addition to the 560,000 followers of the TSA Instagram account, many of the subscribers actively communicate with TSA officials through social media daily. The account has been profiled by magazines such as Wired, and it has been an invaluable tool for hearing issues in real time, according to Neffenger.

“It really helps to put a friendly face on the organization, and to help lighten otherwise serious issues,” said Neffenger.  

He also cited a member of his staff, Seton Hall alum Mohammad Mirghahari, as the primary reason for his visit to the school. After graduating in 2004, Mirghahari spent time with several government organizations before joining the TSA in May 2016.

“Any innovations that have been made at airports, and the safety on aircraft we all take for granted—we have [Neffenger] to thank,” said Mirghahari.

The event included comments from Dean Bartoli of Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy, as well as a reception and intimate discussion between Peter Neffenger and groups of Diplomacy students.