The Federal Coach: Norm Mineta – Arm-wrestling with Tom DeLay

This week I spoke with Norm Mineta, who represented San Jose, CA in Congress for 20 years, as well as served in Cabinets of both Republican and Democratic presidents. As Secretary of Transportation for President George W. Bush after September 11th, Mineta was tasked with guiding the creation of the Transportation Security Administration – with 65,000 employees made it the largest mobilization of a federal agency since World War II.

Q: What lessons learned can you share with federal leaders about how to handle a crisis?

A: After the September 11th tragedy, I had to put together a workforce of 65,000 in one year to create the Transportation Security Administration — the largest mobilization of a new federal agency since World War II.

The Transportation Security Act was not signed until November 17th, and part of that was an arm wrestle between Tom DeLay and me. Tom wanted to contract it out, and I said, “Tom, we are dealing with the security and the safety of our country, and I’m not going to contract this out. We should have uniform procedures — so that whether a person is on an airplane in Little Rock, San Francisco or wherever — Americans should go through the same regimen everywhere. I am not going to do it with contractors.”

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