Sometimes you can’t tell if they are listening. And, then, you get indisputable evidence that they are – and that what you’ve said has had an effect.
For years now, ACI-NA has been arguing for a number of initiatives to make travel easier across the U.S.-Canada border; and by extension all foreign travel into the United States. We have pushed for the elimination of the redundant re-screening of bags when a traveler – American or Canadian – leaves from a Canadian airport and transfers at a US hub. We have pushed for greater reliance on known traveler programs and use of information to speed the facilitation of travel from those who we know pose no threat. We have pushed for visa reform and all sorts of other common sense initiatives to facilitate travel.
We know that international travel is a proven economic generator. And, we want more of that. We also know we live in difficult times, and have to best focus our security resources on known threats or travelers about whom we know very little. And we need to find ways to do that.
A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed an agreement that includes a robust travel facilitation component. Most of the ideas were identical to proposals we had made over the years.
During a trip to Ottawa I made last week, this was pointed out to US officials and it was confirmed to us that our proposals, and the arguments for them, were used to form the core of this initiative. Someone, it seems, was listening. And travelers from both countries, the economies of both countries, and the security of our transportation system will all be the better for it.
Speaking of people who have been dedicated to security and facilitation, I want to note, with great sadness, the passing of TSA Chief of Staff Art Macias. Art was totally dedicated to TSA and its mission. More importantly, he was one of those people who always “said what he meant and meant what he said” and made things happen. Usually, if I was calling him, it was because we either needed something to happen or there was some problem we were hoping to solve/de-fuse before it became something that might be too hot to handle. Every time, without fail, he either made things happen or he found a solution to whatever problem there was. He never, in my experience with him, kicked a can down the road. And he was always, it seemed, in a good mood. And good moods can be tough to come by in jobs like his.
A couple of years ago, Art became a father. My kids are grown, so I always enjoyed talking to Art about his child, watching him light up, and sharing stories. It always took me back. I don’t think I ever knew anyone who was more excited about being a parent than Art. Though he never smoked, Art somehow developed lung cancer. I am told that at the end, he was able to hang on for his child’s second birthday, dying four days later. I also saw in an article about him that his last words to his wife were simply, “thank you.”
Art was a classy guy in a town and time with too few of them. A great man. Art Macias. RIP.