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Peter  Neffenger

Peter Neffenger

Former Head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) & Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

Peter Neffenger

Former Head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) & Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)


Best known for transforming the TSA from a widely criticized entity that had lost public and media confidence into a specialized and highly proficient counterterrorism agency, Admiral Peter Neffenger spearheaded one of the public sector’s most hailed turnarounds. Appointed by President Obama on the heels of a damning Inspector General report that found multiple security lapses at U.S. airport screening checkpoints, Admiral Neffenger created a national training academy for TSA agents, championed innovative partnerships with airlines to fund state-of-the-art technology at checkpoints, and improved public satisfaction by virtually eliminating the hours-long lines plaguing major hubs during peak travel times. His “TSA Roadmap” detailing the step-by-step process and leadership philosophy that inspired a workforce of 60,000 to dramatically reinvent itself has become required reading in both the public and private sectors.

Before joining the TSA, Admiral Neffenger had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Coast Guard, serving most recently as its 29th Vice Commandant. Previously, he was the Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations, directing strategy, capital resources and doctrine for forces stationed around the world. Admiral Neffenger is a renowned expert in crisis management and emergency response, garnering an exceptional reputation in this field as the Deputy National Incident Commander for the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In this role, he coordinated more than 50,000 people in the response to the largest and most complex maritime oil spill in U.S. history. He holds a M.P.A. from Harvard University, a M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a M.A. in Business Management from Central Michigan University. Actively engaged in international issues, he is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and has served as the US Head of Delegation to the Arctic Council, the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, addressing global issues of safety, security and operational challenges.

Sharing his unique experiences from 30+ years of commanding complex missions and directing strategic and operational responses to numerous crisis situations, Admiral Neffenger is an accomplished public speaker who has testified before the U.S. Congress more than 20 times and delivered empowering keynotes to a wide range of audiences. Combining his TSA background with decades in maritime law enforcement and transportation safety and security, he brings a high-level, yet accessible perspective on current homeland security and terrorism risks, especially within our nation’s air travel and ground transportation systems. Inspiring, informative and always entertaining, Admiral Neffenger provides organizations and their leaders with actionable insights for transforming organizations, inspiring workforces, leveraging crisis, radically changing perceptions, and most importantly, delivering meaningful results.

Speaker Videos

Taking the TSA From Crisis to Competence

Redefining the TSA


Speech Topics

Righting the Ship: Taking Challenged Organizations from Crisis to Competence

Good leaders have vision, but great leaders use vision as a catalyst. The transformation of the TSA is widely acknowledged to be the turnaround story of the Obama Administration. When Admiral Neffenger accepted the President’s request to take the helm of an agency embroiled in turmoil, he faced challenges that were numerous and grave. His leadership style of “reinvention without recrimination”, and giving “permission to be great” resonated throughout the TSA, from the frontline officers to the executive staff. Within less than 18 months, Neffenger drove a powerful internal culture shift that redefined every TSA employee as a security professional protecting the two million travelers who relied upon them every day. This initiative transformed both real-world effectiveness and public confidence in one of the most important agencies in the federal government. In this powerful presentation, Admiral Neffenger shares the universal tenets of successful turnaround, providing the fundamentals to envision your own “road map” to complete organizational transformation.

How Systems Fail the People They Serve: Redefining, Empowering & Engaging Your Workforce

Organizational change begins with people: their understanding of professional identity, their commitment to the mission and their confidence that they have the skills and leadership support to excel. Drawing upon his leadership experiences in the Coast Guard and TSA, Admiral Neffenger outlines his people-centered approach to empowering and engaging your workforce to reinvigorate your entire organization.

Admiral Neffenger outlines how to:

  • Recruit and retain a skilled and highly motivated workforce
  • Maximize human capital by effectively engaging disparate groups of employees
  • Enhance professional values and increase individual accountability
  • Avoid the immediate temptation to place blame in even the most challenging situations
  • Build real transformation on a foundation of “getting people out of the basement mode”
  • Create organization-wide buy-in and acceptance of a unified mission
  • Support transformation with a foundation of training and engagement programs
  • Motivate employees and increase productivity by mapping out a career path for every job

Leveraging Crisis: It’s Inevitable, So Be Prepared to Use It to your Advantage

Now, more than ever, the ability to effectively recognize, respond and manage through crisis has become a vital component of any good leader’s toolbox. In this timely presentation, Peter Neffenger outlines the proactive approach that has been key to his successful career leading both high-level crisis response/emergency management and large complex organizations. Sharing both highlights and missteps from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Amtrak Sunset Limited derailment to the critical crisis of morale, effectiveness and reputation that he took on at the TSA, Admiral Neffenger shows you how to find advantage in any situation and leverage it for the long term. Asserting that crisis is often a beneficial shock that reveals important information, he champions not only embracing and learning from it, but using crisis as a catalyst for long-term solutions and meaningful, effective change. This invaluable talk will help you prepare for the inevitable, embrace it when it happens, and rise out of any challenge as a smarter, stronger and more effective organization.