TSA official honored for airport tech

Transportation Security Administration

A key figure in the technological development of the Transportation Security Administration's airport security devices will receive a Service to America Medal, or SAMMIE, tonight.

Paul Polski, chief of staff to TSA's chief technology officer, will be awarded the Homeland Security Medal in recognition for his contribution to national security. The Transportation Security Administration is a bureau of the Homeland Security Department.

After the Sept. 11, 2002, terrorist attacks, Polski led a team that helped develop new technologies for airport security. These innovations included explosive detection equipment, X-ray machines for baggage, screener training guides and hardened luggage containers designed to absorb the impact of an explosion.

Polski, a 1958 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former Navy pilot in Vietnam, began his federal civilian career at the Federal Aviation Administration in 1990.

The SAMMIES were created in 2002 by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Atlantic Media Company. Overall, nine Service to America Medals were selected by a committee that includes Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Caroline Kennedy and Arthur Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of the New York Times.

TSA Deputy Administrator Stephen McHale, for his work in developing the agency's blueprint in 2002, will receive the Federal Employee of the Year medal. This is the highest award among the group, and is accompanied by a $10,000 monetary award.

McHale was one of the first TSA employees. He oversaw the hiring of 158 federal security directors and the transfer of 1,200 FAA employees into the TSA.

"I've always felt TSA has one of the best staffs in the federal government," said TSA Administrator Admiral James Loy. "Stephen McHale and Paul Polski literally moved mountains in our effort to stand up TSA and secure the skies in the aftermath of [the terrorist attacks]."

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