Second TSA nominee withdraws after only 18 days
WASHINGTON—It only took two and a half weeks for the second man nominated to lead the Transportation Security Administration to withdraw his name from consideration. On March 8, Secretary Napolitano announced the nomination of retired Army Major Gen. Robert Harding. Now, just a short time later, a New York Times article cites Harding’s withdrawal resulting from Congressional questions about his work as a defense contractor.
“I felt that I could bring some leadership, vision and intelligence expertise” to the transportation security post, General Harding said in a statement issued on March 26. “However, I feel that the distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this administration.”
Initial reports found that Harding’s company had collected more federal money than it was entitled to for providing interrogators in Iraq, according to the Times. An audit of Harding’s company, Harding Security Associates, questioned $2.4 million of the $6 million paid to the firm, said Senator Susan Collins. In the end, General Harding told the committee that his company was forced to refund $1.8 million in a negotiated settlement in 2008, according to the Times. In addition, there were also questions raised over a $100 million contract.
However, the Times also cited his withdrawal stemming from frustration with the scrutiny of the Senate confirmation process, which also played a part in the withdrawal of the previous nominee, Erroll Southers. One of the primary hurdles for Southers in receiving confirmation was his alleged support to grant TSA employees collective bargaining rights. During his confirmation process, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, declared he would block Southers’ confirmation over collective bargaining rights, which DeMint claimed would weaken the effectiveness of the agency.
Now that a second nominee has withdrawn this year, several policymakers voiced concern about the consequences of TSA lacking leadership. The administrator post has remained vacant for over a year, since Jan. 20, 2009.
“The lack of a confirmed leader disables the ability of any administration to effect the type of change that it wants to,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former policy adviser to the Homeland Security Department in the Bush administration, told the Times. “Change comes slow to the federal government. It’s a bureaucracy, and it’s impossible to achieve change without concerted leadership.”