According to USA Today, President Obama’s choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, has withdrawn his nomination, citing distractions following questions about military contracts with a security company he founded.
This is the second nominee to forfeit his nomination following only marginally relevant concerns about his suitability. Erroll Southers, the administration’s first nominee, withdrew after questions about his apparent misuse of police background checks when he was chief of police in Los Angeles.
According to the New York Times, questions about Harding center on contracts his company signed with the Defense Department. “His company, Harding Security Associates, provided intelligence debriefers in Iraq, but after the government ended a $49.2 million contract early in 2004, an audit found that the company had received an overpayment and collected more money for termination costs than it should have.”
Harding admitted that he hadn’t paid close enough attention to his company’s accounting, but also said much of the overpayment has been refunded.
The real story here, though, is that two qualified individuals have come and gone, leaving the TSA without a clear leader for well over a year. In Harding’s case, there was buzz around his stated interest in adopting the so-called Israeli model of passenger profiling, which many think is the most effective method of identifying potential threats. But as long as the TSA is headed by an fill-in rather than permanent secretary, big changes like that will simply not happen.
At this point, it could easily take months for someone to be nominated, approved, and installed at the agency. Citizens deserve better than that, and the agency, which hasn’t exactly had a great year, clearly needs it.
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