Obama’s TSA Nominee Withdraws From Consideration
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff
President Obama’s second pick to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name from consideration late Friday, citing concerns about his role as a consultant who had contracts in Iraq.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding’s decision came just days after he appeared to have placated senators who questioned him at a confirmation hearing about his private sector work.
Harding’s withdrawal is the latest in a series of setbacks to the administration’s attempt to fill what the White House has called its most important unfilled job. Obama’s first nominee, Erroll G. Southers, withdrew from consideration for the post in January.
In his announcement Friday night, Harding cited “distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this administration nor for the Department of Homeland Security.”
On March 24, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questioned Harding about his contracting work. Susan Collins of Maine, the panel’s ranking Republican, raised concerns about whether Harding’s former firm, Harding Security Associates, overbilled the Department of Defense. She also asked Harding whether any of the interrogators working for his company on behalf of the department were ever accused of using any improper interrogation techniques. Harding said his interrogators faced no such accusations.
After the hearing, Collins and Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., said Harding addressed the questions well.
“Based on today’s hearing and my review of the record, I believe Gen. Harding has adequately addressed my concerns regarding his former firm’s contract with the Defense Department,” Collins said. But she noted: “Before making a final determination, however, I want to review additional information in order to ensure that all relevant data regarding the nominee have been thoroughly examined.”
In addition to questions about his firm’s contracting work, Harding might also have encountered resistance from Republicans who blocked Southers’ nomination out of fears that as TSA head he might have allowed collective bargaining for TSA security personnel. Republican senators raised the subject with Harding in a March 23 confirmation hearing Held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Nicholas Shapiro, a spokesman for the White House, said Harding’s background of military and intelligence experience would have made him an ideal fit for the agency. “The president is disappointed in this outcome but remains confident in the solid team of professionals at TSA,” he said.
Source: CQ Today Online News
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