President Obama's previous nominee for the job, Errol Southers, withdrew his nomination in January, citing Republican politicization of the position. Southers' nomination was on hold by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint (R) who worried Southers would give collective bargaining rights to DHS employees, including airport security screeners.
The White House offers the following on the nominee, Major General (Retired) Robert A. Harding:
Major General (Retired) Robert A. Harding has spent over 35 years working in the Intelligence Community, as a leader in both the military and the private sectors. General Harding served as CEO of Harding Security Associates (HSA), a company he founded in 2003 and sold in July 2009. HSA’s workforce, of more than 400 professionals, provide subject matter expertise and strategic security solutions to U.S. government agencies in the Intelligence and Defense communities.
Before entering the private sector, General Harding completed 33 years in the US Army, where he served in progressively challenging command and staff assignments. He retired as the Army’s Deputy G2 (Intelligence) in 2001. From 1996-2000, he was the Director for Operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). There, he was the Department of Defense’s senior Human Intelligence (HUMINT) officer, managed over $1 billion in intelligence collection program requirements and supervised and provided security to the Department of Defense’s Defense Attaches in more than 200 embassies/offices around the world. From 1995-1996, General Harding served as the Director for Intelligence for the Army’s U.S. Southern Command where he planned and executed operations designed to increase regional cooperation and exchanges in Latin America. He also coordinated efforts between the DIA, DEA, FBI, CIA, and Customs on sensitive interagency counter-drug operations. From 1969-1995, General Harding served in a variety of other command and staff positions around the world. He commanded a HUMINT and Counterintelligence Battalion in Korea, and the Army’s premier Counterintelligence Group, the 902d, at Fort Meade. His staff assignments included intelligence positions in U.S. Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Army PERSCOM, and the Army Staff.
Major General Harding currently serves on the board of directors of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). He has served on the National Counterintelligence Review Group, on DNI’s Diversity Senior Advisory Panel, and as a member of the Obama Administrations Presidential Transition Team, where he focused on the Intelligence community.
Major General Harding’s civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bowie State University, a Master of Science in Business from Salve Regina University, and a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategy from the U.S. Naval War College. His military education includes the Armed Forces Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College. General Harding was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters.