Harding, who left the Army in 2001, had come under scrutiny for monies paid out under a government contract to Harding Security Associates, a Virginia firm he sold last year. In testimony last week before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Harding said the firm had repaid the federal government $1.8 million for billing irregularities resulting from his attempt to distribute severance pay to about 40 employees who lost their jobs after the government terminated the contract.
Although the Senate panel seemed generally supportive, Harding abruptly withdrew his name at the end of last week. The Washington Post on March 27 reported that a nearly $100 million contract Harding Security won in 2008 to perform administrative support and technical consulting at Fort Belvoir was part of a government “set-aside” program for service-disabled veterans. The newspaper reported that the disability Harding claimed was sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder in which breathing is disrupted.
The president’s initial pick, Erroll Southers, withdrew his name from consideration in January when it became clear he would face a tough confirmation battle.
Federal labor unions urged Obama to quickly find a replacement nomination. “Because of the importance of the TSA administrator to our nation’s security, the administration has got to make it a priority to find a nominee who is above reproach and can win a confirmation bid,” said American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage.
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