Wow, will the Transportation Security Administration ever get a permanent Senate-confirmed leader? After months of being left hanging out to dry and being hammered for not committing to opposing unions at the TSA, Obama’s first pick to lead the TSA — Erroll Southers — withdrew his nomination. The agency responsible for aviation security was adrift in the immediate aftermath of the Christmas Day attempted terror incident while the White House scrambled to find another nominee. That nominee finally came in the form of retired Army Major General Robert Harding.
Some eyebrows raised at the time of Harding’s selection, considering Harding’s private sector work as a defense contractor. Not only did this seem to go against the grain of the White House’s general hostility toward federal contractors, the selection of a national security contractor to head up a homeland security agency seemed to invite never-ending questions about potential conflicts of interest (fair or not).
Sure enough, Harding has withdrawn his nomination to lead the TSA as he has realized his nomination was getting quagmired in questions about conflicts of interest related to his defense contracting work.
The Associated Press’s Eileen Sullivan has the story:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is back to square one — again — in finding a transportation security chief to shore up the nation’s defenses against terrorist threats from the air, road and rail.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding took himself out of the running Friday night as head of the Transportation Security Administration, another setback for Obama after his first choice withdrew in January because he faced a tough confirmation struggle in Congress. The Obama administration has called the job the most important unfilled position on Obama’s team.
Harding’s past as a defense contractor raised complications for his nomination.