The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has not had an adminstrator since President Obama took office, and apparently it will not have one for a while longer. Obama’s first nominee, Erroll Southers, had to withdraw after it was revealed that he engaged in severe misconduct as an FBI agent and did not testify accurately about that misconduct during his confirmation hearings.
Now a second nominee, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, has withdrawn. Harding’s problems stemmed from a contract the company he ran after retiring from the Army had with the government to provide interrogators in Iraq. After the government ended the contract, the company, Harding Security Associates, claimed more money from termination of the contract than the Defense Department’s inspector general said it was entitled to receive. The firm refunded approximately $2 million of that money in a 2008 settlement with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In addition, at least according to this account, the company was awarded a $100 million contract with the US Army under a program that gives preference to contractors headed by disabled veterans. Harding listed his disability as sleep apnea.
I take no position on the quesions raised regarding Harding or about his fitness for the TSA job. But it is disconcerting that the White House has been unable, after all this time, to nominate a TSA administator capable of surviving scrutiny. First, Obama waited eight months to nominate Southers. Then, he struck out with two nominees.
The TSA presumably can operate well enough for a time with an acting director. But RAND Corp. security analyst Brian Jenkins is probably correct in contending that the agency cannot take bold initiatives without a permanent director. And 14 months and counting is a long time for an agency as important as TSA not to be able to take bold initiatives.
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