It is largely expected that retired Army Major General Robert A. Harding will be announced today at noon by Secretary Janet Napolitano as the nominee to serve as the Transportation Security Administration Administrator. General Harding’s name had been circulating for the last several weeks as the likely nominee.
General Harding is currently President and CEO of Harding Security Associates, LLC where he provides consulting and support services “to US government agencies on HUMINT, Counterintelligence, Security and MASINT.” Before starting the 400+ company, he served as the Executive Vice President for Operations at Innovative Logistics Techniques.
General Harding retired from the Army in 2001 after serving in a number of capacities, including deputy to the Army’s chief of intelligence and director of operations in the Defense Intelligence Agency. A full bio, though dated, can be found here.
He is the second nominee for the position, replacing Erroll Southers who withdraw his nomination after a prolonged nomination process which saw his confirmation stalled. Southers, as an aside, just announced last week that he would be leaving his current position as assistant police chief of Los Angeles World Airports, effective March 27th, to pursue other opportunities.
General Harding’s nomination comes at a time when TSA is under increased scrutiny for its day-to-day operations and preparedness for the future. This week, both the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees are holding hearings on the attempted Christmas Day attack by the underwear bomber. Both hearings are expected to focus on how TSA is working with airlines and international partners on pre-screening efforts, as well as “no-fly” lists.
As detailed in an earlier post this year, TSA has also come under scrutiny for airport security violations and the use of canines. Just this past week, Rep. Darell Issa, the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to the Department citing that the agency was wrongly targeting travelers to “baseless harassment, intimidation, and situations designed to instill feat and cause public humiliation.” In particular, Issa cited an incident at a Philadelphia International Airport where TSA officers forced a 4-year-old boy to remove his leg braces before going through a metal detector. As detailed by the Washington Post in an article last week, this was but a couple of examples cited by Issa.
All this comes in the midst of TSA’s effort to increase security by deploying technologies such as full-body scanners that have also come under scrutiny from privacy advocates and a potential legislative and Administration fight over collective bargaining rights for TSA employees.
General Harding, if confirmed, has quite a job in front of him.