By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
Robert Harding, the latest nominee as head of the Transportation Security Administration, has withdrawn following revelations that his security consulting firm had been overpaid by the government. Harding, a former top military intelligence officer, owned Harding Security Associates, which an audit suggested had been overpaid $2.4 million for a contract to supply intelligence debriefers during the Iraq war. The company is also under scrutiny for a $100 million contract at Fort Belvoir for work on biometrics. That contract was awarded as part of a program to give work to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. According to The Washington Post, Harding listed his disability as sleep apnea, a common disorder in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. "I felt that I could bring some leadership, vision and intelligence expertise" to the TSA, Harding said in a statement. "However, I feel that the distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this administration."
In the case of the Iraq contract, Harding told the Senate homeland security committee that his company reached a negotiated settlement with the government and repaid $1.8 million. "I'm convinced that I made a mistake," The New York Times reported Harding as testifying Thursday. "I lost sight of the fact that I also had to be cognizant of what was going on in my back room, in the accounting shop." The administration's first pick for the TSA post, former FBI agent Errol Southers, also withdrew from the nomination after questions arose about his using FBI assets to look into the background of his ex-wife's boyfriend. Harding's departure means the TSA will likely be without an administrator for at least a few more months but the White House issued a statement saying President Obama is "confident in the solid team of professionals at TSA."
AVweb's Russ Niles blogs about the search for a new TSA head on the AVweb Insider