TSA Takes Military Turn

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A lot of the debate about how to handle the threat of terrorism, actual terrorism and the results of terrorism in the U.S. has been about whether it's a military or justice issue.

After apparently leaning the other way initially, President Obama now seems to think a military mindset is what is needed or, perhaps, is what is wanted in a Transportation Security Administration leader.

Certainly, retired Maj. Gen. Robert Harding has the credentials for a job that should be one of prevention rather than retribution. What's not clear is how his mix of experience, most of it as a military man, will play out in the varying constituencies (of which GA is only one) in practical terms.

After the failed attempt to nominate Errol Southers, a civilian, to the job and the heat he's taken about the housing of terrorist suspects in prisons on home soil, Obama appears to be taking the politically expedient route in nominating Harding.

Although an evening spent surfing the Internet hardly qualifies as an in-depth review of Robert Harding's qualifications, the scarcity of information available on him doesn't give us a lot to go on.

But it would be unusual if he didn't bring a military bias to the job and that's not a good omen for GA. A military perspective has given us most of the things we hate about GA security and most of the things that just don't make any sense.

On the other hand, it could be that Harding is one of the two listings on the FAA Airmen Registry (all information is blocked on both of them) that match his name, and he may well have a good handle on the place GA has in the overall security scheme.

After he steps out of the shadows, there will be some questions waiting and we can't wait to hear the answers.

Comments (20)

I believe a change of nomination was in order and we can hope for the best. TSA is supposed to be a part of a system to "enhance" the security of aviation. I feel they forget this at times when looking at the trees instead of the forest. Due to their short existence and occasion staffing of personnel, they become heavy handed testing the borders of power. That said, lately after the GA incentive on planes over 12,500 lbs, they did back up after the probing found a group ready to fight a bit. The response was further tested with Austin TX, and I have to say looks like cooler heads offered restraint. (I wonder if Stack ever took anti-depressants, thought for another Blog...) It would be nice if there is some flight in his life. At least this one has paid his taxes, doesn't have a criminal history and doesn't come from the activist ranks. This is a good time for someone that knows the inner workings of the threat to take a place of leadership.

Posted by: Chuck West | March 8, 2010 9:12 AM    Report this comment

It appears Mr. Harding is just in a long line of consessions to Senate Republicans. There is need for an administrator with a history of working with a bureaucracy. His experience in intellegence, on the face of it, would satisfy a whole room full of grizzled conseratives. Sort of "007 succeeds M" to rid the skyways and byways of evildoers and restore peace and harmony. Or put another way, swatting at flys with SAMs. The Senator from Arizona must be giddy!

Posted by: Larry Fries | March 8, 2010 9:37 AM    Report this comment

Hopefully his military experience will prevent the knee-jerk reactions typical of most bureaucrats. OTH, military types can be expert bureaucrats, too :-(

Posted by: PAUL HEKMAN | March 8, 2010 1:57 PM    Report this comment

In a word - no.

Posted by: J Collins | March 8, 2010 6:05 PM    Report this comment

GA is at best a joke of a threat to US national security. Consider the potential of most amazing GA certified aircraft to say ....an F-15! If this new guy is rational and doesn't have to unduly cater to an some out of control bureaucracy, GA will once again fade from the limelight. If however he is a big government control type, GA may be a small portion of his formula to limit personal freedom and mobility.

Today I chose to be an optimist. Wasnt much of his service devoted to Clintons administration? An administration of violence and action at last resort? Maj. Gen. Robert Harding will be good for GA.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | March 8, 2010 7:47 PM    Report this comment

tsa should be abolished

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | March 10, 2010 7:53 AM    Report this comment

I think high level military intelligence experience could be a great asset for a TSA chief. It bodes well for personal competence as well as experience using logic in the decision process rather than ideologue emotion.

For those with no military experience: You need to have near heroic personal qualities to become a general officer. It is a very competitive environment and the cream really does float to the top. Also, military intelligence may sound like an oxymoron (particularly for people who think military means evil) but this kind of professional experience should be very valuable for the TSA mission.

I understand the TSA has surpassed the FAA as the worst agency of the federal government to work for. This suggests a real management change is in order.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | March 11, 2010 6:36 AM    Report this comment

I agree, TSA should be abolished, while we're at it, let's abolish Homeland Security. Military men can get itchy trigger fingers when there is nothing to do.


Posted by: Edward Jeffko | March 11, 2010 9:57 AM    Report this comment

As Forest Gump said "like a box of chocklates, you never know what you are going to get". It's been a long time belief that military inteligence is an oxymoron, and I have first hand experience. A lot of high ranking military would prefer that General Aviation just disappear and they would do what was needed to make it happen.

Posted by: Al Dyer | March 11, 2010 9:33 PM    Report this comment

If DHS and TSA want to help out GA they should provide security services *to* us, not against us. At one airport I use all the time, there are airport paid security people. They check out airplanes that land after the tower closes, and observe and sometimes follow vehicles that enter the airport. While one might think this intrusive, I'm ok with having my equipment guarded by people that might chase off or apprehend someone trying to steal my avionics or other parts.

Forget the searches, needless ID's (yes I had to get a useless TSA-mandated airport ID issued by yet another airport authority), and scanning machines. Focusing on me, the pilot, isn't going to make anyone more secure.

Instead help us secure our equipment. Give us people who know who we are, know who belongs with what aircraft, and are courteous and efficient. Treat us as your allies, not as suspects.

GA are not a limited case of commercial aviation. We are not the flying public using airlines. You can't apply the same ideas and figure they are going to work. If the new guy is smart about this he will realize it's not a one size fits all situation.

Posted by: FILL CEE | March 22, 2010 4:19 AM    Report this comment

I agree with Al Dyer--we oldtimers can remember when the very best example of the meaning of the word "oxymoron" was "military intelligence." But it was a good-humored joke, more accurate than people would like to admit. It is still true today.

The Global War On Terror is a fraud of epic proportions.

The Department of Homeland Security, so Orwellian titled, is simply one more bureau to feed off the taxpayers.

We have the government we deserve.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | March 23, 2010 9:03 AM    Report this comment

I must disagree with Mr. Sinnott and Mr. Dyer. Since I spent some years in military intelligence work I feel I have the inside track on what actually happens there.

It is a mistake to think that people who work in military intelligence are smart. While some are, this is not what it is all about. It is about amassing information about your enemy. It involves collecting information about the enemy and using sound reasoning to interpret the raw information (raw intelligence). It requires some unusual thought processes (like combining the confidence you have in one piece of information with the confidence you have in another piece) but for the most part requires clear thinking and sound judgment.
For someone who served in this honorable but necessarily secret endeavor and rose to the top while doing so my respect is nearly unlimited. This is clear evidence of a very competent and clear thinking person. These same qualities should play well in any playpen.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | March 23, 2010 9:55 AM    Report this comment

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Much of the debate about how the threat of terrorism, actual terrorism, and the results of terrorism in the U.S. grip on whether there was a military or equity issue.

After seemingly leaning in the other direction first, Obama seems to believe that a military posture is what is needed, or maybe that's what I wanted in a Transportation Security Administration Guide.

Sure kicked into retirement, Major General Robert Harding's credentials for a job that should be a prevention rather than punishment. What is not clear how his combination of experience, most of it is used as a military man, the game in the various electoral districts (of which GA is only one) in a practical sense.

After the failed attempt, Errol Southers, a civilian job and the heat he has taken on the nomination of housing terror suspects to prisons in their native land seems that Obama take the politically expedient route to the nomination of Harding.
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