Retired Major General Harding has withdrawn his nomination as Director of the Transportation Security Agency, the second individual to do so. The TSA has been without a leadership since President Obama took office. General Harding nomination was announced March 8th. The Administration is expected to fast track finding a new candidate.
Harding is well known in the intelligence community, having served in a variety of U.S. Army intelligences posts. Upon his retirement from the Army, he was Executive Vice President of INNOLOG, before starting Harding Associates. In 2008 he sold the firm to Six3 Systems. President Obama's major successes, Health Care Reform and START Treaty Agreements with Russia, ends a possible triple play with Harding's withdrawal from the most important vacancy within the administration.
The New York Times story reports that it started to unravel for General Harding from a contract with the military in 2004.
His firm, Harding Security Associates, provided intelligence debriefers in Iraq, but after the government ended a $49.2 million contract early in 2004, an audit found that the firm received an overpayment and collected more money for termination costs than it should have.
The audit questioned $2.4 million of the $6 million actually paid to the firm, according to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. In the end, General Harding told the committee Thursday that his firm was forced to refund $1.8 million in a negotiated settlement in 2008.
General Harding is the second nominee for TSA that has failed to pass the nomination stage.