President Barack Obama’s pick to oversee U.S. transportation security appears to have dodged a major pothole on the road to being confirmed by the Senate after assuaging concerns about a government contract his old firm won to provide interrogators in Iraq.
Retired Major General Robert Harding was under the microscope at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday for his nomination to head the Transportation Security Administration, a job that has been filled on a temporary basis since Obama took office.
Harding spent more than three decades in the U.S. military, including a stint as deputy to the Army’s chief of intelligence and director for operations in the Defense Intelligence Agency. After retiring, he set up his own security consulting firm which he sold last year.
The top Republican on the panel, Maine Senator Susan Collins, grilled Harding about a $6 million contract his former company, Harding Security Associates, won from the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2004 to provide interrogators and debriefers in Iraq — the company had to reimburse the government nearly one-third of that amount.
Harding told the committee that he hired 40 people, but three months into the contract the government decided that it no longer needed the outside interrogators and debriefers and terminated the contract. One concern raised during an audit of the contract was that he tried to get about $800,000 reimbursed for severance he paid to the employees.