March 30th, 2010
11:33 AM ET
13 years ago

Law enforcement group pushes air marshal chief for TSA

Washington (CNN) - A key association of law enforcement officers urged the White House Tuesday to tap the country's federal air marshal director to head the Transportation Security Administration.

The TSA, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, does not have a permanent director. Two Obama administration nominees have withdrawn from consideration for the post. The second nominee withdrew his name from consideration last week after acknowledging that his security company overbilled the government for work performed in Iraq in 2004.

"TSA cannot continue to operate on auto-pilot," said Jon Adler, head of the 25,000-member Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. "The leadership void needs to be filled now by an experienced nominee."

Adler recommended Robert Bray, who has been head of the Federal Air Marshal Service since June 2008. Bray had a 20-year career with the Secret Service in which he was assigned to offices in Denver, Colorado; Palm Springs, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma and Washington D.C.

Bray "has the requisite aviation security skill set that the position of TSA administrator demands," Adler said.

Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, the White House's second nominee for the post, withdrew from consideration Friday shortly after acknowledging that he made "mistakes" when a company he formed overbilled the government in 2004.

At issue was a contract that Harding's company, Harding Security Associates, signed with the Defense Department in early 2004 to provide 40 interrogators and debriefers rapidly in Iraq.

Within four months of his firm starting work on the contract, Harding said, the government decided to end the contract. Harding said he told his employees "that I would take care of them, and that I would negotiate and work with the government to provide severance payments." The total severance payments came to about $800,000, he claimed.

"When I went to claim it from the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]," government auditors "recognized that I did not have a policy on that, that I had not negotiated with the government for severance, I had not provided the government my plan for severance ... and therefore it was not allowed, that $800,000."

Roughly $2.4 million of the $6 million HSA was paid by the government was eventually called into question. An independent investigation concluded that no fraud was involved. HSA ultimately reached a settlement with the government, paying back $1.8 million of the disputed $2.4 million.

Harding said that government auditors subsequently admitted "there were mistakes on both sides."

The White House said it was "disappointed" at Harding's withdrawal.

Sen. James DeMint, R-South Carolina, put a hold on President Barack Obama's first TSA nominee, Erroll Southers, after Southers declined to say whether he supported unionization of screeners.

Southers eventually withdrew his name from consideration after another controversy erupted involving a decades-old personnel matter.

Updated: 5:05 p.m.

Filed under: TSA
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Willy Brown

    Get Barry to assign a Air CZAR.

    March 30, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. cspurgeon

    I am not sure but I was under the impression that the air marshal program was a mess???

    March 30, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. Recess Appointments

    Republicans urged the President not to appoint any nominees, but their obstruction has forced the President's hand. This should be debated prior to the elections. REPUBLICANS ARE HARMING NATIONAL SECURITY WITH THEIR OBSTRUCTION!!!!

    DEATH OF THE GOP 11/10

    March 30, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  4. MarkE

    Robert Bray is an experienced law enforcement administrator with decades of applicable experience, an impeccable record of achievement and the education to match. He would never be selected to run TSA by this White House. Now, if he were a good fund raising Democrat or he was from Chicago, then maybe he'd have a chance...

    March 30, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Helen

    Ask the GOP for a candidate and hope they can. If they can disrupt the will of the American People to have everyone of Obama Cabinet fill then the GOP should stop sitting down voting no or disrupting the process.

    March 30, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. Fed Up

    The big problem with this issue is that the Republican hatred of union loving appointees has so far trumped their concern for the safety of the American citizenry.

    March 30, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. stormerF

    Better to stay on auto- pilot,than have a corrupt appointee,Or one of Obama's Friendly Muslim tax dodgers.

    March 30, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. get real

    The first nominee should have been given an "up or down" vote. Isn't that what you republicans used to scream when the democrats held up a nominee? Oh, how the tables turn when you're not in power anymore. The republicans sure are whiney babies.

    March 30, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. Preston kathy

    Pkm come on now he will make more then congress how many planes even have air marshals

    March 30, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. "Tea Party Texan"

    It better not be an OBAMA nominee.

    March 30, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. Sebastian

    This is an appointment that is to be made by the President, not an air marshall. You would think that people like this would know what standard decorum is in a situation like this.

    The Air Marshall program has been criticized in recent years, although I don't know how justified that criticism is. What I do know is that based on this, an Air Marshall does not sound like the best choice and certainly not when initiated by someone other than President Obama.

    March 30, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. A Kickin' Donkey

    Mr. Bray's qualifications (credentials & experience) seem to be pale in comparison to that of Mr. Southers who runs security at a major international airport (LAX) in Los Angeles.

    I sure hope the public holds South Carolina's DeMint responsible for getting in the way of one of the most qualified nominees the President could have selected for this IMPORTANT security post.

    March 30, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |