President Obama has nominated retired Army general Robert Harding as administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — arguably the administration's most important unfilled post. Among other challenges, the new TSA chief will face immediate pressure to fix airport security gaps in the wake of the failed Christmas Day airliner bomb attack. Obama says Harding's intelligence and experience make him the perfect candidate for that task. But the need for tight security must be balanced with sensitivity toward innocent travelers — is a military man the right candidate for the job? (Watch the announcement of new TSA chief Robert Harding)
Absolutely. The sooner Harding is on the job, the better: Robert Harding's experience in intelligence gathering seems to be a "valuable" asset, say the editors of the Ventura County, Calif., Star. And given how much time has elapsed since Obama took office, it's important to get someone working to fix the TSA. The Senate should confirm Harding, quickly.
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Hold on. A military mind might not be what we need: Nominating a military man was "politically expedient" for Obama, says Russ Niles in AVweb, given the heat he has faced for holding terrorist suspects in prisons on U.S. soil. But the TSA chief post isn't only about intelligence gathering, it's about running a bureaucracy and dealing with the public. A person with a "military bias" might not be right for the job.
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This should be a slam dunk, but politics could get in the way: Under normal circumstances, a "well-known and highly respected military and intelligence officer" would sail to confirmation, says David Olive in Adfero Group's Security Debrief. But these are highly politicized times. If Obama isn't willing to address Republican concerns about the unionization of airport screeners — an issue that dogged his first nominee, Erroll Southers — "Harding’s nomination will likely be in limbo for quite some time."
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