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Obama names retired Army major general to lead TSA

Robert Harding

Following a 33-year career in the U.S. Army, primarily in the intelligence arena, and another six years building his own professional services company, known as Harding Security Associates (HSA), Major General Robert Harding (USA-Ret.), President Obama’s new nominee to head the TSA, sold his company to a recently established Northern Virginia government services company that was, in turn, financed by a Chicago-based private equity firm.

Major General Harding sold his interest in his firm in July 2009 to Six3 Systems, Inc., of Fairfax, VA, which had been formed three months earlier as a partnership between a leading national security industry executive, Robert Coleman (who had been president and chief operating officer of ManTech International) and GTCR Goldner Rauner, LLC, a private equity investment firm that manages more than $8 billion in equity capital.

“HSA is a leading provider of identity intelligence, forensics analysis and security services to the federal government,” said a press release issued by GTCR at the time of the acquisition. “With more than 350 highly trained employees, HSA is at the forefront of the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) biometric-enabled intelligence analysis and forensics mission. The Company also provides mission-critical intelligence and counter-intelligence training and security services to the DoD and key civilian agencies.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Harding would become assistant secretary at DHS for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). President Obama’s earlier nomination or Errol Southers to lead TSA was derailed by Senate opposition. Southers withdrew his nomination last January.

"Effective transportation security involves protecting our citizens from constantly evolving threats while facilitating legal travel and trade around the country and throughout the world," said Secretary Napolitano, in praising the President’s nomination of Major General Harding. "Bob's national security expertise and extensive experience in the Intelligence Community and U.S. Army will be a great asset to the Department in our efforts to ensure the safety of the nation's transportation systems."

Before entering the private sector, General Harding completed 33 years in the U.S. Army, where he served in progressively challenging command and staff assignments. He retired as the Army's Deputy G2 (Intelligence) in 2001.

From 1996-2000, he was the director for operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). There, he was the Department of Defense's senior human intelligence (HUMINT) officer, managed over $1 billion in intelligence collection program requirements and supervised and provided security to the Department of Defense's defense attaches in more than 200 embassies/offices around the world.

From 1995-1996, General Harding served as the director for intelligence for the Army's U.S. Southern Command, where he planned and executed operations designed to increase regional cooperation and exchanges in Latin America. He also coordinated efforts between the DIA, DEA, FBI, CIA, and Customs on sensitive interagency counter-drug operations.

From 1969-1995, General Harding served in a variety of other command and staff positions around the world. He commanded a HUMINT and Counterintelligence Battalion in Korea, and the Army's premier Counterintelligence Group, the 902nd, at Fort Meade. His staff assignments included intelligence positions in U.S. Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Army PERSCOM, and the Army Staff.

Major General Harding's civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bowie State University, a Master of Science in Business from Salve Regina University, and a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategy from the U.S. Naval War College. His military education includes the Armed Forces Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College. General Harding was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters.


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