Leadership void at TSA is a morale bust, say unions

A few days after a second nominee withdrew his name from consideration as head of the Transportation Security Administration, federal employee unions are claiming the continued lack of leadership at the agency is hurting morale.

"Facing a range of serious issues, it is vital that the Transportation Security Administration have at its helm permanent leadership," Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. "That is why it is disappointing to see the withdrawal by former Maj. Gen. Robert Harding of his nomination as administrator of the agency that plays a critical role in the safety of air travel."

Harding withdrew his nomination on Friday, following questions over contract work his private security firm performed for the government in Iraq. The Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that Harding Security Associates had overbilled the government by about $2 million.

He is the second TSA nominee to pull out in a cloud of controversy; Obama's first choice, Erroll Southers, also withdrew his name for consideration. Although some questioned Southers' conduct as an FBI agent, the issue of collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security officers also factored into confirmation proceedings.

The American Federation of Government Employees said finding an administrator was crucial, but it's more important to ensure that whomever the Senate confirms is the right person for the job.

"Because of the importance of the TSA administrator to our nation's security, the administration has got to make it a priority to find a nominee who is above reproach and can win a confirmation bid," AFGE President John Gage said in a statement.

NTEU praised the Obama administration for pushing another nominee through the process -- Alan Bersin, commissioner of the Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection. The White House used its constitutional authority to make recess appointments while the Senate is out of session. Bersin is currently an assistant secretary for international affairs at Homeland Security. Obama also appointed 14 others to posts during the past weekend.

"This agency, too, has gone for far too long without permanent leadership," Kelley said. "That has put a number of pressing CBP issues on hold, including staffing shortages, the failed 'One Face at the Border' initiative and budget issues, among others."

NTEU and AFGE recently have filed petitions with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to hold an election to determine which union should become the sole representative for TSOs. Two House panels have approved a bill that would allow TSOs to collectively bargain with management, but the bill has not yet come to a floor vote.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.