WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama nominated Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Robert A. Harding to head the Transportation Security Administration.
Harding, who retired in 2001 after a 33-year career in the Army, served as director of operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which monitors security arrangements for U.S. embassies and government offices abroad. In 2003, he started his own defense agency, which he sold in 2009.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced his nomination on Monday, with Gen. Harding standing beside her.
"The TSA administrator is among the most important unfilled posts in the Obama administration," Napolitano said.
"The president and I both believe that Gen. Harding has the experience and perspective to make a real difference in carrying out the mission of this agency," she said.
"If there were ever a nominee who warranted expedited and detailed consideration in the Senate, this is it," she said.
If confirmed, Harding will have his work cut out for him in view of heightened security at U.S. airports following the attempted airliner bomb attack on Christmas Day.
"I am confident that Bob's talent and expertise will make him a tremendous asset in our ongoing efforts to bolster security and screening measures at our airports," Obama said in a White House statement released on Monday.
"I can think of no one more qualified than Bob to take on this important job, and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead," the president said.
Harding is Obama's second nominee. In January, Erroll Southers withdrew his nomination after reports surfaced of his having misled Congress in a security-related issue in the late 1980s. Southers said his nomination was "obstructed by political ideology."
The Washington Post and CNN contributed to this report.