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Wed, Jan 20, 2010

Breaking News: Southers Withdraws As Nominee For Head Of TSA

Says Nomination Was Obstructed By Politics

Eroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to lead TSA, has withdrawn his name from consideration, saying the nomination has been "obstructed by political ideology."

Southers had been at the center of a controversy which had Republicans accusing him of misleading congress. In an affidavit, Southers had told the Senate Homeland Security committee he had asked a co-worker's husband, who worked for the San Diego police department, to run a background check on his ex-wife's boyfriend. But following his approval by the committee, he admitted he had twice personally conducted database searches and given information to that police department employee, according to the Washington Post.

In a statement released by the White House, Southers explained his reasoning for stepping aside. "I was extremely excited about the opportunity to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and fulfill Secretary [Janet] Napolitano's objective to develop it into the best organization of its kind in the world," the statement says. "However, it is apparent that this path has been obstructed by political ideology. I have decided, after deep reflection and in consultation with my family and friends to respectfully withdraw my name from consideration for confirmation as the assistant secretary for the TSA."

Southers had also been involved in a public skirmish with Republican Senator James DeMint (SC) over the unionization of TSA employees. "The safety and security of the American people are far too important to be controlled by union bosses," DeMint said last fall. "It’s time for Mr. Southers to give an unequivocal answer: Will he give union bosses control over the safety of Americans at our airports, yes or no?"  DeMint said allowing TSA to organize would be a "disaster" for homeland security. The Federal Times blog reports that Colleen Kelly, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, released a statement expressing disappointment over Southers' withdrawal, saying "TSA has a number of issues that continue to contribute to its high attrition rate and low workforce morale. Many of these issues, such as insufficient training, low pay, inconsistencies in workplace policies and injury rates, will only be successfully addressed with a permanent administrator. Unless and until such leadership is in position, TSA will continue to fall far short of its clear goal of becoming a world-class law enforcement agency."

Southers withdrawal comes within a day of Republicans winning a special Senate election in Massachusetts, which ended the Democrat's filibuster-proof majority in that body.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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