The Research and Innovative Technology Administration was created by the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act, which sought to build “a more focused research organization” for the Department of Transportation, in addition to speeding up the process for delivering new technologies to the public. President George W. Bush signed the act into law on Nov. 30, 2004. It is named after Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who served from 2001 to 2006.
The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), which manages the Transportation Department’s research and development programs with the goal of creating technologies that can be used to improve transportation, has an acting administrator who has worked at the agency since 2010. On June 2, 2011, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and RITA Administrator Peter Appel appointed Gregory D. Winfree to become the next deputy administrator on July 15. Upon Appel’s resignation, Winfree became the Acting Administrator on October 8, 2011.
Born in New York circa 1964, Winfree earned a B.S. in Communications and Public Relations at St. John’s University in 1986 and a J.D. from Georgetown University in 1989, where he served as a lead articles editor for The Tax Lawyer, the A.B.A. journal of taxation.
After a stint at a Washington, D.C., law firm, about which he later wrote a chapter in the book My First Year as a Lawyer: Real-World Stories from America's Lawyers, Winfree served as a trial attorney in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Then, he embarked on an in-house career pathway, working as senior litigation counsel at Union Carbide and as director of litigation at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which is now part of Pfizer.
Winfree worked as chief litigation counsel for Freeport-McMoRan Corporation, which through its subsidiary, Phelps Dodge, is one of the world’s largest producers of copper, gold and other industrial and precious metals. During these years, Winfree resided in Phoenix, Arizona, where he also founded the Eight Iron Golf Apparel Company to market his two patents, registered in 1995, for a “sport shirt or other garment provided with a load-distributing shoulder yoke for relieving the strain resulting from carrying a golf bag.”
Winfree was also the co-founder of Charting Your Own Course (CYOC), a professional networking organization for minority in-house attorneys.
Winfree left the private sector for public service again in 2010, and was sworn in on March 15, 2010, as chief counsel at RITA.
Out There on My Own (by Gregory D. Winfree)
On April 29, 2009, the Senate confirmed transportation industry insider Peter H. Appel to be the next administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration in the Department of Transportation, and he served in that position until October 2011.
Born in 1964, Appel earned his bachelor’s degree in 1985 from Brandeis University in Economics and Computer Science, and his M.S. in Transportation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked more than twenty years in the transportation field, including two stints in government, first as Assistant Director for Pricing and Yield Management at Amtrak, and later as Special Assistant to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Most recently, he was a principal with global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, working at its Vienna, Virginia, office since 1997. A Democrat, Appel has contributed $10,471 to Democratic candidates and causes since 1995, including $5,296 to Barack Obama.