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Overview

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is a cabinet-level agency of the federal government responsible for helping maintain and develop the nation’s transportation systems and infrastructure. From roads to airlines to railways, DOT carries out planning that supports the movement of Americans by cars, truck, trains, ships and planes. When it comes to ground transportation, state and local governments are largely the key government players in building new roads or running public transit systems. But DOT plays a key role by providing funding to lower levels of government to improve the means of transport that Americans use. With air travel, the Transportation Department has a more hands-on role, as it regulates commercial airlines and airports in a dual effort to both promote the industry and ensure the safety of passengers. Of all its agencies, DOT has taken the most flack for its running of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—an operation that continues to be the subject of criticism for not staying on top of potential problems.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Najeeb Halaby, administrator of the independent Federal Aviation Agency, who proposed the idea of a cabinet-level Department of Transportation to President Lyndon Johnson’s aides in 1965. Frustrated by the Defense Department’s infringement upon certain transportation issues, such as supersonic transport, Halaby wanted to elevate transportation policy to a higher level. Halaby argued that the new department should assume the functions then under the authority of the under secretary of commerce for transportation. Moreover, he recommended that the Federal Aviation Agency become part of that department.
 
Halaby got help from Charles Schultze, director of the Bureau of the Budget, and Joseph A. Califano, Jr., special assistant to the president, who together pushed for the new department. They urged the under secretary of commerce for transportation to explore the prospects of having a transportation department initiative prepared as part of Johnson’s 1966 legislative program. This launched the Boyd Task Force, which recommended the creation of a Department of Transportation that would include the Federal Aviation Agency, the Bureau of Public Roads, the Coast Guard, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the Great Lakes Pilotage Association, the Car Service Division of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the subsidy function of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the Panama Canal.
 
President Johnson agreed to the plan and sent it to Congress on March 6, 1966. It took considerable negotiation with lawmakers to get them to agree to approve the legislation, but finally, on October 15, 1966, the President was given the authority to create the Department of Transportation (DOT). The addition of DOT represented the most sweeping reorganization of the federal government since the National Security Act of 1947. Almost overnight DOT became the fourth largest cabinet-level department, bringing together more than thirty transportation agencies and functions scattered throughout the government and about 95,000 employees, most of whom had been with the Federal Aviation Agency, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Public Roads.
 
Not long after DOT was born, the White House drafted a plan to transfer urban mass transit functions to the department from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Responsibility for these programs resided in the newly established Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now the Federal Transit Administration).
 
During his first administration, President Richard Nixon presided over several significant transportation-related matters, including the bailout of the Penn Central Railroad, the launching of Amtrak, airline hijackings, the sick-out of the fledgling Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, the decision to end federal support for production of the supersonic transport and to handle applications for Concorde landing slots, and the Coast Guard’s handling of defector Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian seaman.
 
In 1970, the Highway Safety Act authorized the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the law added somewhat to the department’s safety mission, the Federal Highway Administration originally had handled most of the functions that the new agency assumed. Besides establishing another operating administration and adding to the secretary’s span of control and coordination workload, the Highway Safety Act separated highway administration into two parts: design, construction, and maintenance on the one hand; and highway and automobile safety on the other.
 
In April 1975, Congress approved legislation that moved the National Transportation Safety Board out of DOT and made it an independent federal agency. Another important change came two years later when President Jimmy Carter’s transportation secretary, Brock Adams, established the Research and Special Programs Directorate (which subsequently became the Research and Special Programs Administration [RSPA]). When Adams created RSPA, he combined the Transportation Systems Center, the hazardous materials transportation and pipeline safety programs, and diverse program activities from the Office of the Secretary that did not readily fit into any of the existing operating administrations. The establishment of the RSPA set a precedent in that it was a creation of the Secretary, not Congress.
 
During Adams’s administration, the Inspectors General Act of 1978 established for the department, and other executive agencies as well, an inspector general, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The mission of the inspector general was to help the secretary cope with waste, fraud and abuse. Before leaving office, Adams recommended that the Federal Highway Administration and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration be reorganized into a Surface Transportation Administration, an idea that latter transportation secretaries (James Burnley and Federico Peña) toyed with as well.
 
During the late 1970s, several transportation deregulation plans were approved: the Railroad Regulatory Act (better known as the Staggers Rail Act), the Truck Regulatory Reform Act, the International Airlines Reform Act, and the Household Goods Regulatory Reform Act (which affected interstate trucking). Also during this time, DOT leadership established the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in the Office of the Secretary. It was responsible for carrying out policies and procedures consistent with federal statutes to provide policy guidance for minority, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses taking part in the department's procurement and federal financial assistance activities.
 
President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of transportation, Andrew Lewis, oversaw the transfer of the Maritime Administration from the Commerce Department to DOT in order to formulate a national transportation policy. Also, the department assumed greater visibility during the air traffic controllers’ strike in August 1981, during which Lewis spoke for the administration. After personally negotiating with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in the days leading up to the strike, Lewis forcefully explained the government’s response to the strike-firings and no amnesty for strikers. Lewis was also responsible for the enactment of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which sought to improve transportation safety among commercial vehicle operators.
 
Lewis’s successor, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, brought to her new position experience in consumer and trade matters. At DOT, she focused on many safety-related issues, including drunk driving and the so-called “Dole brake light,” which led to the addition of a third brake light on automobiles. Responding to a Supreme Court ruling, Dole authorized deadlines for the installation of air bags and other passive restraints in motor vehicles, which resulted in major increases in seat belt usage by the public, and incentives to manufacturers to equip new cars with air bags. Dole also moved to end Federal Railroad Administration ownership of Conrail in 1987 and encouraged the establishment of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, transferring administration of Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration to that authority.
 
Under President George H. W. Bush’s DOT secretary, Samuel Skinner, the department placed greater emphasis on crafting a National Transportation Policy. Skinner also dealt with numerous high-profile disasters that affected transportation, earning him the moniker “the Master of Disaster.” Crises Skinner had to manage included the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, the machinists’ strike at Eastern Airlines in March 1989 and the company’s subsequent bankruptcy, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (also March 1989), the Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California (October 1989), and Hurricane Hugo (September 1990).
 
On December 18, 1991, President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which provided a six-year reauthorization to restructure DOT’s highway, highway safety and transit programs. One effect of this legislation was that the Urban Mass Transportation Administration became the Federal Transit Administration. The ISTEA legislation also required the department to establish two new organizational entities: the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which was to provide timely transportation-related information through the compilation, analysis, and publishing of comprehensive transportation statistics, and the Office of Intermodalism in the Office of the Assistant Deputy Secretary, which was charged with coordinating and initiating federal policy on intermodal transportation.
           
As part of President Bill Clinton’s National Performance Review, the Transportation Department under the leadership of Federico Peña set out to restructure DOT. While some changes were implemented, those requiring Congressional approval, such as folding the department’s 10 administrations into three, never materialized.
 
Following his reelection in 1996, Clinton selected Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater to succeed Peña at DOT. Slater was instrumental in getting ISTEA reauthorized, with the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the largest public works legislation in history. During his first year and a half at DOT, airline and railroad mergers again became fashionable. Department negotiators helped to avert a strike against Amtrak, while Congress mandated an overhaul for the railroad. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued regulations allowing consumers to turn off their airbag switches where necessary; and the United States finalized a long-sought, liberalized aviation agreement with Japan.
 
In the wake of the contentious Presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush reached out to the Democratic Party for his nominee to head DOT, selecting former Congressman Norman Mineta (D-CA), a Japanese-American who became the first Asian-Pacific American to serve as Secretary of Transportation and the first DOT secretary to have served in a previous cabinet position (Secretary of Commerce under Clinton). Mineta led the department during the post-9/11 period, when lawmakers heavily criticized the poor security that allowed hijackers to board commercial airliners. On November 19, 2001, President Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which, among other things, called for the establishment of a completely new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within DOT to increase security at airports and other transportation venues.
 
TSA, which became operational on February 16, 2002, didn’t stay long in the Transportation Department. As part of the President’s broad-based reorganization of the federal government, TSA was moved in 2003 into the newly-created Department of Homeland Security, along with the Coast Guard.
 

 

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What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is the federal government’s lead agency for planning and support of the nation’s land, air and sea-based travel systems. DOT develops, implements and enforces federal regulations governing use of America’s roads and highways, airports and air corridors, railways and seaports. The department also makes available billions of dollars in federal grants each year to state and local authorities to help improve transportation programs throughout the country.
 
Major DOT offices and programs:
Roads and Motor Vehicles
Federal Highway Administration: FHWA helps maintain the nation’s system of interstate highways. Responsibility for building and maintaining highways is the charge of state and local governments, but the FHWA provides enormous support in the form of funding. Using monies collected from fuel and motor vehicle excise taxes, FHWA disperses federal highway funds to cities, counties, state agencies and tribal governments through two programs: Federal-aid Highway Program (to state and local governments); and Federal Lands Highways Program (for roads in national parks, national forests, Indian lands and other land under federal stewardship). The agency also establishes rules for building safe roads, overpasses and bridges that governments and contractors must follow.
 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: NHTSA is the federal agency charged with regulating safety standards in the auto industry and transportation. To achieve its stated mission of reducing fatalities, injuries and costs associated with auto accidents, the NHTSA acts through research, public education and consumer protection initiatives; investigates defects and enforces manufacturer compliance with safety standards; and helps regulate other standards such as fuel economy. It deals with topics from safety defects, crash testing and accident statistics—to child seats, teen driving and pedestrians. The agency was founded as the result of intense public-interest advocacy, with the explicit purpose of protecting consumers through regulation of the auto industry and federal safety standards. However, over the years—and as a result of devolution, budget-slashing and a progressive copping to industry interests—it is now run to help the industries it was intended to regulate.
 
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: FMCSAis charged with creating regulations and safety initiatives to improve the safety of commercial vehicles. In creating the FMCSA, transportation officials hoped to reduce the number and severity of accidents involving large trucks, such as 18-wheelers. Programs run by the agency include the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety and Security program and the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 Initiative.
 
Air Traffic
Federal Aviation Administration: FAA oversees the US commercial aviation industry for the Department of Transportation. As the primary oversight agency for airlines, FAA maintains voluminous records of regulations and standards that companies like United Airlines, Delta, Southwest and others must follow in order to transport passengers. FAA also sets rules for airport operations and pilots. The nations’ air traffic control system, which directs commercial, private and military aircraft all across the US, is also the responsibility of the FAA, which employs all traffic controllers. Since its beginning, FAA has had two main duties: promote the airline industry and ensure the safety of American passengers. The FAA has had mixed success carrying out its safety mission, including recent accounts of allowing one airline to fly planes not fully inspected by federal officials. Its tarnished reputation only got worst following the September 11, 2001, hijackings of four commercial airliners.
 
Railroads
Federal Railroad Administration: FRA is responsible for developing and enforcing railroad safety regulations. FRA also administers railroad assistance programs, conducts research and development to support improved railroad safety and helps rehabilitate the Northeast Corridor rail passenger service.
 
Surface Transportation Board: STB is responsible for regulating the railroad industry. The board develops and promotes rail line regulatory reforms; seeks ways to increase fiscal responsibility in the railroad industry; resolves railroad rate and service disputes; enforces compliance of rail operation laws; enforces compliance with environmental-related laws; approves or rejects proposed railroad mergers; determines if a company can enter or leave the railroad business; approves or rejects abandonment of a rail line; and oversees rail transportation emergencies, whether caused by damaged rail tracks, congestion, or the inability of a carrier to meet its transportation obligations.
 
Water Transportation
Maritime Administration: MARAD is responsible for all waterborne transportation in the United States. MARAD’s programs include facilitating use of waterborne transportation and overseeing its integration with other segments of the transportation industry. The agency is responsible for the US merchant marine and works to make sure American ships, ports, environment, safety and national security are protected. The Maritime Administration maintains a fleet of cargo ships to provide surge sealift during war and national emergencies (the National Defense Reserve Fleet), and it helps to dispose of non-combatant government ship as they become obsolete.
 
Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation: SLSDC works to keep the St. Lawrence Seaway System operating as an efficient, environmentally responsible, reliable, safe, technologically advanced marine transportation system, while moving cargo such as coal, grain, iron, ore, and steel between North America and international markets. The seaway system encompasses the St. Lawrence River and the five Great Lakes, extending around 2,300 miles from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence at the Atlantic Ocean to the western end of Lake Superior at the twin ports of Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI. SLSDC works in conjunction with its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Company, which together set and enforce regulations related to navigation and traffic control in the seaway system. In addition, both entities perform inspections, for safety and environmental protection issues, of all ocean vessels heading into the seaway.
 
General
Federal Transit Administration: FTA funds mass transit systems across the country by distributing billions of dollars in grants to local and state governments and other organizations. FTA’s goal is see new transit systems come online or to improve existing mass transit operations. The agency is also responsible for ensuring that recipients of grants follow federal mandates along with statutory and administrative requirements. Due to the sheer cost of building new public transportation systems, FTA funding is critical to any project hoping to get off the ground. In one instance, the agency flip-flopped over supporting a longtime subway project affecting Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia, which angered both proponents and critics of the project.
 
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration: PHMSA is responsible for keeping the public safe and the environment protected when hazardous materials are moved throughout the country by land, sea or air. This includes almost one million daily shipments of hazardous materials, including 64% of the nation’s petroleum products. Among its many duties, PHMSA develops and enforces regulations for the 2.3 million-mile pipelines transportation system; sponsors research projects to stay on top of the latest advances in technology that may be potentially applicable to safety procedure upgrades; awards grants to provide financial and technical assistance for states, tribes and local communities to receive preparation on how to handle hazmat emergencies; and distributes special permits. .
 
Office of the Inspector General: OIG for the Department of Transportation is responsible for ensuring DOT programs and operations comply with the law and carry out their functions efficiently. The OIG performs dozens of audits and investigations each year that review financial records as well as other documentation to determine if any criminal or unethical behavior or poorly managed operations need to be addressed. In cases where DOT employees are suspected of breaking the law, the OIG refers the matter to the US Attorney General for prosecution.
 

Research and Innovative Technology Administration:

RITA manages the Department of Transportation’s research and development programs, with the ultimate goal of creating technologies that can be used to improve the country’s transportation networks. The agency also compiles statistics, publishes reports and provides education in transportation-related fields. All told, the agency helps coordinates research efforts worth approximately $1 billion annually.

 

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Where Does the Money Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Transportation spent $17.4 billion this decade on private contractors, according to USAspending.gov. A total of 16,503 companies and other organizations were paid for, among other things, operating government-owned facilities ($2.5 billion), constructing highways, roads, bridges and railways ($2.5 billion), and providing engineering and technical services ($1.2 billion).
           
The biggest spenders within DOT are the Federal Highway Administration ($4.2 billion), Maritime Administration ($3.06 billion) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ($2.9 billion).
 
The top 10 contractors are:
Crowley Maritime Corporation
$888,514,329
The Boeing Company
$698,862,403
Lockheed Martin
$681,571,338
Veritas Capital Fund II, LP
$541,020,631
Saltchuk Resources, Inc.
 $499,214,563
Computer Sciences Corporation
$458,209,802
General Dynamics Corporation
$425,232,352
Phoenix Marine Co. Inc.
$419,986,000
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
$367,999,057
Chas Kurz & Co Inc.
$357,539,369
 
Examples of FAA contracts included ASRC Management Services which was given a $215 million contract to work on the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, OK for up to five years. The company will provide engineering support services to the FAA.
 
Computer Sciences Corporation, which has spent almost three decades working for FAA, was awarded a $68 million contract to design, develop and test components of the FAA’s future Controller Pilot Data Communications Link system.
 
Another longtime contractor, BAE Systems, was given two contracts totaling $107 million by the FAA. BAE Systems, which has done work for the agency for 10 years, received a $67 million contract to provide systems engineering and support services and a $40 million contract to provide management and financial support services.
 
Tetra Tech Inc. received its largest FAA contract to date when it was awarded a $60 million deal to support FAA’s Global Positioning System. Tetra Tech will provide technical engineering and business support services to help manage the agency’s satellite navigation system. The deal was followed by another FAA contract worth $52 million to provide IT support to the Office of Security and Hazardous Materials.
 
Harris Corporation received a $5.7 million contract extension to the Weather and Radar Processor program, bringing the company’s total to $131 million it has received from the FAA since 1996. WARP is a next-generation weather and radar system that allows FAA officials to consolidate weather data from several sources into a single, integrated display to support air traffic operations nationwide.
 
Computer manufacturer Lexmark sold the FAA $60 million in laser printers and other computer equipment for the agency’s 800 offices.
 
For FY 2007, the Federal Highway Administration gave out funding for innovative bridge research and deployment and interstate maintenance ($92 million), the Public Lands Highways Program ($84.3 million), the Transportation Community and System Preservation Program ($55 million), programs involving ferry boats ($40.2 million), Highways for LIFE Pilot Program ($14.6 million), and the Delta Region Transportation Development Program ($9.2 million).
 
One of the largest outlays of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants went to support rebuilding efforts at the World Trade Center complex. In 2005, FTA announced it had awarded $699 million to the New York Port Authority to help with several projects, including a new $478 million World Trade Center Security Center.
 
 
Norfolk, VA’s The Tide light rail project received $128 million toward building 11 stations, three new park-and-ride structures and a maintenance facility and the purchasing of nine rail vehicles. The Tide, which will cost a total of $232 million to complete and is expected to begin service in 2010, will serve between 6,000 and 12,000 riders per day.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transit received a grant of $2.2 million to provide operating and planning assistance to areas with a population below 50,000. The grant will be used to expand service in 11 rural areas and to study of the feasibility of bringing public transportation to four additional counties.
 

The

Center for Transportation and the Environment

was awarded a $1.2 million grant for the continued development and demonstration of an improved hybrid fuel cell bus.

 

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Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAA Failing to Ensure Safe Parts for Airlines
In February 2008 the inspector general (IG) for the Department of Transportation issued an alarming report about the state of airline safety with regards to the manufacturing of parts and equipment. Airlines rely on both domestic and overseas suppliers for components in their aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has done a poor job of making sure contractors and subcontractors provide quality components, said the IG.
           
This meant that the FAA was failing to provide effective oversight of suppliers, allowing “substandard parts to enter the aviation supply chain,” reported the IG. The audit found that outsourcing to other countries is a significant safety oversight concern, as is production of airline parts by American contractors.
 
The Project on Government Oversight noted three serious findings in the IG’s report:
 
“Manufacturers were not verifying that their suppliers were providing effective oversight of the sub-tier suppliers they used to produce parts. This is a critical safety issue, as demonstrated by four engine failures that occurred in FY 2003 due to faulty speed sensors on fuel pumps obtained from a supplier. Three of the engine failures occurred on the ground and one occurred in flight. The part failures were traced to unapproved design changes made by a sub-tier supplier. In all, 152 parts were manufactured in the suspect population.” (Page 12)
 
“Effective oversight of suppliers is essential to ensure that substandard parts do not enter the aviation supply chain. For example, in February 2003, 1 supplier released approximately 5,000 parts that were not manufactured properly for use on landing gear for large commercial passenger aircraft. At least one of these landing gear parts failed while in service. While FAA became aware of this large-scale breakdown at this supplier in 2003, it has not performed a supplier audit at this facility in the last 4 years.” (Page 11)
 
“One supplier allowed new, untrained employees to manufacture several components. We witnessed one new employee improperly inspecting a product. A later review of his training record showed that he had not received any formal training in the proper inspection method. This was the same supplier mentioned previously that used a piece of paper as a measuring device for an oil and fuel pressure transmitter.” (Page 13)
 
IG Accuses FAA of Not Properly Training New Air Traffic Controllers
The Transportation Department’s inspector general reported in June 2008 that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is hiring so many new air traffic controllers that it cannot adequately train them. The FAA had exceeded the maximum number of trainees at the 314 air control facilities around the country.
 
The IG also found that the FAA used a database filled with incorrect information to manage the training program and has failed to fix problems that were recommended four years earlier.
           
Furthermore, FAA leadership was not clearly defined as to who had authority over the training of new controllers. Four different vice presidents at FAA headquarters were responsible in one way or another for hiring and training duties. “Facility managers, training managers and even headquarters officials were unable to tell us who or what office was ultimately responsible for facility training,” the IG report said.
 
FAA officials responded by saying they would accept most of the IG’s recommendations. But the FAA rejected the idea of making public an accurate count each year of how many fully certified controllers and how many trainees work in each of its facilities.
FAA Lagging in Air Traffic Training, Report Says (by Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press)
 
FAA Destroyed 9/11 Tape
Following the hijackings and crashings of US airliners on September 11, 2001, the federal government appointed a special panel to conduct a far-reaching investigation into how the attacks were allowed to occur. In the course of its investigation, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States complained that the FAA had been “less than forthcoming” when it came to turning over documents, forcing the commission to issue a subpoena to gather more information.
           
What the commission found out while interviewing numerous FAA officials was that on the day of the attacks, an FAA manager at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center recorded interviews with six controllers who helped track or communicate with the hijacked planes. The manager reportedly wanted to record the accounts while the details of the event were still fresh in the minds of the controllers.
           
But the commission was unable to find out what had been recorded because a second FAA manager destroyed the tape. According to a report by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG), the second manager promised a union official representing the controllers that he would “get rid of” the tape after controllers used it to provide written statements to federal officials about the hijackings. The second manager said he destroyed the tape between December 2001 and January 2002 by crushing the tape with his hand, cutting it into small pieces and depositing the pieces into trash cans around the building.
           
Following the attacks, the FAA sent out an email to employees informing them to retain all information regarding the 9/11 events. After learning of the tape being destroyed, FAA officials offered conflicting accounts as to whether the second manager would be disciplined for his actions. FAA officials also said that they believed the tape would not have yielded any additional information from written accounts provided by the air traffic controllers who were interviewed.
           
The IG was not happy with the actions of the FAA manager in New York. In its report, the IG office wrote, “The destruction of evidence in the Government's possession, in this case an audiotape -- particularly during times of national crisis -- has the effect of fostering an appearance that information is being withheld from the public.”
FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape (by Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post)
 
Lack of Oversight of Southwest Airlines
In April 2008 Congressional hearings revealed that the FAA’s safety operations in Texas had allowed Southwest Airlines to conduct numerous flights over several years without being fully inspected. The failure by FAA to carry out the inspections was revealed by agency whistle-blowers, one of whom lost his job before the FAA was forced to reinstate him.
           
As a result of the oversight lapse, two FAA managers were disciplined. One was the regional safety inspection manager based in Texas, who covered Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma flights by Southwest.
           
Southwest Airlines faced a $10 million fine for flying more than three dozen planes without first having FAA inspectors conduct thorough reviews of the planes’ internal controls.
 
Dubai Ports Controversy
In February 2006, it came to light that port management businesses in six major American seaports had been sold to a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This caused an immediate and intense debate about whether this would compromise national security as a result. The purchasing company was DP World, a state-owned company in the UAE. Personal ties between the Bush Administration and DP World included the appointment of David C. Sanborn to the Maritime Administration. Previous to his appointment, Sanborn had worked for Dubai Ports World (DP World). The sale of port management businesses in these six ports was approved by the executive branch of the US government in March of 2006.
 
FHWA Approves Dangerous New Truck Rules
In 2006, President George W. Bush and Congress agreed to adopt new transportation legislation that would allow larger-than-ever commercial semi-trucks to travel American streets. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) permitted truck combos nearly a third of a football field long on roadways. The change represented a boon to the trucking industry because longer trucks meant fewer trips and drivers and thus more savings for companies. The legislation was backed by the National Automobile Dealers Association, the American Trucking Association and other industry trade associations.
           
But before the trucks with four flatbeds linked together could begin roaming, the Federal Highway Administration had to establish rules for the new “four-ways.” Officials at the agency were still deciding whether the new rules should follow standards preferred by the trucking industry.
Bush's Federal Highway Administration Making Roads More Dangerous (by Stephen Hill and Dmitri Iglitzin, Huffington Post)
 
Truckers’ Hours
The Bush Administration has been criticized for its deregulation campaign that has tried to loosen “cumbersome” rules on the trucking industry, including limits on the number of hours truck drivers can work per day. Advocates for highway safety argue that deregulation is to blame for truck accidents and deaths. Opponents point at the administration’s appointment of trucking industry executives and stakeholders in the Department of Transportation.
Courts Voids Higher Limits on Truckers’ Hours (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
 
Gag Rule at Transportation Safety Agency
In a story that would be comical but for its worrisome implications, the New York Times stumbled onto a gag rule at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An inquiry into a technical safety issue with a safety expert at the agency revealed that NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason had barred her entire staff—even the communications office—from answering reporters’ questions (officials even refused to answer questions like, “What is the name of NHTSA’s Administrator?”). The gag order prevented some of the world’s top auto safety experts from sharing crucial information with the public.

What’s Off the Record at N.H.T.S.A.? Almost Everything

(by Christopher Jensen, New York Times)

 

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Debate:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Truckers on US Roads
There is considerable debate on the implications of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and Mexican commercial truck drivers working in the US. A pilot program was initiated in 2007, monitored by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA), and there is a question regarding the benefits and costs of allowing Mexican truckers to drive past the commercial zone on the border and into the US.
 
Proponents of Allowing Mexican Truckers into the US
Supporters, such as the Cato Institute, argue that Mexican truck drivers have been unfairly denied access to US highways. Opponents have exploited safety fears to block implementation of this provision from NAFTA. The delay in meeting US commitments has cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year from higher transportation costs and tarnished the federal government’s reputation as an honest and reliable neighbor. The final obstacle in the road to implementing the trucking provision fully is the Democratic Congress, which has bowed to pressure from labor unions. Safety concerns raised by these critics are only a smokescreen to mask protectionist viewpoints, as Mexican trucks have not posed a discernible hazard on American roads in the past.
Attempt to Limit Mexican Trucking in U.S. Masks Union Agenda (by Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies)
 
Opponents of Allowing Mexican Truckers into the US
Organizations representing highway and truck safety groups, labor and independent truck drivers insist the plan to allow Mexican truckers on US roads is ignoring federal safety laws. Groups including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition filed suit to stop the implementation of the pilot program. They contend that the program violates federal law requiring, among other things, that the administration publish information about the inspections of Mexico-domiciled carriers that will operate beyond the narrow border zone and provide for public comment, that simultaneous and comparable authority be granted to US carriers to operate in Mexico, and that the pilot program involve a sufficient number of participants to yield statistically valid findings so that an informed judgment may be made regarding whether to allow Mexican trucks to operate freely within US borders. Supporters of the lawsuit contend that none of these conditions has been met.

Hoffa Blasts Bush Administration’s Indifference to NAFTA Harm

(International Brotherhood of Teamsters)

 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOT Proposes Overhaul in Policy
In August 2008, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters unveiled a reform plan for her department. The 72-page proposal, “Refocus. Reform. Renew. A New Transportation Approach In America,” offers numerous policy changes for DOT, including:
 
Modernize air traffic control: DOT proposes replacing the country’s 1940s era air traffic control system with a GPS system called NextGen, which could take 10 years to pull off. In the meantime, the department is pushing for market-based solutions such as flight caps and bumping airline fees for flying into crowded airports.
 
Funding Options: DOT wants to move away from relying on the gas tax as a source of revenue for highway projects and instead utilize “more direct pricing options” which may mean higher fares at tolls.
 
Speed up highway construction: It takes an average of 13 years to build a new highway, so DOT wants to speed things up by “streamlining the review process.” However, this could mean imposing short-cuts on environmental and planning issues.
 
Flexible Spending: Currently, DOT dictates to state and local governments how they can spend their federal transportation dollars. Under this new plan, the department would allow state, city and county officials more power to determine how best to distribute their money from Washington, DC, on highways or mass transit programs. 
 
Internal Reorganization: The proposal also calls for combining more than 100 transportation programs into eight and using technology and collaborative approach to speed things along in general.
 
Average Fuel Economy
Consumer average fuel economy (CAFE) was first enacted by Congress in 1975 to reduce energy consumption by increasing fuel economy standards of cars and light trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks sold in the US, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates average fuel economy for each manufacturer.
 
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2007, the new CAFE law will require auto manufacturers to boost their required average fuel economy by nearly 40%, to 35 mpg by 2020. How the new standards are met is left up to the manufacturers themselves, while NHTSA is charged with verification and enforcement.
 
The new CAFE includes the following changes, relative to its predecessor: Under the new regulations, companies whose fleets exceed fuel economy standards for any given year are awarded credits, which they can then sell to competitors who didn’t meet the year’s standard (under current regulations they are allowed credits, but not permitted to sell them); the new law also directs NTHSA to formulate fuel economy rules for medium and heavy-duty trucks, as well as SUVS.
 
Under new regulations, manufacturers will have the choice of complying with standards established under either the traditional system (Unreformed CAFE) or the Reformed CAFE system, during a transition period between Model Years (MYs) 2008-2010. In MY 2011, all manufacturers will be required to comply with the Reformed CAFE standard. Under Reformed CAFE, the agency is setting standards based on “vehicle footprint” (a measurement based on the wheelbase multiplied by the average track width in square feet).
 
Additionally, in MY 2011, the agency is requiring medium-duty passenger vehicles (MDPVs) to meet fuel economy standards for the first time.
 

Fact Sheet: CAFE Reform for Passenger Cars

(White House press release)

 

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Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Yoshio Mineta (January 25, 2001-July 7, 2006)
Rodney Earl Slater (February 14, 1997-January 20, 2001)
Federico Fabian Peña (January 21, 1993-February 14, 1997)
Andrew Hill Card, Jr. (February 24, 1992-January 20, 1993)
Samuel Knox Skinner (February 6, 1989-December 13, 1991)
James Horace Burnley IV (December 3, 1987-January 30, 1989)
Elizabeth Hanford Dole (February 7, 1983-September 30, 1987)
Andrew Lindsay "Drew" Lewis, Jr. (January 23, 1981-February 1, 1983)
Neil Edward Goldschmidt (August 15, 1979-January 20, 1981)
Brockman "Brock" Adams (January 23, 1977-July 20, 1979)
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. (March 7, 1975-January 20, 1977)
Claude Stout Brinegar (February 2, 1973-February 1, 1975)
John Anthony Volpe (January 22, 1969-February 2, 1973)
Alan Stephenson Boyd (January 16, 1967-January 20, 1969)
 

Biographical Sketches of the Secretaries of Transportation

 

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Founded: 1966
Annual Budget: $68 billion
Employees: 60,000
Official Website: http://www.dot.gov/

Department of Transportation (DOT)

Foxx, Anthony
Secretary

President Barack Obama is going with a Democrat this time at the Department of Transportation, whose Secretary, Republican Ray LaHood, announced in January that he would leave the job upon the confirmation of his successor. Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, who has been mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, since 2009.. 

 

Born April 30, 1971, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Foxx was raised by his mother, Laura Foxx, and his grandparents, James and Mary Foxx, who were public school teachers, and graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1989. Grandfather James Foxx was also a prominent Democratic Party activist whose endorsement was considered essential in local elections.

 

Anthony Foxx earned a B.A. in History at Davidson College in 1993, where he was the first African-American student body president, and a law degree at New York University School of Law in 1996.

 

During his Davidson years, Foxx spent two summers abroad: one in France studying the French language that his grandmother taught in school, and another in South Africa assisting legendary civil rights lawyer James Ferguson II—a family friend who in 1970 successfully argued before the Supreme Court for the desegregation of Charlotte's schools—train black lawyers in the fight against apartheid. Foxx later said his experience of witnessing the obstacles black South Africans faced in getting an education inspired him to work harder at school.

 

After law school, Foxx spent a month playing trumpet in New Orelans, where he and Wynton Marsalis became friends, practiced law for about a year at the Charlotte law firm of Smith, Helms, Mullis, and Moore, and served as a judicial clerk for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He spent the remainder of the 1990s serving as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as staff counsel on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, where he met his wife, fellow attorney Samara Ryder.

 

Returning to Charlotte in 2001, Foxx practiced commercial litigation at the large law firm of Hunton & Williams until 2009, when he joined DesignLine Corporation, a hybrid electric bus manufacturer, as its deputy general counsel. 

 

Foxx began his political career in 2004 as campaign manager for Rep. Mel Watt (D-North Carolina), who has represented North Carolina's 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Charlotte, since 1993, and whom President Obama nominated for a different federal post—head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency—just a few days after naming Foxx. Watt’s wife, Eulada Watt, and Foxx's mother are second cousins, so Foxx had known Watt all his life. The following year, Foxx won election to the Charlotte City Council as an at-large representative, serving a pair of two-year terms and chairing the Transportation Committee.

 

Winning election for mayor in 2009, Foxx focused on helping small businesses, improving government efficiency and public safety, and implementating a 10-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. During his first term as mayor, Foxx led a successful bid for Charlotte to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and then served as chair of the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee.

 

Foxx and his wife, Samara Foxx, have two children, Hillary and Zachary.

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography (pdf)

Man of the Past (by Jen Pilla Taylor, Charlotte Magazine)

Obama to Name Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as Transportation Chief (by Franco Ordoñez, Charlotte Observer)

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LaHood, Ray
Previous Secretary

In selecting former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood for Secretary of Transportation, Barack Obama fulfilled his promise to make his cabinet bipartisan. The centrist GOP lawmaker was not above the partisan fray, however, when it came to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment hearing, which LaHood presided over with enthusiasm. As a member of Congress, LaHood was not particularly involved in transportation issues, leading some observers to believe that his appointment either signaled that for Obama, transportion was not a high-priority issue, or that he wanted LaHood for his ability to liaison with Republican members of Congress.

 
LaHood is of Lebanese ancestry; his grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. Born on December 6, 1945, in Peoria, LaHood was raised by parents who ran a small working-class restaurant and bar. LaHood attended Canton Junior College (now Spoon River Community College) before transferring to Bradley University, where he earned a BS in education and sociology in 1971.
 
Following college, LaHood taught social studies at junior high school for six years, and worked as director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau from 1972-1974. He then switched jobs to director of the Bi-State Planning Commission, which dealt with housing and transportation matters, serving from 1974-1977.
 
LaHood’s political career began in 1977 when he joined the staff of Republican Congressman Tom Railsback. In 1982, he was appointed to a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. When he ran for the office in November of that year, he was defeated. He then joined the staff of Republican Congressman and House Minority Leader Robert Michel, becoming his chief of staff.
 
LaHood worked with Michel until the congressman’s retirement, opening the way for LaHood to seek the 18th Congressional District seat for himself. He was elected in 1994 as part of the “Republican Revolution” that swept into Washington, although LaHood was one of the few GOP members who did not sign the Contract with America. According to Roll Call, he was caught having gone back on Michel’s leadership payroll as top aide after the 1994 election, while he was a congressman-elect and going through the freshman orientation program; he and Michel claimed LaHood was “helping his retiring boss sort through his life’s work for posterity.”

Once part of House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s inner circle, LaHood developed a reputation as a centrist Republican able to work with Democrats. The American Conservative Union gave LaHood only a 52 out of 100 score based on his 2007 voting record, while the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave him the even lower score of 25. LaHood garnered considerable attention, and some scorn, from Democrats when he presided over the impeachment hearing of President Bill Clinton in 1998, calling the duty “a high honor and a privilege.”
 
As a veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, LaHood embraced federal spending as a way to spur economic growth, and he was closely involved in efforts to improve the Illinois transportation network by securing federal money for major highway construction and airport expansion. LaHood also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during his early years in the House. He has been a big promoter of ethanol as part of his interest in agriculture issues.
 
Prior to the 2008 election, LaHood announced his retirement from Congress. During his years in the Illinois delegation, he developed a close relationship with Rahm Emanuel, who also represented Illinois in the House, but as a Democrat, before becoming Obama’s chief of staff.
 
LaHood’s wife, Kathy, worked for five years (2000-2005) as a business manager for the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington, DC, and then took over as business manager for Goodwill Industries in Peoria. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.
 
Ray LaHood Profile (SourceWatch)
The New Team (New York Times)
Looking Under LaHood (by Adam Doster, Progress Illinois)
Ray LaHood yields back (by Jim Mills, The Hill)
Washington Will Miss Ray LaHood (by Mark Shields, Creators.com)
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Overview

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is a cabinet-level agency of the federal government responsible for helping maintain and develop the nation’s transportation systems and infrastructure. From roads to airlines to railways, DOT carries out planning that supports the movement of Americans by cars, truck, trains, ships and planes. When it comes to ground transportation, state and local governments are largely the key government players in building new roads or running public transit systems. But DOT plays a key role by providing funding to lower levels of government to improve the means of transport that Americans use. With air travel, the Transportation Department has a more hands-on role, as it regulates commercial airlines and airports in a dual effort to both promote the industry and ensure the safety of passengers. Of all its agencies, DOT has taken the most flack for its running of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—an operation that continues to be the subject of criticism for not staying on top of potential problems.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Najeeb Halaby, administrator of the independent Federal Aviation Agency, who proposed the idea of a cabinet-level Department of Transportation to President Lyndon Johnson’s aides in 1965. Frustrated by the Defense Department’s infringement upon certain transportation issues, such as supersonic transport, Halaby wanted to elevate transportation policy to a higher level. Halaby argued that the new department should assume the functions then under the authority of the under secretary of commerce for transportation. Moreover, he recommended that the Federal Aviation Agency become part of that department.
 
Halaby got help from Charles Schultze, director of the Bureau of the Budget, and Joseph A. Califano, Jr., special assistant to the president, who together pushed for the new department. They urged the under secretary of commerce for transportation to explore the prospects of having a transportation department initiative prepared as part of Johnson’s 1966 legislative program. This launched the Boyd Task Force, which recommended the creation of a Department of Transportation that would include the Federal Aviation Agency, the Bureau of Public Roads, the Coast Guard, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the Great Lakes Pilotage Association, the Car Service Division of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the subsidy function of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the Panama Canal.
 
President Johnson agreed to the plan and sent it to Congress on March 6, 1966. It took considerable negotiation with lawmakers to get them to agree to approve the legislation, but finally, on October 15, 1966, the President was given the authority to create the Department of Transportation (DOT). The addition of DOT represented the most sweeping reorganization of the federal government since the National Security Act of 1947. Almost overnight DOT became the fourth largest cabinet-level department, bringing together more than thirty transportation agencies and functions scattered throughout the government and about 95,000 employees, most of whom had been with the Federal Aviation Agency, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Public Roads.
 
Not long after DOT was born, the White House drafted a plan to transfer urban mass transit functions to the department from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Responsibility for these programs resided in the newly established Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now the Federal Transit Administration).
 
During his first administration, President Richard Nixon presided over several significant transportation-related matters, including the bailout of the Penn Central Railroad, the launching of Amtrak, airline hijackings, the sick-out of the fledgling Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, the decision to end federal support for production of the supersonic transport and to handle applications for Concorde landing slots, and the Coast Guard’s handling of defector Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian seaman.
 
In 1970, the Highway Safety Act authorized the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the law added somewhat to the department’s safety mission, the Federal Highway Administration originally had handled most of the functions that the new agency assumed. Besides establishing another operating administration and adding to the secretary’s span of control and coordination workload, the Highway Safety Act separated highway administration into two parts: design, construction, and maintenance on the one hand; and highway and automobile safety on the other.
 
In April 1975, Congress approved legislation that moved the National Transportation Safety Board out of DOT and made it an independent federal agency. Another important change came two years later when President Jimmy Carter’s transportation secretary, Brock Adams, established the Research and Special Programs Directorate (which subsequently became the Research and Special Programs Administration [RSPA]). When Adams created RSPA, he combined the Transportation Systems Center, the hazardous materials transportation and pipeline safety programs, and diverse program activities from the Office of the Secretary that did not readily fit into any of the existing operating administrations. The establishment of the RSPA set a precedent in that it was a creation of the Secretary, not Congress.
 
During Adams’s administration, the Inspectors General Act of 1978 established for the department, and other executive agencies as well, an inspector general, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The mission of the inspector general was to help the secretary cope with waste, fraud and abuse. Before leaving office, Adams recommended that the Federal Highway Administration and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration be reorganized into a Surface Transportation Administration, an idea that latter transportation secretaries (James Burnley and Federico Peña) toyed with as well.
 
During the late 1970s, several transportation deregulation plans were approved: the Railroad Regulatory Act (better known as the Staggers Rail Act), the Truck Regulatory Reform Act, the International Airlines Reform Act, and the Household Goods Regulatory Reform Act (which affected interstate trucking). Also during this time, DOT leadership established the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in the Office of the Secretary. It was responsible for carrying out policies and procedures consistent with federal statutes to provide policy guidance for minority, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses taking part in the department's procurement and federal financial assistance activities.
 
President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of transportation, Andrew Lewis, oversaw the transfer of the Maritime Administration from the Commerce Department to DOT in order to formulate a national transportation policy. Also, the department assumed greater visibility during the air traffic controllers’ strike in August 1981, during which Lewis spoke for the administration. After personally negotiating with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in the days leading up to the strike, Lewis forcefully explained the government’s response to the strike-firings and no amnesty for strikers. Lewis was also responsible for the enactment of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which sought to improve transportation safety among commercial vehicle operators.
 
Lewis’s successor, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, brought to her new position experience in consumer and trade matters. At DOT, she focused on many safety-related issues, including drunk driving and the so-called “Dole brake light,” which led to the addition of a third brake light on automobiles. Responding to a Supreme Court ruling, Dole authorized deadlines for the installation of air bags and other passive restraints in motor vehicles, which resulted in major increases in seat belt usage by the public, and incentives to manufacturers to equip new cars with air bags. Dole also moved to end Federal Railroad Administration ownership of Conrail in 1987 and encouraged the establishment of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, transferring administration of Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration to that authority.
 
Under President George H. W. Bush’s DOT secretary, Samuel Skinner, the department placed greater emphasis on crafting a National Transportation Policy. Skinner also dealt with numerous high-profile disasters that affected transportation, earning him the moniker “the Master of Disaster.” Crises Skinner had to manage included the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, the machinists’ strike at Eastern Airlines in March 1989 and the company’s subsequent bankruptcy, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (also March 1989), the Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California (October 1989), and Hurricane Hugo (September 1990).
 
On December 18, 1991, President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which provided a six-year reauthorization to restructure DOT’s highway, highway safety and transit programs. One effect of this legislation was that the Urban Mass Transportation Administration became the Federal Transit Administration. The ISTEA legislation also required the department to establish two new organizational entities: the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which was to provide timely transportation-related information through the compilation, analysis, and publishing of comprehensive transportation statistics, and the Office of Intermodalism in the Office of the Assistant Deputy Secretary, which was charged with coordinating and initiating federal policy on intermodal transportation.
           
As part of President Bill Clinton’s National Performance Review, the Transportation Department under the leadership of Federico Peña set out to restructure DOT. While some changes were implemented, those requiring Congressional approval, such as folding the department’s 10 administrations into three, never materialized.
 
Following his reelection in 1996, Clinton selected Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater to succeed Peña at DOT. Slater was instrumental in getting ISTEA reauthorized, with the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the largest public works legislation in history. During his first year and a half at DOT, airline and railroad mergers again became fashionable. Department negotiators helped to avert a strike against Amtrak, while Congress mandated an overhaul for the railroad. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued regulations allowing consumers to turn off their airbag switches where necessary; and the United States finalized a long-sought, liberalized aviation agreement with Japan.
 
In the wake of the contentious Presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush reached out to the Democratic Party for his nominee to head DOT, selecting former Congressman Norman Mineta (D-CA), a Japanese-American who became the first Asian-Pacific American to serve as Secretary of Transportation and the first DOT secretary to have served in a previous cabinet position (Secretary of Commerce under Clinton). Mineta led the department during the post-9/11 period, when lawmakers heavily criticized the poor security that allowed hijackers to board commercial airliners. On November 19, 2001, President Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which, among other things, called for the establishment of a completely new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within DOT to increase security at airports and other transportation venues.
 
TSA, which became operational on February 16, 2002, didn’t stay long in the Transportation Department. As part of the President’s broad-based reorganization of the federal government, TSA was moved in 2003 into the newly-created Department of Homeland Security, along with the Coast Guard.
 

 

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What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is the federal government’s lead agency for planning and support of the nation’s land, air and sea-based travel systems. DOT develops, implements and enforces federal regulations governing use of America’s roads and highways, airports and air corridors, railways and seaports. The department also makes available billions of dollars in federal grants each year to state and local authorities to help improve transportation programs throughout the country.
 
Major DOT offices and programs:
Roads and Motor Vehicles
Federal Highway Administration: FHWA helps maintain the nation’s system of interstate highways. Responsibility for building and maintaining highways is the charge of state and local governments, but the FHWA provides enormous support in the form of funding. Using monies collected from fuel and motor vehicle excise taxes, FHWA disperses federal highway funds to cities, counties, state agencies and tribal governments through two programs: Federal-aid Highway Program (to state and local governments); and Federal Lands Highways Program (for roads in national parks, national forests, Indian lands and other land under federal stewardship). The agency also establishes rules for building safe roads, overpasses and bridges that governments and contractors must follow.
 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: NHTSA is the federal agency charged with regulating safety standards in the auto industry and transportation. To achieve its stated mission of reducing fatalities, injuries and costs associated with auto accidents, the NHTSA acts through research, public education and consumer protection initiatives; investigates defects and enforces manufacturer compliance with safety standards; and helps regulate other standards such as fuel economy. It deals with topics from safety defects, crash testing and accident statistics—to child seats, teen driving and pedestrians. The agency was founded as the result of intense public-interest advocacy, with the explicit purpose of protecting consumers through regulation of the auto industry and federal safety standards. However, over the years—and as a result of devolution, budget-slashing and a progressive copping to industry interests—it is now run to help the industries it was intended to regulate.
 
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: FMCSAis charged with creating regulations and safety initiatives to improve the safety of commercial vehicles. In creating the FMCSA, transportation officials hoped to reduce the number and severity of accidents involving large trucks, such as 18-wheelers. Programs run by the agency include the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety and Security program and the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 Initiative.
 
Air Traffic
Federal Aviation Administration: FAA oversees the US commercial aviation industry for the Department of Transportation. As the primary oversight agency for airlines, FAA maintains voluminous records of regulations and standards that companies like United Airlines, Delta, Southwest and others must follow in order to transport passengers. FAA also sets rules for airport operations and pilots. The nations’ air traffic control system, which directs commercial, private and military aircraft all across the US, is also the responsibility of the FAA, which employs all traffic controllers. Since its beginning, FAA has had two main duties: promote the airline industry and ensure the safety of American passengers. The FAA has had mixed success carrying out its safety mission, including recent accounts of allowing one airline to fly planes not fully inspected by federal officials. Its tarnished reputation only got worst following the September 11, 2001, hijackings of four commercial airliners.
 
Railroads
Federal Railroad Administration: FRA is responsible for developing and enforcing railroad safety regulations. FRA also administers railroad assistance programs, conducts research and development to support improved railroad safety and helps rehabilitate the Northeast Corridor rail passenger service.
 
Surface Transportation Board: STB is responsible for regulating the railroad industry. The board develops and promotes rail line regulatory reforms; seeks ways to increase fiscal responsibility in the railroad industry; resolves railroad rate and service disputes; enforces compliance of rail operation laws; enforces compliance with environmental-related laws; approves or rejects proposed railroad mergers; determines if a company can enter or leave the railroad business; approves or rejects abandonment of a rail line; and oversees rail transportation emergencies, whether caused by damaged rail tracks, congestion, or the inability of a carrier to meet its transportation obligations.
 
Water Transportation
Maritime Administration: MARAD is responsible for all waterborne transportation in the United States. MARAD’s programs include facilitating use of waterborne transportation and overseeing its integration with other segments of the transportation industry. The agency is responsible for the US merchant marine and works to make sure American ships, ports, environment, safety and national security are protected. The Maritime Administration maintains a fleet of cargo ships to provide surge sealift during war and national emergencies (the National Defense Reserve Fleet), and it helps to dispose of non-combatant government ship as they become obsolete.
 
Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation: SLSDC works to keep the St. Lawrence Seaway System operating as an efficient, environmentally responsible, reliable, safe, technologically advanced marine transportation system, while moving cargo such as coal, grain, iron, ore, and steel between North America and international markets. The seaway system encompasses the St. Lawrence River and the five Great Lakes, extending around 2,300 miles from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence at the Atlantic Ocean to the western end of Lake Superior at the twin ports of Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI. SLSDC works in conjunction with its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Company, which together set and enforce regulations related to navigation and traffic control in the seaway system. In addition, both entities perform inspections, for safety and environmental protection issues, of all ocean vessels heading into the seaway.
 
General
Federal Transit Administration: FTA funds mass transit systems across the country by distributing billions of dollars in grants to local and state governments and other organizations. FTA’s goal is see new transit systems come online or to improve existing mass transit operations. The agency is also responsible for ensuring that recipients of grants follow federal mandates along with statutory and administrative requirements. Due to the sheer cost of building new public transportation systems, FTA funding is critical to any project hoping to get off the ground. In one instance, the agency flip-flopped over supporting a longtime subway project affecting Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia, which angered both proponents and critics of the project.
 
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration: PHMSA is responsible for keeping the public safe and the environment protected when hazardous materials are moved throughout the country by land, sea or air. This includes almost one million daily shipments of hazardous materials, including 64% of the nation’s petroleum products. Among its many duties, PHMSA develops and enforces regulations for the 2.3 million-mile pipelines transportation system; sponsors research projects to stay on top of the latest advances in technology that may be potentially applicable to safety procedure upgrades; awards grants to provide financial and technical assistance for states, tribes and local communities to receive preparation on how to handle hazmat emergencies; and distributes special permits. .
 
Office of the Inspector General: OIG for the Department of Transportation is responsible for ensuring DOT programs and operations comply with the law and carry out their functions efficiently. The OIG performs dozens of audits and investigations each year that review financial records as well as other documentation to determine if any criminal or unethical behavior or poorly managed operations need to be addressed. In cases where DOT employees are suspected of breaking the law, the OIG refers the matter to the US Attorney General for prosecution.
 

Research and Innovative Technology Administration:

RITA manages the Department of Transportation’s research and development programs, with the ultimate goal of creating technologies that can be used to improve the country’s transportation networks. The agency also compiles statistics, publishes reports and provides education in transportation-related fields. All told, the agency helps coordinates research efforts worth approximately $1 billion annually.

 

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Where Does the Money Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Transportation spent $17.4 billion this decade on private contractors, according to USAspending.gov. A total of 16,503 companies and other organizations were paid for, among other things, operating government-owned facilities ($2.5 billion), constructing highways, roads, bridges and railways ($2.5 billion), and providing engineering and technical services ($1.2 billion).
           
The biggest spenders within DOT are the Federal Highway Administration ($4.2 billion), Maritime Administration ($3.06 billion) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ($2.9 billion).
 
The top 10 contractors are:
Crowley Maritime Corporation
$888,514,329
The Boeing Company
$698,862,403
Lockheed Martin
$681,571,338
Veritas Capital Fund II, LP
$541,020,631
Saltchuk Resources, Inc.
 $499,214,563
Computer Sciences Corporation
$458,209,802
General Dynamics Corporation
$425,232,352
Phoenix Marine Co. Inc.
$419,986,000
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
$367,999,057
Chas Kurz & Co Inc.
$357,539,369
 
Examples of FAA contracts included ASRC Management Services which was given a $215 million contract to work on the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, OK for up to five years. The company will provide engineering support services to the FAA.
 
Computer Sciences Corporation, which has spent almost three decades working for FAA, was awarded a $68 million contract to design, develop and test components of the FAA’s future Controller Pilot Data Communications Link system.
 
Another longtime contractor, BAE Systems, was given two contracts totaling $107 million by the FAA. BAE Systems, which has done work for the agency for 10 years, received a $67 million contract to provide systems engineering and support services and a $40 million contract to provide management and financial support services.
 
Tetra Tech Inc. received its largest FAA contract to date when it was awarded a $60 million deal to support FAA’s Global Positioning System. Tetra Tech will provide technical engineering and business support services to help manage the agency’s satellite navigation system. The deal was followed by another FAA contract worth $52 million to provide IT support to the Office of Security and Hazardous Materials.
 
Harris Corporation received a $5.7 million contract extension to the Weather and Radar Processor program, bringing the company’s total to $131 million it has received from the FAA since 1996. WARP is a next-generation weather and radar system that allows FAA officials to consolidate weather data from several sources into a single, integrated display to support air traffic operations nationwide.
 
Computer manufacturer Lexmark sold the FAA $60 million in laser printers and other computer equipment for the agency’s 800 offices.
 
For FY 2007, the Federal Highway Administration gave out funding for innovative bridge research and deployment and interstate maintenance ($92 million), the Public Lands Highways Program ($84.3 million), the Transportation Community and System Preservation Program ($55 million), programs involving ferry boats ($40.2 million), Highways for LIFE Pilot Program ($14.6 million), and the Delta Region Transportation Development Program ($9.2 million).
 
One of the largest outlays of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants went to support rebuilding efforts at the World Trade Center complex. In 2005, FTA announced it had awarded $699 million to the New York Port Authority to help with several projects, including a new $478 million World Trade Center Security Center.
 
 
Norfolk, VA’s The Tide light rail project received $128 million toward building 11 stations, three new park-and-ride structures and a maintenance facility and the purchasing of nine rail vehicles. The Tide, which will cost a total of $232 million to complete and is expected to begin service in 2010, will serve between 6,000 and 12,000 riders per day.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transit received a grant of $2.2 million to provide operating and planning assistance to areas with a population below 50,000. The grant will be used to expand service in 11 rural areas and to study of the feasibility of bringing public transportation to four additional counties.
 

The

Center for Transportation and the Environment

was awarded a $1.2 million grant for the continued development and demonstration of an improved hybrid fuel cell bus.

 

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Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAA Failing to Ensure Safe Parts for Airlines
In February 2008 the inspector general (IG) for the Department of Transportation issued an alarming report about the state of airline safety with regards to the manufacturing of parts and equipment. Airlines rely on both domestic and overseas suppliers for components in their aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has done a poor job of making sure contractors and subcontractors provide quality components, said the IG.
           
This meant that the FAA was failing to provide effective oversight of suppliers, allowing “substandard parts to enter the aviation supply chain,” reported the IG. The audit found that outsourcing to other countries is a significant safety oversight concern, as is production of airline parts by American contractors.
 
The Project on Government Oversight noted three serious findings in the IG’s report:
 
“Manufacturers were not verifying that their suppliers were providing effective oversight of the sub-tier suppliers they used to produce parts. This is a critical safety issue, as demonstrated by four engine failures that occurred in FY 2003 due to faulty speed sensors on fuel pumps obtained from a supplier. Three of the engine failures occurred on the ground and one occurred in flight. The part failures were traced to unapproved design changes made by a sub-tier supplier. In all, 152 parts were manufactured in the suspect population.” (Page 12)
 
“Effective oversight of suppliers is essential to ensure that substandard parts do not enter the aviation supply chain. For example, in February 2003, 1 supplier released approximately 5,000 parts that were not manufactured properly for use on landing gear for large commercial passenger aircraft. At least one of these landing gear parts failed while in service. While FAA became aware of this large-scale breakdown at this supplier in 2003, it has not performed a supplier audit at this facility in the last 4 years.” (Page 11)
 
“One supplier allowed new, untrained employees to manufacture several components. We witnessed one new employee improperly inspecting a product. A later review of his training record showed that he had not received any formal training in the proper inspection method. This was the same supplier mentioned previously that used a piece of paper as a measuring device for an oil and fuel pressure transmitter.” (Page 13)
 
IG Accuses FAA of Not Properly Training New Air Traffic Controllers
The Transportation Department’s inspector general reported in June 2008 that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is hiring so many new air traffic controllers that it cannot adequately train them. The FAA had exceeded the maximum number of trainees at the 314 air control facilities around the country.
 
The IG also found that the FAA used a database filled with incorrect information to manage the training program and has failed to fix problems that were recommended four years earlier.
           
Furthermore, FAA leadership was not clearly defined as to who had authority over the training of new controllers. Four different vice presidents at FAA headquarters were responsible in one way or another for hiring and training duties. “Facility managers, training managers and even headquarters officials were unable to tell us who or what office was ultimately responsible for facility training,” the IG report said.
 
FAA officials responded by saying they would accept most of the IG’s recommendations. But the FAA rejected the idea of making public an accurate count each year of how many fully certified controllers and how many trainees work in each of its facilities.
FAA Lagging in Air Traffic Training, Report Says (by Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press)
 
FAA Destroyed 9/11 Tape
Following the hijackings and crashings of US airliners on September 11, 2001, the federal government appointed a special panel to conduct a far-reaching investigation into how the attacks were allowed to occur. In the course of its investigation, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States complained that the FAA had been “less than forthcoming” when it came to turning over documents, forcing the commission to issue a subpoena to gather more information.
           
What the commission found out while interviewing numerous FAA officials was that on the day of the attacks, an FAA manager at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center recorded interviews with six controllers who helped track or communicate with the hijacked planes. The manager reportedly wanted to record the accounts while the details of the event were still fresh in the minds of the controllers.
           
But the commission was unable to find out what had been recorded because a second FAA manager destroyed the tape. According to a report by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG), the second manager promised a union official representing the controllers that he would “get rid of” the tape after controllers used it to provide written statements to federal officials about the hijackings. The second manager said he destroyed the tape between December 2001 and January 2002 by crushing the tape with his hand, cutting it into small pieces and depositing the pieces into trash cans around the building.
           
Following the attacks, the FAA sent out an email to employees informing them to retain all information regarding the 9/11 events. After learning of the tape being destroyed, FAA officials offered conflicting accounts as to whether the second manager would be disciplined for his actions. FAA officials also said that they believed the tape would not have yielded any additional information from written accounts provided by the air traffic controllers who were interviewed.
           
The IG was not happy with the actions of the FAA manager in New York. In its report, the IG office wrote, “The destruction of evidence in the Government's possession, in this case an audiotape -- particularly during times of national crisis -- has the effect of fostering an appearance that information is being withheld from the public.”
FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape (by Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post)
 
Lack of Oversight of Southwest Airlines
In April 2008 Congressional hearings revealed that the FAA’s safety operations in Texas had allowed Southwest Airlines to conduct numerous flights over several years without being fully inspected. The failure by FAA to carry out the inspections was revealed by agency whistle-blowers, one of whom lost his job before the FAA was forced to reinstate him.
           
As a result of the oversight lapse, two FAA managers were disciplined. One was the regional safety inspection manager based in Texas, who covered Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma flights by Southwest.
           
Southwest Airlines faced a $10 million fine for flying more than three dozen planes without first having FAA inspectors conduct thorough reviews of the planes’ internal controls.
 
Dubai Ports Controversy
In February 2006, it came to light that port management businesses in six major American seaports had been sold to a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This caused an immediate and intense debate about whether this would compromise national security as a result. The purchasing company was DP World, a state-owned company in the UAE. Personal ties between the Bush Administration and DP World included the appointment of David C. Sanborn to the Maritime Administration. Previous to his appointment, Sanborn had worked for Dubai Ports World (DP World). The sale of port management businesses in these six ports was approved by the executive branch of the US government in March of 2006.
 
FHWA Approves Dangerous New Truck Rules
In 2006, President George W. Bush and Congress agreed to adopt new transportation legislation that would allow larger-than-ever commercial semi-trucks to travel American streets. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) permitted truck combos nearly a third of a football field long on roadways. The change represented a boon to the trucking industry because longer trucks meant fewer trips and drivers and thus more savings for companies. The legislation was backed by the National Automobile Dealers Association, the American Trucking Association and other industry trade associations.
           
But before the trucks with four flatbeds linked together could begin roaming, the Federal Highway Administration had to establish rules for the new “four-ways.” Officials at the agency were still deciding whether the new rules should follow standards preferred by the trucking industry.
Bush's Federal Highway Administration Making Roads More Dangerous (by Stephen Hill and Dmitri Iglitzin, Huffington Post)
 
Truckers’ Hours
The Bush Administration has been criticized for its deregulation campaign that has tried to loosen “cumbersome” rules on the trucking industry, including limits on the number of hours truck drivers can work per day. Advocates for highway safety argue that deregulation is to blame for truck accidents and deaths. Opponents point at the administration’s appointment of trucking industry executives and stakeholders in the Department of Transportation.
Courts Voids Higher Limits on Truckers’ Hours (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
 
Gag Rule at Transportation Safety Agency
In a story that would be comical but for its worrisome implications, the New York Times stumbled onto a gag rule at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An inquiry into a technical safety issue with a safety expert at the agency revealed that NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason had barred her entire staff—even the communications office—from answering reporters’ questions (officials even refused to answer questions like, “What is the name of NHTSA’s Administrator?”). The gag order prevented some of the world’s top auto safety experts from sharing crucial information with the public.

What’s Off the Record at N.H.T.S.A.? Almost Everything

(by Christopher Jensen, New York Times)

 

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Debate:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Truckers on US Roads
There is considerable debate on the implications of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and Mexican commercial truck drivers working in the US. A pilot program was initiated in 2007, monitored by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA), and there is a question regarding the benefits and costs of allowing Mexican truckers to drive past the commercial zone on the border and into the US.
 
Proponents of Allowing Mexican Truckers into the US
Supporters, such as the Cato Institute, argue that Mexican truck drivers have been unfairly denied access to US highways. Opponents have exploited safety fears to block implementation of this provision from NAFTA. The delay in meeting US commitments has cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year from higher transportation costs and tarnished the federal government’s reputation as an honest and reliable neighbor. The final obstacle in the road to implementing the trucking provision fully is the Democratic Congress, which has bowed to pressure from labor unions. Safety concerns raised by these critics are only a smokescreen to mask protectionist viewpoints, as Mexican trucks have not posed a discernible hazard on American roads in the past.
Attempt to Limit Mexican Trucking in U.S. Masks Union Agenda (by Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies)
 
Opponents of Allowing Mexican Truckers into the US
Organizations representing highway and truck safety groups, labor and independent truck drivers insist the plan to allow Mexican truckers on US roads is ignoring federal safety laws. Groups including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition filed suit to stop the implementation of the pilot program. They contend that the program violates federal law requiring, among other things, that the administration publish information about the inspections of Mexico-domiciled carriers that will operate beyond the narrow border zone and provide for public comment, that simultaneous and comparable authority be granted to US carriers to operate in Mexico, and that the pilot program involve a sufficient number of participants to yield statistically valid findings so that an informed judgment may be made regarding whether to allow Mexican trucks to operate freely within US borders. Supporters of the lawsuit contend that none of these conditions has been met.

Hoffa Blasts Bush Administration’s Indifference to NAFTA Harm

(International Brotherhood of Teamsters)

 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOT Proposes Overhaul in Policy
In August 2008, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters unveiled a reform plan for her department. The 72-page proposal, “Refocus. Reform. Renew. A New Transportation Approach In America,” offers numerous policy changes for DOT, including:
 
Modernize air traffic control: DOT proposes replacing the country’s 1940s era air traffic control system with a GPS system called NextGen, which could take 10 years to pull off. In the meantime, the department is pushing for market-based solutions such as flight caps and bumping airline fees for flying into crowded airports.
 
Funding Options: DOT wants to move away from relying on the gas tax as a source of revenue for highway projects and instead utilize “more direct pricing options” which may mean higher fares at tolls.
 
Speed up highway construction: It takes an average of 13 years to build a new highway, so DOT wants to speed things up by “streamlining the review process.” However, this could mean imposing short-cuts on environmental and planning issues.
 
Flexible Spending: Currently, DOT dictates to state and local governments how they can spend their federal transportation dollars. Under this new plan, the department would allow state, city and county officials more power to determine how best to distribute their money from Washington, DC, on highways or mass transit programs. 
 
Internal Reorganization: The proposal also calls for combining more than 100 transportation programs into eight and using technology and collaborative approach to speed things along in general.
 
Average Fuel Economy
Consumer average fuel economy (CAFE) was first enacted by Congress in 1975 to reduce energy consumption by increasing fuel economy standards of cars and light trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks sold in the US, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates average fuel economy for each manufacturer.
 
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2007, the new CAFE law will require auto manufacturers to boost their required average fuel economy by nearly 40%, to 35 mpg by 2020. How the new standards are met is left up to the manufacturers themselves, while NHTSA is charged with verification and enforcement.
 
The new CAFE includes the following changes, relative to its predecessor: Under the new regulations, companies whose fleets exceed fuel economy standards for any given year are awarded credits, which they can then sell to competitors who didn’t meet the year’s standard (under current regulations they are allowed credits, but not permitted to sell them); the new law also directs NTHSA to formulate fuel economy rules for medium and heavy-duty trucks, as well as SUVS.
 
Under new regulations, manufacturers will have the choice of complying with standards established under either the traditional system (Unreformed CAFE) or the Reformed CAFE system, during a transition period between Model Years (MYs) 2008-2010. In MY 2011, all manufacturers will be required to comply with the Reformed CAFE standard. Under Reformed CAFE, the agency is setting standards based on “vehicle footprint” (a measurement based on the wheelbase multiplied by the average track width in square feet).
 
Additionally, in MY 2011, the agency is requiring medium-duty passenger vehicles (MDPVs) to meet fuel economy standards for the first time.
 

Fact Sheet: CAFE Reform for Passenger Cars

(White House press release)

 

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Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Yoshio Mineta (January 25, 2001-July 7, 2006)
Rodney Earl Slater (February 14, 1997-January 20, 2001)
Federico Fabian Peña (January 21, 1993-February 14, 1997)
Andrew Hill Card, Jr. (February 24, 1992-January 20, 1993)
Samuel Knox Skinner (February 6, 1989-December 13, 1991)
James Horace Burnley IV (December 3, 1987-January 30, 1989)
Elizabeth Hanford Dole (February 7, 1983-September 30, 1987)
Andrew Lindsay "Drew" Lewis, Jr. (January 23, 1981-February 1, 1983)
Neil Edward Goldschmidt (August 15, 1979-January 20, 1981)
Brockman "Brock" Adams (January 23, 1977-July 20, 1979)
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. (March 7, 1975-January 20, 1977)
Claude Stout Brinegar (February 2, 1973-February 1, 1975)
John Anthony Volpe (January 22, 1969-February 2, 1973)
Alan Stephenson Boyd (January 16, 1967-January 20, 1969)
 

Biographical Sketches of the Secretaries of Transportation

 

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Founded: 1966
Annual Budget: $68 billion
Employees: 60,000
Official Website: http://www.dot.gov/

Department of Transportation (DOT)

Foxx, Anthony
Secretary

President Barack Obama is going with a Democrat this time at the Department of Transportation, whose Secretary, Republican Ray LaHood, announced in January that he would leave the job upon the confirmation of his successor. Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, who has been mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, since 2009.. 

 

Born April 30, 1971, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Foxx was raised by his mother, Laura Foxx, and his grandparents, James and Mary Foxx, who were public school teachers, and graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1989. Grandfather James Foxx was also a prominent Democratic Party activist whose endorsement was considered essential in local elections.

 

Anthony Foxx earned a B.A. in History at Davidson College in 1993, where he was the first African-American student body president, and a law degree at New York University School of Law in 1996.

 

During his Davidson years, Foxx spent two summers abroad: one in France studying the French language that his grandmother taught in school, and another in South Africa assisting legendary civil rights lawyer James Ferguson II—a family friend who in 1970 successfully argued before the Supreme Court for the desegregation of Charlotte's schools—train black lawyers in the fight against apartheid. Foxx later said his experience of witnessing the obstacles black South Africans faced in getting an education inspired him to work harder at school.

 

After law school, Foxx spent a month playing trumpet in New Orelans, where he and Wynton Marsalis became friends, practiced law for about a year at the Charlotte law firm of Smith, Helms, Mullis, and Moore, and served as a judicial clerk for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He spent the remainder of the 1990s serving as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as staff counsel on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, where he met his wife, fellow attorney Samara Ryder.

 

Returning to Charlotte in 2001, Foxx practiced commercial litigation at the large law firm of Hunton & Williams until 2009, when he joined DesignLine Corporation, a hybrid electric bus manufacturer, as its deputy general counsel. 

 

Foxx began his political career in 2004 as campaign manager for Rep. Mel Watt (D-North Carolina), who has represented North Carolina's 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Charlotte, since 1993, and whom President Obama nominated for a different federal post—head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency—just a few days after naming Foxx. Watt’s wife, Eulada Watt, and Foxx's mother are second cousins, so Foxx had known Watt all his life. The following year, Foxx won election to the Charlotte City Council as an at-large representative, serving a pair of two-year terms and chairing the Transportation Committee.

 

Winning election for mayor in 2009, Foxx focused on helping small businesses, improving government efficiency and public safety, and implementating a 10-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. During his first term as mayor, Foxx led a successful bid for Charlotte to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and then served as chair of the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee.

 

Foxx and his wife, Samara Foxx, have two children, Hillary and Zachary.

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography (pdf)

Man of the Past (by Jen Pilla Taylor, Charlotte Magazine)

Obama to Name Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as Transportation Chief (by Franco Ordoñez, Charlotte Observer)

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LaHood, Ray
Previous Secretary

In selecting former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood for Secretary of Transportation, Barack Obama fulfilled his promise to make his cabinet bipartisan. The centrist GOP lawmaker was not above the partisan fray, however, when it came to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment hearing, which LaHood presided over with enthusiasm. As a member of Congress, LaHood was not particularly involved in transportation issues, leading some observers to believe that his appointment either signaled that for Obama, transportion was not a high-priority issue, or that he wanted LaHood for his ability to liaison with Republican members of Congress.

 
LaHood is of Lebanese ancestry; his grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. Born on December 6, 1945, in Peoria, LaHood was raised by parents who ran a small working-class restaurant and bar. LaHood attended Canton Junior College (now Spoon River Community College) before transferring to Bradley University, where he earned a BS in education and sociology in 1971.
 
Following college, LaHood taught social studies at junior high school for six years, and worked as director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau from 1972-1974. He then switched jobs to director of the Bi-State Planning Commission, which dealt with housing and transportation matters, serving from 1974-1977.
 
LaHood’s political career began in 1977 when he joined the staff of Republican Congressman Tom Railsback. In 1982, he was appointed to a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. When he ran for the office in November of that year, he was defeated. He then joined the staff of Republican Congressman and House Minority Leader Robert Michel, becoming his chief of staff.
 
LaHood worked with Michel until the congressman’s retirement, opening the way for LaHood to seek the 18th Congressional District seat for himself. He was elected in 1994 as part of the “Republican Revolution” that swept into Washington, although LaHood was one of the few GOP members who did not sign the Contract with America. According to Roll Call, he was caught having gone back on Michel’s leadership payroll as top aide after the 1994 election, while he was a congressman-elect and going through the freshman orientation program; he and Michel claimed LaHood was “helping his retiring boss sort through his life’s work for posterity.”

Once part of House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s inner circle, LaHood developed a reputation as a centrist Republican able to work with Democrats. The American Conservative Union gave LaHood only a 52 out of 100 score based on his 2007 voting record, while the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave him the even lower score of 25. LaHood garnered considerable attention, and some scorn, from Democrats when he presided over the impeachment hearing of President Bill Clinton in 1998, calling the duty “a high honor and a privilege.”
 
As a veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, LaHood embraced federal spending as a way to spur economic growth, and he was closely involved in efforts to improve the Illinois transportation network by securing federal money for major highway construction and airport expansion. LaHood also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during his early years in the House. He has been a big promoter of ethanol as part of his interest in agriculture issues.
 
Prior to the 2008 election, LaHood announced his retirement from Congress. During his years in the Illinois delegation, he developed a close relationship with Rahm Emanuel, who also represented Illinois in the House, but as a Democrat, before becoming Obama’s chief of staff.
 
LaHood’s wife, Kathy, worked for five years (2000-2005) as a business manager for the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington, DC, and then took over as business manager for Goodwill Industries in Peoria. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.
 
Ray LaHood Profile (SourceWatch)
The New Team (New York Times)
Looking Under LaHood (by Adam Doster, Progress Illinois)
Ray LaHood yields back (by Jim Mills, The Hill)
Washington Will Miss Ray LaHood (by Mark Shields, Creators.com)
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