Asst. Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, Environment & Energy
The FAA is only as good as the professionals who work there. Aviation is fortunate to have the benefit of a large cadre of excellent career employees. As part of the Executive Branch, this safety organization includes political appointees who are vital to the definition of important safety policy.
A recent press release announced the appointment of Jennifer Solomon as the Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, Environment, and Energy. In that high level position, she leads “FAA’s efforts to foster the safety and capacity of the global aerospace system in an environmentally sound manner.”
That’s an increasingly difficult challenge given the increasingly diminished financial and human resources. The importance of the FAA’s international diplomacy mission has increased as other governmental bodies have established planting their flag in the offices of multiple CAAs. Incongruously, the Administration, including the DoT Secretary, recognizes the need to extend US standards overseas. The Assistant Administrator tactically has to manage Global Leadership Initiative, a difficult balancing exercise under Congress’ repeated minimal appropriation of the funds for the global mission’s competition and comprehensive needs.
With her experience on the Hill (Professional Staff Member on the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety & Security and Commerce Committee staff for Chairman Jay Rockefeller, then Ranking Member Bill Nelson), she is well suited in dealing with the reauthorization legislation. While a “Reauthorization” Act has been passed, Congress will debate some some of the proposals which were not included in the 2016 Act over the next couple of months; so Ms. Solomon should be busy between now and the 2017 Inauguration.
In that 2016 is a Presidential election year there will likely be a changeover in all of these positions. The federal ethical restrictions mandate significant sacrifice by anyone who accepts any of the executive positions within the FAA (Administrator, Deputy Administrator, Chief Counsel, Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, Environment, and Energy, Associate Administrator for Government and Industry Affairs, Assistant Administrator for Communications, Associate Administrator for Airports and a number of other positions). Their future employment opportunities are limited.
Anyone currently in an aviation industry position might want to consider whether (s)he would follow the message of President Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Speech, when he said:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country.”
If your commitment to aviation and your loyalty to your government are strong enough to seek a position within the FAA, you might want to follow a well-tested career strategy to be in a position to help formulate aviation safety standards for 2017 and beyond.
Thank you, Ms. Solomon for your service. For others in our profession, please assess what you could/should do for your country and for the future of aviation.