The Secretary Resigns; his Successor will have a Major Impact on Aviation

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ARTICLE: Ray LaHood leaving Obama administration

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After having stated that he intended to remain in his Cabinet position, the Secretary sent an email to all of the DoT employees announcing that he now will be resigning. While Mr. LaHood has been subject to some criticism during his tenure, he has worked diligently at his job and the hours/efforts needed to meet that standard are heavy. Thank you for your effort and concern about aviation.

The Washington Post article mentions several candidates to become the next Secretary–Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman. Because of the statutory term of the FAA Administrator (5 years), Mr. Huerta will serve for 5 years commencing January 1, 2013.

Whoever is vetting the choice of the next Secretary should include in the checklist the following question: “can you work effectively with Administrator Huerta?” Aviation has suffered with interminable delays in reauthorizing the FAA, with a multi-year limbo (still unresolved) over the funding of NextGen and almost a year of an Acting Administrator. Bringing in a new Secretary, who may have problems with Mr. Huerta, would be most unfortunate.

To state it positively, there have been several affirmative relationships between the leaders of the DoT and the FAA. Good communications between these two executives result in better coordination of policy. Mutual respect is the basis for an effective FAA operation; for such a beneficial bridge allows the Administrator’s staff to do their jobs knowing that they will not be called by some Special Assistant Secretary for a long debate over some technical decision within the FAA’s purview. Most importantly, a Secretary and an Administrator, who are on the same page, translates to aviation agenda which is well understood at OMB, within the Cabinet and on Capitol Hill.

The implementation of NextGen with an accepted funding and governance platform is critical to aviation’s safety and economic success for the decades to come. The selection of a Secretary who understands that, and who can work effectively with Administrator Huerta, is a VERY important decision for aviation.

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