NTSB Nominee Alvin Brown Awaits Senate Vote
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The chamber’s Democratic leadership has yet to schedule a floor vote on his nomination. The former mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., tapped to join the board through 2026, was approved by the Commerce Committee in July.
Responding to questions from senators specific to field hearings, Brown cited the board’s ongoing investigation into a train derailment this year in East Palestine, Ohio. “When appropriate the NTSB should conduct more field hearings and possibly look for other opportunities to engage impacted communities during the investigative process when field hearings are not feasible. The field hearing in East Palestine shows that it is important to be transparent and engage with communities,” he told senators.
Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) endorsed the nominee: “The NTSB board needs hard-working and dedicated individuals who put safety as their top priority and I believe that Mayor Brown will do so on behalf of the American people.”
According to background from the White House, during Brown’s mayorship, “Jacksonville became one of America’s leading cities for innovation and improving quality of life. Brown achieved numerous successes in Jacksonville with bold and collaborative approaches to many modern challenges.”
Meanwhile, on Sept. 7 President Joe Biden nominated Michael Whitaker to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency’s deputy from 2013 to 2016, Whitaker is the chief operating officer of Supernal, a Hyundai Motor Group company, per background the White House provided.
If he gains Senate confirmation, he would succeed acting administrator Polly Trottenberg. Cantwell welcomed Whitaker’s nomination. “The United States must be the global standard in aviation safety. From building a well-trained workforce to addressing critical safety concerns to modernizing the national airspace system, there is no shortage of issues before the FAA,” she said shortly after the president’s announcement. “Mr. Whitaker will use his substantial aviation experience and knowledge to meet these challenges. I look forward to working with him and his strong leadership at the agency.”
Recently, various high-profile administration nominees have encountered significant pushback from several Senate Republicans. Committee ranking member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who will help oversee Whitaker’s confirmation process, observed, “The Biden administration has repeatedly nominated to key positions unqualified and radical activists who were then sensibly rejected by both Democrat and Republican senators. In June, I urged President Biden to put the flying public first and immediately name a ‘serious and well-qualified person with substantial aviation experience’ to serve as FAA administrator.
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“After several near-misses,” Cruz continued, “chronic air traffic controller staffing shortages, and ongoing problems with implementing new technology at the FAA, we must carefully evaluate Mike Whitaker’s qualifications, experience and temperament to determine whether he is the right person to lead the agency at this critical juncture.”
Per background from the White House, Whitaker earned a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center, and he is on the board of the Flight Safety Foundation. The group is a nonprofit advocating for aviation safety.
Earlier this year, Phillip Washington, the president’s pick to lead the FAA, withdrew his nomination. Cruz led an opposition campaign focused on Washington’s experience. Washington is the Denver International Airport CEO. Following Washington’s withdrawal, the Biden administration updated FAA’s leadership team with Trottenberg selected to perform the duties of acting administrator. The department’s deputy secretary succeeded former acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen, who accepted a private sector post.
Relatedly, Biden’s nominee to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also withdrew from Senate consideration. Ann Carlson, who was nominated to lead the agency, is currently its acting head. Her nomination’s withdrawal leaves NHTSA without a Senate-confirmed administrator.
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