National Transportation Safety Board Nominees on Senate Radar
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Adapting to modern infrastructure technologies and applications will be central to the National Transportation Safety Board’s mission in the coming years, a nominee to sit on the independent agency recently told senators.
At a Commerce Committee hearing Nov. 7, J. Todd Inman, nominated to serve on the board through 2027, insisted NTSB’s investigative efforts need to continue to accommodate systems linked to automation and various wireless capabilities. An evolving transportation landscape meant to improve connectivity also must prioritize safety.
“Automation is on the rise in various modes of transportation. As this trend continues, the NTSB will need to deepen its understanding of the role of automation while still examining the human factors that contribute to transportation accidents and safety,” Inman said.
The nominee also emphasized the importance of ensuring an equipped workforce at the independent board. As he put it, “The NTSB workforce has always been known and relied upon throughout the world as experts in their field. Making sure that NTSB employees have the resources necessary to stay ahead of technological advances, and recruiting a workforce that can deal with the growing complexity of the NTSB’s mission are critical to its success.”
A former senior official at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Inman was secretary of Florida’s Department of Management Services. “As secretary, I oversaw 1,000 full-time employees and a $1 billion budget,” Inman said. “Beyond being responsible for the safety of Florida state workers in over 12 million square feet of office space, I signed and began implementation of the most comprehensive update ever procured to the state law enforcement radio system — this is the system that first responders rely upon to do their important safety work. I also led two of the national response framework divisions for emergency services which handled communications and logistics.
“Transportation disasters are [devastating] for victims and families, and they can raise public concern about the safety of our transportation system. My career has given me decades of experience in investigating crashes and disasters along with responding to transportation incidents and supporting victims and families as they recover.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth said it is the wrong time to test the limits of airport capacities, with several recent runway incursions and near-misses. (Senate Commerce Committee)
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation Subcommittee, called on senior transportation nominees to maintain a focus on safety efforts. Also at the hearing was Samuel Slater, nominated to be a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“Amid an alarming spike in dangerous runway incursions and near-misses, it is the wrong time to test the limits at a busy international airport that is already operating at capacity,” Duckworth said, adding, “Whether it’s upholding the perimeter rule, improving aviation accessibility or strengthening school bus safety, I look forward to working with today’s nominees to do everything we can to keep all Americans safe — no matter their age or ability.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the committee’s ranking member, touted Inman’s qualifications. The panel is expected to consider his nomination before the end of the year.
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Another NTSB nominee awaiting a vote in the Senate is Alvin Brown. More than four months after the Commerce Committee approved him for a seat on the independent agency, Senate Democratic leaders have yet to schedule a floor vote on his nomination. The committee reported Brown’s nomination in July. If confirmed, Brown, formerly the mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., would be on the NTSB through 2026.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Commerce Committee chairwoman, has endorsed Brown. “The NTSB board needs hardworking 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,” she said.
“Brown achieved numerous successes in Jacksonville with bold and collaborative approaches to many modern challenges,” according to background from the White House.
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