The Committee will hear statements from the following nominees: Gwendolyn Brown to be Chief Financial Officer for NASA, Karan Bhatia to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation, and Charles Snelling to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Senator McCain will preside.
Mrs. Gwendolyn Brown
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, it is a pleasure to be here this afternoon. I am extremely honored to be the President’s nominee as Chief Financial Officer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in NASA’s 45th year of pioneering the future. If confirmed, I would enter the job fully committed and dedicated to continue managing NASA’s financial management operations with unfaltering diligence and integrity. It is a distinct honor for me to be introduced to the Committee today by the President Pro Temp of the Senate, Senator Ted Stevens. Early in my career, he taught me the life-long lessons about the value of public service. Now, as I intend to contribute to the Agency’s advancement of exploration and discovery of humanity’s newest frontier, I am honored that he is here today. I am very pleased that my father, Bill Sykes, and mother, Sandra Sykes, are sharing this special experience with me today. I owe a lot to my father, including the fact that his service in the United States Air Force brought our family to Alaska. My father taught me the value of public service and has been my constant and faithful guide throughout my federal career. From my mother, I learned the value of caring for others and what it means to be a public servant. As a nurse midwife she traveled on bush planes throughout rural Alaska to bring new lives into the world, in places where medical care was not readily available. She completed her career this year by serving as a Prison Nurse, a job in which her expressions of respect and care may have helped more than a few individuals get back on the right path in life. I have also been honored throughout my career to serve with many distinguished people. Here today is one of my mentors, Alvin Tucker, the former Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Defense. He took a young lady from Alaska, showed her the ropes, and taught me how Government financial managers provide judicious management of scarce taxpayer resources. I would like to acknowledge the presence of Calvin Springfield, a good friend and sage counsel to me over many years. Also, I have had the benefit of working with many professional individuals who have been instrumental in my career in leading and guiding me – Lt. Colonel Paul and Gwen Patton, Gerald Parker, Ermerdene Lee, Marlana Hunter, Daphne Jefferson, and Carolyn Carmack, all of whom have played a part in formulating my goals and vision to effectively manage in these challenging days ahead for NASA. As I hope I have conveyed, these treasured friends and family members exemplify qualities I plan to emulate in the position of Chief Financial Officer. Accordingly, I would like the Committee to know that I recognize the importance of maintaining NASA’s financial integrity as we safely return to flight, continue our Nation’s exploration and discovery horizons, and produce tangible technological and economic benefits for the American public. Effective financial management is critical as we address both our challenges and opportunities in the months and years ahead. My 17 years of public service and financial management experience, have prepared me well, I believe, for the challenges I will face. Further, I am honored that during Administrator Sean O’Keefe’s tenure, he has shown confidence in my abilities which has been reflected by the important assignments he has bestowed upon me. After joining the Agency as the Deputy Chief Financial Manager, Mr. O’Keefe ask me to take on the challenge of leading the organization through its fiscal year 2002 audit. We recently achieved a clean opinion from the Government’s independent auditor. This improvement from the Agency’s disclaimer of opinion for its fiscal year 2001 financial statements was a first step in improving NASA’s financial credibility. In addition to achieving a clean opinion, the implementation of the new NASA Core Financial Management Systems throughout NASA was our next accomplishment. This entailed the consolidation and retirement of ten-legacy accounting systems at each of the respective ten centers into one accounting system. I am pleased to report that as of July 2003, we have fully implemented the Core Financial management module of NASA’s new Integrated Financial Management Program. I am confident that this program will enhance NASA’s ability to use internal financial information to provide the Congress and the American public with greater transparency, accountability and performance of NASA’s use of scarce public resources. These are just a few innovations that I am proud to have contributed to in helping to strengthen NASA’s financial management. I believe we have taken the first step in a long process to restore credibility in financial management at NASA. I am committed to Administrator O’Keefe’s goals and we plan to achieve them. I look forward to the prospect of working with the Committee to continue the enhancement of effective financial management of our Nation’s aeronautics and space activities and I am prepared to accept this challenge. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today. I would be pleased to respond to any questions the Committee may have. Thank you.
Mr. Charles D. Snelling
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee: I am Charles Snelling, the President’s nominee to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors. I would succeed the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, who resigned from the Board in 2000 when he was appointed Secretary of Commerce. As the documents submitted to the Committee indicate, I have long been involved in aviation. At present, I have been serving as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Aviation Advisory Commission and I am a licensed pilot. For five years, I served on the Board of Governors of the Lehigh Valley International Airport. As to my own career, after having held a salaried job for about a year in 1954-1955, I founded a high-tech business. In the seventies that business was sold. Since then I have been an inventor, entrepreneur, real estate developer and venture capitalist. I have always lived in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area, and my business activities have been based there. I also own some island properties in the St. Lawrence near Alexandria Bay, New York, and have some business interests in that area as well. I have been a cofounder of a family of venture capital partnerships, which have invested in start-up and early-stage ventures, many of which have been high-tech. Over the years I have served on the boards of a number of educational and other public interest institutions, including the Lehigh Valley Hospital, the Allentown Art Museum, Cedar Crest College, the YMCA, the Lehigh County United Way and the Pennsylvania Society, to mention a few. As my papers attest, I have long been involved in politics and public policy as well. I have held elected office as President of the Allentown City Council. I have been quite active politically as a volunteer on behalf of various candidates, political organizations and committees. I have served as Chairman of the Republican Finance Committee of Pennsylvania and the Lehigh County Republican Finance Committee. I am an elected member of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. As you know, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has a Board of Directors consisting of 13 Members. The Governor of Virginia appoints five, the Mayor of the District of Columbia appoints three, and the Governor of Maryland appoints two. The President also appoints three, to represent the national interest. I consider myself well qualified to provide that perspective. In accordance with long-standing practice, I have attended several meetings of the Board of Directors since the President announced my nomination. I am thus reasonably familiar with the issues facing the Airports Authority today, and am willing to discuss them with you; to the extent I am able. Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International Airports, of course, serve the Nation’s Capital, and as such are very high profile. Most Senators are regular users of these Airports, and most are aware that they have been very well managed. It will require care and attention to assure that this record is maintained. The Board is a very able and distinguished one, and, with your consent, I look forward to serving on it. These are difficult times for our Nation’s air transportation system, including our airports. It is a time of rapid change. There are many challenges to be met and successfully overcome. I would be very pleased to be able to make a contribution to the solution of these challenges. Mr. Chairman, thank you for considering my nomination to the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. I will be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Karan Bhatia
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Hollings, and Members of the Committee. It is a tremendous honor to have been nominated by President Bush and to appear before you today. If confirmed, I look forward to joining Secretary Mineta and the superb team he has assembled at the Department of Transportation, and to working closely with you and your staffs. With your indulgence, I would like to recognize and express my appreciation to my family – my wife, Sara, and my sons, Alexander and Teddy. I would also like to recognize my parents, Samir and Janice Bhatia. Thirty-eight years ago, my parents immigrated to the United States. They arrived in New York with hopes and dreams much like those of many previous generations of immigrants to this country. Unlike earlier generations, however, my parents arrived not by boat, but by aircraft – as have tens of thousands of immigrants after them. Thus began a special connection between me and my family and commercial aviation. As I was growing up, we would regularly visit relatives overseas. There was no greater thrill than going to the airport, collecting airline schedules or trying to identify the liveries of carriers from all over the world. For me, air transportation meant bringing people together and exposing them to new places, new ideas, and new experiences. It still carries that meaning for me today. As an undergraduate and graduate student in International Relations, I became deeply interested in the web of economic ties that bind countries together, and became particularly interested in transportation. After graduating from law school and clerking for a year, I joined a Washington D.C. law firm, where for seven years my practice consisted of international regulatory and transactional matters, with a particular focus on aviation. This experience has, I believe, given me a solid foundation upon which to approach the issues that confront the Office of Aviation and International Affairs. It exposed me to aviation laws, regulations, and policies, and to many of the institutions that shape and affect them. It also made me keenly aware of how the Department of Transportation’s activities affect the lives and livelihoods of many businesses and individuals. Two years ago, I left the private practice of law and entered government to serve in the Department of Commerce – first as Chief Counsel of the Bureau of Export Administration, and then as Deputy Under Secretary for Industry and Security. I believe that this experience has also helped prepare me for the position to which I have been nominated. It not only offered me the opportunity to gain experience managing an executive branch agency, but also directly exposed me to issues that arise where trade and business intersect with security. I come away from that experience more convinced than ever that safety and security are not pursued at the expense of business, but rather, that the two are mutually dependent – a healthy industry is dependent upon security, and security in turn requires a healthy industry. Seeking to ensure a secure and safe aviation system and to promote a healthy aviation industry are, of course, two of the fundamental issues that confront the Department. They are joined by many others – including ensuring the accessibility of air transportation, increasing the opportunities available to American carriers and communities for greater international services, developing the country’s aviation infrastructure, preserving competition while avoiding needless regulation, allocating scarce aviation-related resources in a way that is fair, efficient, and in the best interests of consumers, and seeking to ensure that air transportation functions as an engine of economic and jobs growth. These issues are not easy – they befit an industry that is in one of the most challenging and dynamic periods of its existence. Nonetheless, I look forward with enthusiasm to tackling them. And I commit to you that, if confirmed, I will approach these and all other issues that come before me with an open mind, that I will seek to consider fairly and completely the interests of all affected stakeholders, and that – as charged by statute, President Bush, and Secretary Mineta personally – I will always seek to do what is in the best interest of the American public. Again, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and look forward to answering any questions that you may have.