John D. Rockefeller, IVSenator
I would like to welcome everyone here today, and express my regret for not being in attendance. I wish to congratulate all of the nominees standing before the Committee today. It is a true honor to be selected by the President for these incredibly important positions.
If confirmed, you will lead our country’s investment in communications networks, the advancement of science and technology policy, the promotion of transportation mobility, and the modernization of our air system.
The bar is high, the challenges great, and the expectations abundant.
Mr. Strickling, the position for which you have been nominated is not new, but it is newly significant. Communications technology holds great promise for our nation and our children. From managing the home stretch of the digital television transition, to distributing the $4.7 billion set aside for stimulating broadband deployment in the recovery package, to navigating issues of Internet governance, NTIA will have substantial powers – and substantial responsibilities.
Mr. Chopra, you have been nominated to serve as an Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Obama has also appointed you Chief Technology Officer – a new position that he promised to create. In this dual role, you will immediately face both challenges and opportunities. From nanotechnology to health IT, I am confident that your vast experience and technical knowledge will allow you to coordinate key players to develop a comprehensive response to the needs of our increasingly technology driven nation.
Mr. Porcari, if confirmed, you will be charged with balancing the needs of all of the Department of Transportation’s agencies and making sure that our transportation system is safe, efficient, and sustainable. You will also face the task of efficiently implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the high-speed rail grants programs. If enacted, the Federal Surface Transportation Policy and Planning Act of 2009, which I introduced last week, will place significant responsibility on the Secretary of Transportation to establish a national surface transportation policy that works for our 21st century needs.
Mr. Babbitt, the Administrator of the FAA is a challenging job and strong leadership in this role is long overdue. From the modernization of the air traffic control system to safety concerns raised by the recent crash of Flight 3704, there are many challenges awaiting your attention. But judging from your background, it is my sincere hope that you are up to the task.
Ms. Blank, your position as Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the Department of Commerce places you squarely in the crosshairs of one of this Administration's most important tasks. Conducting the 2010 Census is one of the largest undertakings the federal government executes whether in peacetime or in war. Your outstanding credentials and experience give me great comfort that the Census is in excellent hands.
I look forward to hearing everyone’s testimony and I will work with my colleagues to facilitate a quick confirmation process – there is much important work to do – let’s get started.
Thank you again.
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON,
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
MAY 19, 2009
Thank you, Senator, for filling in today. We wish Chairman Rockefeller a speedy recovery and look forward to his return soon. We have several important nominations to consider today, and I thank the nominees for accepting these positions and the challenges that come with them.
Addressing NTIA first, I want to emphasize that the DTV transition must remain the highest priority for NTIA. I am encouraged that since February we have been able to cut the number of unprepared households in half, but there remain concerns, particularly in Texas where we have many vulnerable communities. Recently, the FCC and NTIA have ramped up their efforts to target assistance to the Spanish-speaking population. I want to ask Mr. Strickling about his plans to continue focusing NTIA’s resources, through the transition, on Spanish-speaking communities, including print and video advertising, walk-in centers, and Spanish-speaking call center agents.
I also would like Mr. Strickling to address how NTIA intends to focus the broadband grant program on unserved communities. This program must be, from the outset, a model for efficiency and effective oversight. NTIA was provided $4.7 billion for the broadband grant program with a short timeframe with which to spend the money. I want to know how NTIA will aggressively enforce its program to ensure against waste, fraud, and abuse. Mr. Strickling has a commendable background in government, particularly at the FCC during the development of the Universal Service Fund’s various programs. The Universal Service Fund, however, has a questionable track record of management and oversight. I would like the nominee to address what lessons he takes from his experiences at the FCC that will ensure the broadband grant program is run efficiently and taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and carefully.
Another significant program that is pending before the Department of Commerce is the 2010 Census. It is important that the process remain transparent and that we receive an accurate count. Since the Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs is involved in that process, I look forward to hearing Ms. Blank’s views on how the 2010 Census should be handled.
Today’s hearing is also a unique one because we have a nominee to be Associate Director of Technology within the Office of Science and Technology Policy, who will also have additional responsibilities as the Chief Technology Officer, a new position created by this Administration. I look forward to learning about Mr. Chopra’s vision for these positions.
Moving to our transportation nominees, I welcome the opportunity to move forward on Mr. Babbitt’s nomination. It is extremely important we get a strong and stable leadership team in place at the FAA. In the wake of recent accidents and the questions raised by those tragic incidents regarding pilot training and competence, along with labor strife and Congressional debate on FAA Reauthorization, it is imperative that we have a qualified and able Administrator in place.
As I emphasized in our private meeting earlier this month, I am increasingly concerned with FAA’s air traffic control modernization efforts and the fiscal implications of a potentially re-negotiated air traffic controller contract. We will need your help, Mr. Babbitt, to pass an FAA Reauthorization bill this year. There are several poison pills looming, especially in the current version of the House bill that could lead to a deadlock. We will need some assistance and practical decision making at the FAA in order to get a bill through this year.
I would also like to welcome Mr. Porcari, who is nominated to be Deputy Secretary at the Department of Transportation. If confirmed, Mr. Porcari will serve as Chief Operating Officer at DOT and oversee the day-to-day operations of the Department. This is an important position, as DOT is currently facing many important legislative and policy challenges.
Again, I thank the nominees for their willingness to serve in these important roles and look forward to having a constructive dialogue.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Lawrence E. StricklingAssistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and InformationNational Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce
Aneesh ChopraChief Technology Officer- DesignateOffice of Science and Technology Policy at the Executive Office of the President
John D. PorcariDeputy Secretary- DesignateU.S. Department of Transportation
J. Randolph BabbittAdministrator- DesignateFederal Aviation Administration
Rebecca M. BlankUnder Secretary for Economic Affairs- DesignateU.S. Department of Commerce