Chairman Rockefeller Remarks at Today's Nominations Hearing

March 10, 2011

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Today we will consider four nominations. While normally we would start with the nominees who report to the president, I’ve decided to run today’s hearing a bit differently.

Today, I’d like to begin with the nomination of Ms. Begeman to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board. As you all know, Ms. Begeman is the Committee’s minority staff director. She is virtually an institution on this Committee – and in the Senate. She’s also a consummate professional, ever ready to come together to find solutions to complex issues, and an expert on surface transportation issues. 

I know Ms. Begeman will be able to dive right into the complicated issues that come before the Surface Transportation Board—issues that are so important to captive shippers and the entire rail industry. And while I’m sad to lose her intellect, expertise, and sheer dedication to this Committee, I am pleased that she is headed to a new position where we can still benefit from her tremendous talent. She is simply a terrific choice for this position—and I look forward to continuing to work with her on the issues before this Committee.

Our next nominee, Mr. Philip Coyle, has been here before. He is an expert on national security policy, military research and development and military space systems. The fact that this Committee is again considering Mr. Coyle’s nomination to be the Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy is a testament to the need for such an expert in this post. As you all know, we reported Mr. Coyle in the last Congress, but when there wasn’t floor time for a vote on his confirmation and his nomination couldn’t move by unanimous consent, President Obama recess-appointed him.

For the past eight months, Mr. Coyle has served as an adviser to the Administration on issues of critical national security importance, such as cybersecurity, emergency communications, and international science diplomacy. Welcome, Mr. Coyle. I look forward to hearing more about your work.

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan has been nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Observation and Prediction. This is a new position created by Administrator Lubchenco. If confirmed, Dr. Sullivan would be responsible for driving policy and program initiatives for weather and water, integrated mapping and observation systems.

Dr. Sullivan is a pro when it comes to presidential appointments: her current nomination marks the fifth time she has been called to public service—by five different administrations. She is a woman of “firsts”. She was the first American woman to walk in space. She was one of the first six women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978. From 1992-1996, she served as the Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Her leadership skills and extensive scientific knowledge will help provide needed direction to NOAA’s programs. Dr. Sullivan, thank you for your continued service to this nation.

Our final nominee, Dr. Frances Gulland, has demonstrated a strong commitment to marine mammal conservation. She spent many years providing veterinary care and rehabilitation to stranded marine mammals, and is no stranger to the good work of the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC).

For the last decade, Dr. Gulland has served on the MMC’s Committee of Scientific Advisors. She’s pushed to make sure science serves as the guide – and basis for – its policies. She is just the kind of person we need to bridge the gap between research and the hard realities of management, and would be a welcome addition to the Marine Mammal Commission. Dr. Gulland, congratulations on your nomination. I’m interested in hearing your ideas on how we can best continue to conserve and protect our marine mammals.