Sen. Cruz: The NTSB Is a Critical Agency That Does Vital Work

March 6, 2024

Cruz raises importance of congressional oversight in addition to NTSB authorities at hearing on investigations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled “National Transportation Safety Board Investigations Report,” Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanked Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy for her leadership of the NTSB, highlighted the importance of the NTSB’s work for the prevention of transportation incidents, and discussed how to ensure companies do not evade congressional oversight when they are also facing an NTSB incident investigation.

Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairwoman Cantwell. We are here today to have a comprehensive discussion about the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy for being here today, and for her leadership at the NTSB. I certainly recognize, and I’m sure my colleagues here would agree, the magnitude of the task of investigating complex and tragic incidents thoroughly and impartially. And NTSB’s arduous task is only made more difficult by the lack of a full board — a situation I hope the Senate soon rectifies. Naturally, we all want answers from an investigation as soon as possible, but proper analysis takes time. I am grateful for your work and for the work of all the members and staff at the NTSB.

“The NTSB serves the important function of identifying the causes of transportation incidents and making recommendations to prevent similar, future ones. Both private and public sector transportation operators learn from NTSB’s investigations and recommendations. The NTSB does not have regulatory authority over transportation safety. Whether the NTSB’s recommendations are considered by Congress, placed in regulations, or voluntarily adopted by companies depends on the credibility of the Board to conduct thorough investigations without prejudice to a conclusion. Maintaining that credibility is essential.

“I look forward to hearing from Chairwoman Homendy about the investigations before the NTSB. Americans are rightly concerned about the depressurization event on Alaska Airlines flight 1282; runway incursions such as the one that occurred in Austin, Texas; and the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio last year. I recognize that the chairwoman may not and should not guess what the Board’s recommendations will be or discuss non-public information from these investigations. However, I hope to hear about the status of those investigations and any preliminary information that is appropriate to share at this time.

“Relatedly, I plan to ask Chairwoman Homendy about a recurring problem with congressional oversight of transportation incidents that are concurrently under investigation by NTSB. In some cases, companies that are party to NTSB investigations have cited NTSB’s confidentiality agreement and regulations as restricting what those companies can provide to Members of Congress, and when. That is, of course, incorrect—administrative regulations and nondisclosure agreements do not trump Congress’s constitutional power of inquiry. I look forward to hearing Chairwoman Homendy’s opinion on this matter, as a former congressional staffer herself.

“This committee also needs to hear about the NTSB’s authorizing statute, as well as the reauthorization proposal the NTSB submitted to Congress. Members of this committee must have the opportunity to comprehensively examine the NTSB as an agency and contemplate any changes to the NTSB’s authorizing statute.

“Let me be clear: The NTSB is a critical agency that does vital work. I support that work, and I am happy to engage in a thorough discussion about its authorities in addition to the funding it needs. Without that discussion, I think the Senate is abdicating its role at a time when the importance of the NTSB could not be clearer. Fortunately, today’s hearing is an opportunity to begin such a discussion.

“Thank you, Chairwoman.”