Bipartisan NTSB Reauthorization Aims to Modernize and Enhance Transparency

The National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act authorizes the investigative agency through 2023

December 7, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve respectively as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and three other committee members last night introduced S. 2202, the National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act. The legislation reauthorizes the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) at an average level of $113.4 million through fiscal year 2023 and offers several key reforms to modernize and improve transparency in the safety agency’s investigations, recommendations, and board member discussions.

“After tragic accidents, we ask NTSB to get facts and tell us what went wrong,” said Thune. “This legislation expands the agency’s ability to explain causes and improves the NTSB’s recommendation process so that we can more effectively address our most pressing safety challenges.”

"The National Transportation Safety Board is the driver of safety improvements for our transportation system - whether it’s investigating accidents or making recommendations to improve our safety laws,” said Nelson. “This bill will expand the board's tools and give them the resources they need to make sure that major transportation accidents are thoroughly investigated."

Highlights of the reforms included in the reauthorization:

Investigations – Adds still images to items the NTSB may disclose during the course of an investigation in order to increase transparency to the public about the circumstances of accidents. The bill also improves information sharing by closing loopholes that allowed for the release of confidential information by other federal agencies obtained during the course of NTSB investigations.

Safety recommendation transparency – Enhances information available to the public by requiring the NTSB to publish a report on the process they use to prioritize and select safety recommendations included in the agency’s “Most Wanted List.” The bill also requires the NTSB to better document its data collection and evaluation process underlying safety recommendations.

Board member discussions – Promotes collaboration and communication between NTSB members by allowing a majority of members to meet privately and discuss official business with robust disclosure requirements.

The NTSB is an independent Federal agency, last reauthorized in 2006, that by law investigates every civil aviation accident in the United States and certain significant accidents in other modes of transportation – railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. The Senate Commerce committee exercises legislative jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the agency.

Click here for a copy of S. 2202. In addition to Thune and Nelson, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Marchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security.