Press Releases

Committee Approves Six Bills and Three Nominations

August 4, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved six bills and three nominations, which are now all subject to approval by the full Senate.

The Minority Business Development Act of 2021, which Chair Cantwell recently touted at an event in Washington state, was one of the bills that advanced out of committee today.

“First, I want to discuss the Minority Business Development Act of 2021,” Chair Cantwell said. “That was introduced by Senators Cardin, Scott, Wicker, Baldwin, and Cornyn. This bill would make the Minority Business Development Agency permanent in statute and would create a presidential-appointed, Senate-confirmed Undersecretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development. This bill would authorize the Minority Business Development Agency's current Business Center Program, create new rural Minority Business Centers… and most importantly, it would authorize $110 million per year for five years to the Minority Business Development Agency organization to carry out this mission. I want to thank Senator Wicker for his work on this.”

Below is the full list of the legislation and nominees advanced out of committee today:

  1. S. 451, Composites Standards Act of 2021


  1. S. 2299, CADETS Act;


  1. S. 1790, Secure Equipment Act of 2021
    1. Markey substitute


  1. S. 1880, Protecting Indian Tribes from Scams Act
    1. Lujan substitute


  1. S. 2068, Minority Business Development Act of 2021
    1. Wicker substitute
    2. Lujan_1 (modified)
    3. Scott_2 (modified)
    4. Scott_3 (modified)
    5. Lee_5 (modified)
    6. Lee_8 (modified)


  1. S.2424, Restoring Brand USA Act
    1. Scott_1 (modified)
    2. Scott_2
    3. Lee_1
    4. Lee_2 (modified)


  1. Nomination of Hon. Jennifer L. Homendy, of Virginia, to be Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (PN573)


  1. Nomination of Ms. Karen J. Hedlund, of Colorado, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board (PN535)


  1. Nomination of Ms. Carol A. Petsonk, of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation (PN438)




Chair Cantwell Demands Swift Action on Residential Elevator Hazards at Confirmation Hearing for Consumer Product Safety Commission Nominees

Cantwell Slams CPSC Inaction on “Glaring Safety Problem” -- Known to Manufacturers and Commission -- “For Years”

July 28, 2021

Questioning comes in wake of recent tragic death of a seven-year-old in North Carolina vacation rental


WASHINGTON, D.C.—  During today’s hearing to consider the nominations of commissioners to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called on the nominees to take long-needed action to fix the safety hazards of residential elevators.  In 2019, Sen. Cantwell issued a report highlighting the CPSC’s inaction following the deaths and serious injuries suffered by children in residential elevators.


“This is a deadly safety problem that both manufacturers and the CPSC have been aware of for years,” Sen. Cantwell said.  “What’s worse, there is a common-sense fix that has not been implemented.”  




Two weeks ago, after news reported the tragedy of a child who was killed when trapped in the gap between the doors of a residential elevator in his family’s North Carolina vacation home rental, Sen. Cantwell immediately wrote to CPSC Acting Director Adler calling for immediate action to address the ongoing safety issue. In response, the CPSC wrote vacation rental companies, urging them to implement safety measures “in the hopes that you will join us in ensuring that children are safe in rentals on your platform.”


“This is not an adequate response to this glaring safety problem,” Sen. Cantwell said, referring to the CPSC letter to rental agencies. “We need…to take immediate action on this. So I'd like to ask each of the nominees here. Will you make this a priority? And what steps do you think we need to do to present to correct this known hazard?”


Below is the transcript of that exchange: 

Mr. Hoehn-Saric: Thank you, Senator, for the question. Since 1981, approximately 4,600 injuries and I believe over 23 deaths have been associated with residential elevators. Clearly this is a problem. It's been a problem for a long time, and the agency has taken only limited action here, as you pointed out. I agree, and I commit to you, if confirmed, to work with the staff, work with my fellow Commissioners, to put together a plan and bring that back to you and your staff about how to best move forward to address this issue as quickly as possible.

Cantwell: Ms. Boyle.

Ms. Boyle: Thank you for the question, Senator. And I agree completely, that these tragic incidents are the type of thing that the agency needs to address more quickly and more comprehensively, and that we should use all of our authorities to do so. Currently, there is administrative litigation pending, and I think that it’s a good thing that the agency is looking to use that authority. There's mandatory rulemaking, that it's a potential option, including doing a better job at communicating to consumers of the risks. And so I think we have to use all of our authorities, and if we don't have sufficient authorities, to work with this committee to see what else we can do to make sure that we are able to respond more quickly when these things happen.

Cantwell: Thank you. Mr. Trumka.

Mr. Trumka: Thank you, Senator. The stories of injury and deaths caused by residential elevators, they're tragic, and as you pointed out, avoidable. I think it should absolutely be a priority, and I am very happy to work with you to make sure we get the best fix there.

Cantwell: Thank you. Well, I think as Commissioners, this is the judgment that we're asking people to make to protect the life and safety of particularly young children, which is a very big role for the Commission.


Cantwell, Wicker To Commerce Secretary Raimondo: Strengthen American Cybersecurity Defenses

Senators: “We urge you to take swift action on this important work.”

July 28, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) today wrote to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging her to robustly confront growing threats to American cybersecurity and privacy. The letter follows a hearing that Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker convened on cybersecurity threats to America’s critical energy infrastructure.

“Cybersecurity threats are growing and evolving, so the federal response must do so as well.  To ensure the safety and security of the American people and economy, DOC and NIST must be part of the solution,” the Senators wrote. “The President’s Budget Request to level-fund NIST cybersecurity programs, while requesting significant increases across the agency, is insufficient to meet the need.”

The letter particularly urged the Commerce Department to implement and appropriately resource Congressional direction on growing the cybersecurity workforce and demonstrating new cyber-protection capabilities, including to more quickly respond to cyberattacks. 

“Reliance on cyber-enabled systems provides an attractive target for U.S. adversaries and cybercriminals,” the Senators wrote. “Separate threat assessments by the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security ranked cyberattacks as an acute threat to government at all levels as well as to the private sector.”

Chair Cantwell has been warning for years about America’s vulnerability to an attack of this kind—even issuing this warning during a 2017 Energy and Natural Resources hearing“There is the issue of cybersecurity that keeps me up at night, thinking about potential hacks from Russia or foreign actors, as we see large-scale attacks happening in other places. If we do not make the necessary investments to prevent, defend against and minimize the impact of these cyberattacks, our enemies may succeed in causing us a widespread blackout or devastation to our economy.”


Earlier this year, Chair Cantwell wrote to Biden DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas highlighting concerns over ambiguity in cyber-related security standards.  The Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security today announced their intent to provide a clearer security baseline for critical infrastructure, consistent with the new National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems.


Last Congress, Ranking Member Wicker authored the HACKED Act and CYBER LEAP Act, which were included in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and signed into law. Senator Cantwell co-sponsored the HACKED Act, along with Senators Thune (R-SD) and Rosen (D-NV). These laws will expand the cybersecurity workforce and establish prize-based contests designed to increase collaboration between the public and private sectors.


You can read Senator Cantwell and Senator Wicker’s full letter HERE.



Chair Cantwell On Cyber Threats to Energy Infrastructure: Colonial Pipeline Attack “The Tip of the Iceberg”

July 27, 2021


“I was very aggressive with the Trump administration about this. I plan to be very aggressive with the Biden administration about this as well.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today convened a hearing to further review the federal response to the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline Company and examine what additional actions must be taken to strengthen America’s cybersecurity defenses and better protect our nation’s critical infrastructure. The Committee heard testimony from Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske, Department of Transportation (DOT) Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg, and Acting Director of Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office, Leslie Gordon.

“Earlier this year, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline caused the company to shut down its pipeline system that supplies nearly 50 percent of all fuel for the East Coast,”Chair Cantwell said. “This incident underscores the potential consequences any single cyber-attack can have on our daily lives and the need to better manage and bolster cybersecurity for our critical infrastructure.”

Chair Cantwell went on to discuss the risks of failing to harden our energy infrastructure and reduce our vulnerability to potentially crippling cyber attacks.

“The rapid growth in the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks is the alarm bell ringing about the need to immediately bolster the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructure,” Chair Cantwell said. “If we don’t, it is only matter time before we will see another crippling cyber incident that will have an even more catastrophic impact than we saw with Colonial Pipeline.”

Chair Cantwell has been warning for years about America’s vulnerability to an attack of this kind—even issuing this warning during a 2017 Energy and Natural Resources hearing“There is the issue of cybersecurity that keeps me up at night, thinking about potential hacks from Russia or foreign actors, as we see large-scale attacks happening in other places. If we do not make the necessary investments to prevent, defend against and minimize the impact of these cyberattacks, our enemies may succeed in causing us a widespread blackout or devastation to our economy.”

In 2018, Cantwell joined Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to demand immediate action from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a series of recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). According to Leslie Gordon, the witness from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), her agency has over 950 open recommendations about cyber security across the federal government. All three witnesses agreed with Chair Cantwell that more needs to be done to address these vulnerabilities.

Earlier this year, Chair Cantwell wrote to Biden DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pressing for further action and announcing that she would be convening today’s hearing focused on the issue as well.

Cantwell also pledged at today’s hearing to continue being active on this issue, saying: “I was very aggressive with the Trump Administration about this. I plan to be very aggressive with the Biden Administration about this as well. This is just not acceptable after the Colonial Pipeline. It wasn't acceptable before, but now we know how serious the threat can be…There are things that can be done. We should be doing them now.”

Cantwell has been the leading voice on protecting critical U.S. infrastructure, including energy infrastructure such as the electric grid and oil and gas pipelines, from cyber attacks. On March 12, 2017, and June 22, 2017, Senator Cantwell sent letters to President Trump calling on him to defend energy infrastructure and to instruct DOE to conduct an analysis of Russian capabilities with respect to cyber attacks on U.S. energy infrastructure.

In hearing after hearingCantwell has pressed for increased collaboration between the government, private sector, utilities, military, and academia to protect U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. And in July 2018, Cantwell and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling for greater action from the federal government to defend the U.S. energy grid from cyber attacks.


Sen. Cantwell Discusses Space Traffic Management During Subcommittee Hearing

July 22, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today questioned Dr. Marcus Holzinger, Associate Professor of the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder regarding the role of universities in researching and developing systems to improve space situational awareness and effectively manage increasing space traffic and orbital debris.

The Senator’s exchange came during a Space and Science Subcommittee hearing chaired by Senator John Hickenlooper. 


Below is a transcript of the exchange.

Cantwell: Thank you, Senator Hickenlooper and thank you and Senator Lummis for holding this important hearing. Thank you to all the witnesses who are here. This is a very important topic for many companies in the Pacific Northwest because we're continuing to focus on space in so many different ways. We like to think that we're the Silicon Valley of space issues. I think I've mentioned even in this committee, I met people who told me they were working on materials for a space hotel. I thought they meant like in your backyard, giving you more space, so your relatives could come and visit -- like an REI solution. They said, “No, up there. I'm working on materials for up there.” Okay. So let's just say that people are planning ahead in the Pacific Northwest. So Dr. Holzinger, when you’ve been having this discussion about traffic and traffic management, and I'm a firm believer in using all the information we can to develop a system for that, because we're going to need to but what can our universities do now? What is the appropriate role for some of these institutions that could help you know, in in in doing this?

Holzinger: thank you, Senator Cantwell, our universities have a couple of critical roles in this activity. Principally, especially the R1 research universities, are activities centered around researching the fundamental basic research and developing technologies that enable SSA, STM and improve those activities. So basic research and applied research to do those things.

Another aspect of our endeavor in this front is to train the workforce. So that means training master's students, PhD students to perform these activities. And anecdotally, I might offer that across the country, approximately 300 PhD students are graduated in aerospace each year, but only a small fraction of those are actually in space. We've already heard from one Senator before that it's difficult to find engineers that are sufficiently trained in this activity. And that's a challenge, you know, of course that we face. That, of course, relates to our previous activity and research. Traditionally, PhD students are funded on research for five, six years. And, you know, continuity of funding for that research is a critical element of that activity.

Cantwell: What would you think that study would look like? Or what would that degree be called?

Holzinger: So that degree, sits pretty squarely in what I would imagine to be aerospace engineering. And turns out that the University of Colorado actually already has a graduate certificate on space domain awareness that ties together many of these aspects. Some of those aspects are physics based. Some are more information theory and controls based, and others tie into things like human factors and how operators can actually interpret what's going on up on orbit and make sense out of those things.

Cantwell: Well, now the deputy at NASA, Pam Melroy, she's basically said that this is a situation that's getting dire. So we've had a lot of commercial activity in the last 10 days. So what do you think the commercial space perspective is on this issue?

Holzinger: Can you repeat that last part?

Cantwell:  As we have people who are planning activities, and as the Deputy Director is calling it, we need a reliable space traffic system and the situation is getting dire. How do you think about where we are with commercial activity and this issue and the urgency of getting something done?

Holzinger: So in my opening statement, I'll repeat some of these some of these statements. It's both inspiring and terrifying. What the commercial space industry is doing, it's inspiring, because it's an excellent thing. Right? It's, it's an excellent avenue to grow our economy. And there's a lot of future potential and prosperity that we have the potential to reap in the future. It's terrifying in the sense that the current standards and methodologies that that we use, stem ultimately from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, and haven't really leveraged the modern techniques that have been developed over the past couple decades.

And so from a university perspective, you know, I think that the best thing that we can do is to improve those means, methods and techniques, and to have as much of transparency and open information about those activities as possible on the commercial front.

Cantwell: And then identifying the type of technology we need, because if we're talking about smaller objects, and it's hard to track or hard to track their telemetry of how fast they're going, is that what we need?

Holzinger: Absolutely. So elements of that in terms of infrastructure include things like more sensors with better detection thresholds, the ability to collect and fuse that information in close to real time. The ability to fuse that information also with current space weather and to be able to issue indications and warnings of potentially deleterious effects.

Cantwell: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you again for this hearing.


Senators Lummis (R-WY) and Klobuchar (D-MN) Join Bipartisan Equal Pay for Team USA Act As Cosponsors

July 21, 2021

Senators Lummis (R-WY) and Klobuchar (D-MN) Join Bipartisan Equal Pay for Team USA Act As Cosponsors 

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and Senator Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV) announced that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) have joined their Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2021 as cosponsors.

“As we work to even the playing field in sports, it’s critical that our athletes competing on the global stage are compensated equally,” said Sen. Klobuchar.  “This bipartisan legislation recognizes the importance of showing the world that the U.S. is firmly behind all of its athletes and is committed to ensuring that they are treated fairly.”

“Every United States athlete at the Olympics and other international competitions equally represents our great country,” said Sen. Lummis.  “The sport or event doesn’t matter – they all worked for the privilege of carrying our flag and competing on behalf of every American.  I’m proud of everyone who represents the United States in athletic competitions and proud to join my colleagues in supporting equal benefits for our female athletes.”

“It is long past time for us to work together to right this wrong and get this done,” Sen. Cantwell said when introducing the bill.  “All Americans are proud to see U.S. athletes represent our country on the world stage, and all Americans should be assured these athletes are being compensated equally.”

“When American athletes compete on the world stage, they represent our great nation, our people, and our values,” Sen. Capito said when the bill was introduced.  “It is only right that the women competing for the United States in global athletic competitions receive the same kind of pay and benefits as their male counterparts.”

The Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2021 would require that all athletes representing the United States in global athletic competitions receive equal compensation, benefits, medical care, travel, and reimbursement of expenses, regardless of gender. 

The bill applies to 50 different sports’ national governing bodies, and it requires the USOPC to conduct oversight and report on compliance with the legislation.  



As Workforce Shortages Force Flight Cancellations, Delays, and Passenger Frustrations, Chair Cantwell Calls on Airlines for Answers

PSP Program Was Designed to Keep Workforce in Place to Capture Rebounding Demand

July 16, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today wrote the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Republic Airways, and Allegiant Airlines seeking information related to recent reports of workforce shortages, flight cancellations, and delays, creating havoc and frustrating consumers as more Americans resume travel.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry received billions in federal payroll support funding to retain their workforces and ensure carriers were better prepared to ramp up when travel returned.  

“I am deeply concerned by recent reports highlighting…workforce shortages that have caused flight cancellations and generated delays for passengers,” Chair Cantwell wrote.  “These shortages come in the wake of unprecedented federal funding that Congress appropriated, at the airlines’ request, to support the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As passenger travel has boomed in recent weeks, new reports also suggest that some airlines are now unprepared to meet the increased demand that they scheduled for, and have resorted to delaying or canceling flights,” the Senator continued.  “This reported workforce shortage runs counter to the objective and spirit of the PSP, which was to enable airlines to endure the pandemic and keep employees on payroll so that the industry was positioned to capture a rebound in demand.”

In a series of questions, Chair Cantwell asked each airline to account for its utilization of federal funds and provide further information on current and projected workforce shortages. 

“Congress recognized the need to ensure that airline workers, including pilots, flight attendants, baggage crews, customer service professionals, contractors, and others could retain their jobs and, in turn, keep the airline industry operating safely for the American public,” she wrote.

A copy of Chair Cantwell’s letter is below and individual letters can be found here:  Allegiant Airlines; American Airlines; Delta Air Lines; JetBlue Airways Corporation; Republic Airways; and Southwest Airlines.


July 16, 2021


Chief Executive Officer




Dear XX:


I am deeply concerned by recent reports highlighting [Airline] workforce shortages that have caused flight cancellations and generated delays for passengers.  These shortages come in the wake of unprecedented federal funding that Congress appropriated, at the airlines’ request, to support the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Congress issued this funding with the express purpose of keeping the workforce on payroll to ensure an easier ramp up when air travel returned.  I am concerned that, at best, [Airline] poorly managed its marketing of flights and workforce as more people are traveling, and, at worst, it failed to meet the intent of tax payer funding and prepare for the surge in travel that we are now witnessing.  In light of reported airline cancellations and delays, and recognizing that [Airline] was one of the largest recipients of payroll support funding, I write to request information regarding [Airline] efforts to comply with the terms of its payroll support agreements with the federal government as well as the origin of recent workforce shortages and the subsequent effect on passengers.


Congress recognized the need to ensure that airline workers, including pilots, flight attendants, baggage crews, customer service professionals, contractors, and others could retain their jobs and, in turn, keep the airline industry operating safely for the American public.  To accomplish this, Congress created the Payroll Support Program (“PSP”) to protect the jobs of thousands of airline workers, ensure that essential travel would continue uninterrupted, and guarantee that the airline industry would remain viable not just for passenger flight, but for cargo flight as well.  At the urging of industry, the PSP was initially created by the CARES Act to help the industry as air traffic sharply dropped and was subsequently extended by the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, and provided $63 billion to passenger carriers, cargo carriers, and contractors, including $54 billion in relief to passenger airlines.  Under the CARES Act, to further assist the airline industry, Congress also provided up to $46 billion in loans, including up to $25 billion for passenger air carriers.


In exchange for funding, aviation companies were required to refrain from conducting involuntary layoffs, furloughs, or instituting pay or benefit reductions.  These companies were also required to file periodic reports with Treasury, documenting, among other things, the amount of PSP funds expended and any changes in employee headcount each quarter.[1]


Over the past year, there have been reports of U.S. airlines seeking to reduce the size of their workforce by encouraging employees to accept early retirements, voluntary furloughs, buyouts, and leaves of absence.  This is in addition to reports projecting an impending, massive pilot shortage.  As passenger travel has boomed in recent weeks, new reports also suggest that some airlines are now unprepared to meet the increased demand that they scheduled for, and have resorted to delaying or canceling flights.  This reported workforce shortage runs counter to the objective and spirit of the PSP, which was to enable airlines to endure the pandemic and keep employees on payroll so that the industry was positioned to capture a rebound in demand.  Additionally, these disruptions in air travel have harmed U.S. consumers just as the American economy is rebounding, and the existing airline workforce is being placed under immense pressure to meet demand.


To assist the Committee in examining these issues, please provide written responses to the following questions by July 30, 2021:

  1. Did your company offer early retirement, leaves of absences, buyouts, or other benefits to induce employees to leave the company voluntarily?
    1. If so, please explain the company’s reasoning behind this decision.
    2. How many employees elected one of these voluntary departure options?


  1. Please provide a breakdown by month of the following information from March 1, 2020 to the present:
    1. Number of employees employed at the end of each month;
    2. Number of involuntary layoffs or furloughs;
    3. Number of voluntary departures, separated by early retirements, leaves of absence, buyouts, or any other reason, and broken down by occupation;


  1. Has your company exhausted its PSP3 funds?
    1. If so, when were those funds exhausted?
    2. If not, how much funding do you have in reserve and when do you anticipate that the PSP funds will be exhausted?


  1. How many employees was your company able to retain, who otherwise would have been furloughed or laid off, through the PSP?


  1. Did your company apply for any state unemployment benefits on behalf of employees who left the company, or facilitate any such applications by employees themselves?  If so, please detail the applicable states and the amount of unemployment benefits claimed in each one.


  1. Are there specific airline jobs or geographic regions that you have identified as having particularly acute labor shortage issues? What steps are you taking to address any anticipated or current labor shortages due to increased consumer flight demand this year, including workforce recruiting, hiring, and training? 


  1. Does your company anticipate any workforce or schedule changes in the coming six months?  If so, please provide details on the expected changes and any mitigation efforts that your company plans to employ, including any workforce recruiting, hiring, and training?


  1. Was your company aware of labor shortages, current and projected, when it submitted its schedules for the summer season? If so, why did your company nevertheless advertise these schedules?


  1. What was your company’s staffing needs projection at the time when it elected to offer early retirement, leaves of absences, buyouts, or other benefits to induce employees to leave the company voluntarily?’


  1. Please describe your company’s policy in providing refunds or credits to passengers whose flights were cancelled or rescheduled between March 1, 2020 and present and for passengers who voluntarily cancelled or rescheduled flights during the pandemic. How long do any credits last? For such passengers, please provide data regarding the number of passengers who were not provided a refund or credit.


  1. From the PSP funds that your company received, what is the value of the notes and warrants held by the federal government?


I also request a staff briefing from [Airline] on these issues by July 30, 2021.


Thank you for your prompt response.





[1] See Payroll Support Program 3 Agreement, Section 12, available at

At Hearing, Chair Cantwell Stresses Importance of Supporting American Supply Chains

July 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today held a hearing examining American supply chains, highlighting critical supply chains such as in the aerospace and semiconductor sectors. The hearing will inform Committee oversight as the Department of Commerce (DOC) executes new responsibilities for supply chain resiliency.

I can say for me in the state of Washington, [the] aviation supply chain is something we're very proud of,” Chair Cantwell said. “More than 150,000 people work in that supply chain that continues to innovate and create new products. That's where the innovation is happening, in the supply chain.”

Chair Cantwell has long focused on supporting the aerospace supply chain and its workforce. In May of 2020, she wrote then-Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging him to expand the allocation of loans made under the CARES Act to include aerospace supply chain companies that were being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

”Congress has caught on that the supply chain is key to our economic strategy, and that a robust supply chain in the United States of America means we're going to continue to have robust employment in the United States of America,” Chair Cantwell said.“Without the resiliency of the supply chain, our services and security could be impacted.”

Cantwell was a key voice pushing to make resources for the aviation supply chain available within the American Rescue Plan, which passed in March. She fought to include the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection program (AMJP), a $3 billion dollar payroll support program, in the legislation.

“In this legislation, we will be, for the first time, making resources available for that supply chain,” Chair Cantwell said in a Senate Floor speech advocating for AMJP, “It will help us retain and rehire workers in the aviation manufacturing sector. It will help us keep highly skilled workers who serve as the backbone of industries so that our nation can continue to be poised for the recovery. And it helps us in making sure that we are poised for a strong recovery. We know that aviation manufacturing jobs mean a lot to our nation. Finally, we're going to help stave off the tide of the huge losses that we've seen in that sector.”

In April, Chair Cantwell held a roundtable with representatives from aerospace manufacturing and supply chain companies around the State of Washington to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and their recovery needs. Chair Cantwell also led Senate passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which would provide funds for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, promote regional technology hubs, and create a new supply chain resiliency office within the Department of Commerce.U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today held a hearing examining American supply chains, highlighting critical supply chains such as in the aerospace and semiconductor sectors. The hearing will inform Committee oversight as the Department of Commerce (DOC) executes new responsibilities for supply chain resiliency.


Cantwell, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Legislation for Equal Pay for All Athletes Competing Under the American Flag

July 13, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and Senator Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV) today reintroduced their bipartisan plan to ensure equal pay for Americans who represent our country in global athletic competitions, like the Olympics, regardless of gender.  Today, men and women can be paid differently for representing Team USA in the same sport.

“All Americans are proud to see U.S. athletes represent our country on the world stage, and all Americans should be assured these athletes are being compensated equally,” Senator Cantwell said. “Anything short of that sends exactly the wrong message across the world and here at home about the American commitment to equality and fairness. It is long past time for us to work together to right this wrong and get this done.”

“When American athletes compete on the world stage, they represent our great nation, our people, and our values,” Senator Capito said. “It is only right that the women competing for the United States in global athletic competitions receive the same kind of pay and benefits as their male counterparts. This is an issue we can address together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, and I’m proud to join Senator Cantwell in introducing this legislation.”

The Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2021, would require that all athletes representing the United States in global athletic competitions receive equal compensation, benefits, medical care, travel, and reimbursement of expenses, regardless of gender. 

The bill applies to 50 different sports’ national governing bodies, and it requires the USOPC to conduct oversight and report on compliance with the legislation.  

What They’re Saying about the Equal Pay for Team USA Act:  

·   Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association

“We commend Senators Cantwell and Capito for recognizing that female athletes who represent the USA in global athletic competitions deserve the same pay and benefits as their male counterparts. As those of us who coach college women’s basketball witnessed firsthand at the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship in San Antonio, equality for female athletes still eludes us. We hope the Equal Pay for Team USA Act will bring us one step closer to achieving equity for female athletes especially within the USA Basketball family.” –Cori Close (The Michael Price Family UCLA Head Women’s Basketball Coach; Women’s Basketball Coaches Association President-Elect)

·   Champion Women

“America’s Olympic Athletes, National Team Athletes, and Paralympic Athletes are uniquely unprotected from sexism, unequal pay and treatment. Our athletes aren’t employees protected by Title VII and they aren’t students, protected by Title IX. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has been unwilling to address these inequalities, even when U.S. Soccer, one of 50 National Governing Bodies overseen by the Committee, continues to grossly underpay its U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team as compared with their male counterparts - for decades now. Senator Cantwell and Capito’s Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2021 will rectify this long-standing injustice by amending the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, the statute that governs America’s Olympic Movement. If passed, the Act will fill the gap in legal remedies for women representing all Americans on U.S. National Teams, requiring equal pay and treatment when sports are sex-segregated, like most sports except equestrian and sailing. The next time our Team USA wins an international competition, we can all be confident and proud that America values women’s accomplishments.” –Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D. (CEO, Champion Women, civil rights lawyer, two-time Olympian, three-time gold medalist)

·    Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore; Director, Center for Sport and the Law; Co-Chair, USOPC Commission

“For the nearly 50 years since Title IX was enacted, the United States has seen the benefits of guaranteeing women and girls an equal right to participate in sports. The results on the international stage, across a range of sports, speak for themselves. The Equal Pay for Team USA Act moves Title IX’s legacy forward in an important way by ensuring that women who represent the United States are treated equally.” –Dionne Koller

·   US Squash

“US Squash is proud to support this important legislation. We led the way in parity for prize money in pro squash globally by offering it first in 2013, and all the other ‘majors’ followed within two years. We also pay our high-performance program athletes the same regardless of gender, and have the goal of full parity in participation across juniors, and adults by 2030.” –Kevin Klipstein (President & CEO)

·   Sports Fans Coalition

“Chair Cantwell and Senator Capito’s Equal Pay for Team USA Act is the only bipartisan equal pay legislation in Congress. Sports Fans Coalition applauds these two champions for their leadership on such an important issue for the young girls who will grow up to be our next Gold Medalists. Sports Fans Coalition stands behind this legislation.” –Brian Hess (Executive Director)

·   American Volleyball Coaches Association

“We understand that the marketplace for sports still skews heavily in favor of males and that an educationally-based model for sport development, requiring equal opportunity, is unique to the United States. Having said that, compensation controlled by NGB’s related to expenses for travel and accommodation of U.S. teams at international competitions must reflect our values. The marketplace value of an athlete is beyond the control of an NGB, but fair treatment on expenses is an American value.” –Kathy DeBoer (Executive Director)

·   West Virginia University Women’s Soccer Team

“After 27 years coaching amateur athletes in college, I have seen firsthand the inequalities in our current system. The women I have coached work just as, if not harder than their counterparts. They deserve equal compensation for that. I applaud West Virginia’s own Senator Capito and Chair Cantwell for introducing this monumental legislation.” –Nikki-Izzo Brown (Head Coach)

“I have coached or played soccer for most of my life. Despite the hard work and the inequalities, my passion for ‘the people’s game’ is undying. Sadly, this isn't the case for everyone. The Equal Pay for Team USA Act can change that for countless women in our sport. Senator Capito and Chairwoman Cantwell’s leadership on this issue is unparalleled and I look forward to working alongside them every step of the way.” –Lisa Stoia (Senior Associate Head Coach)

·   Equality League

“Equality League is proud to support The Equal Pay for Team USA Act to ensure our nation's amateur athletes will receive equal compensation and benefits, regardless of gender. We commend Chairwoman Cantwell and Senator Capito for introducing this important bipartisan legislation. The Equal Pay for Team USA Act aligns with our mission to advance gender equality in sport by changing discriminatory policies and practices and our current Title IX 50 By 50 campaign to close gender gaps in college sports. We believe this Act can influence the pipeline of girls and women participating in sport to provide opportunities for them to reach the elite level of our Olympians.” –Mara Gubuan (Founder)

List of Organizations Supporting the Equal Pay for Team USA Act:

  • Alliance of Social Workers in Sports
  • American Volleyball Coaches Association
  • Athlete Ally
  • Center for Sport, Peace & Society – University of Tennessee
  • Champion Women
  • Equality League
  • Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media
  • National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association
  • National Organization for Women
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Sports Fans Coalition
  • The Female Quotient
  • The Tucker Center – University of Minnesota
  • Trajectory Women
  • UltraViolet
  • UN Women
  • US Squash
  • USA Curling
  • USA Volleyball
  • USA Water Ski & Wake Sports
  • West Virginia University Women’s Soccer Team
  • Women Win
  • Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association
  • Women’s Sports Foundation
  • Wrestle Like a Girl

You can read the full text of Senator Cantwell and Senator Capito’s bipartisan plan HERE


Chair Cantwell Statement on President Biden’s Consumer Product Safety Commission Nominations

July 2, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the following statement on President Biden’s announcement that he intends to nominate Alex Hoehn-Saric to serve as Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Mary Boyle as a Commissioner.

"American families need a strong cop on the beat at the Consumer Product Safety Commission," Chair Cantwell said. "I've known Alex Hoehn-Saric for years, and he has been at the forefront of the fight for a strong CPSC to protect consumers, children, and families from dangerous products. I look forward to discussing this critically important work with Mr. Hoehn-Saric when he appears before the Commerce Committee. I also congratulate Mary Boyle on her nomination and look forward to hearing more about her vision for the Commission." 

In 2019, Senator Cantwell, one of the leading safety advocates in Congress, released a report detailing the failures of CPSC leadership to adequately protect American consumers from unsafe and defective products.



Inouye Applauds Senate Passage of Historic Fuel Economy Legislation

December 13, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) delivered the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate just before passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
“Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Renewable Consumer and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. After months of constructive negotiations, we have successfully crafted thoughtful and rich bipartisan agreement, particularly in Title I, otherwise known as the ‘Ten-in-Ten’ Fuel Economy Act. Title I would mandate an increase in automobile fuel economy to a nation-wide fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In addition, the Department of Transportation would adopt fuel economy standards for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles for the first time.
“Today’s agreement marks historic progress: This is the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards for cars since 1975. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is of vital importance to our national security, economic stability, and consumer welfare; the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act is a major step forward in achieving these goals. 
“Title I of the bill will save approximately 1.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2020, equal to one half of what we currently import daily from the Persian Gulf. By the year 2020, the legislation will save consumers approximately $22 billion at the pump and prevent approximately 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from polluting our environment each year. By dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Title I would demonstrate to the world that America is a leader in fighting global warming.
“Legislation of this magnitude could have only been achieved through the hard work of a coalition of Members. In this case, without Senators Feinstein, Stevens, Snowe, Kerry, Dorgan, Lott, Carper, Boxer, Durbin, Alexander, Corker, and Cantwell, the agreement would not have been reached.
“In particular, I wish to congratulate Senator Feinstein on her efforts in developing this bill. Her dedication over the years has led to a public policy that very few thought possible.  I would also like to praise the efforts of my good friend Senator Stevens, who was instrumental in forging the compromise before us. I also would like to thank Chairman Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow for their hard work and willingness to achieve an agreement that aggressively improves fuel economy while protecting domestic automobile manufacturing and U.S. workers. The American automaker and autoworker have no better champions.
“In addition, the tireless efforts of groups dedicated to conservation and improving national security were vital to enacting this legislation. Of special note is the support of a non-partisan group of business executives and retired senior military leaders concerned about global energy security, known as Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). I am grateful for the support and hard work of its leaders Frederick W. Smith and General P.X. Kelley, as well as Robbie Diamond, who served as their liaison. The Union of Concerned Scientists, David Friedman in particular, provided significant technical support and advocacy for the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act.   
“Finally, Mr. President, I would like to express my appreciation to all the hard working members of the staff who worked to make this historical legislation a reality. In particular, I would like to commend David Strickland, Alex Hoehn-Saric, Mia Petrini, and Jared Bomberg of my Commerce Committee staff for a job well done.
“The importance of this legislation cannot be underestimated. During the Arab oil embargo in 1973, Americans suffered the first devastating effects of our addiction to oil. Born out of this embargo, Congress put in place a fuel economy program that nearly doubled the gas mileage of cars from 1975 to 1985.  Passage of this bill will ensure that our nation’s energy priorities start moving in the right direction again. 
“Higher fuel economy standards will wean the country of its oil addiction, put billions of dollars of savings back into our domestic economy, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“A diverse group of constituencies support the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, from environmentalists to automotive workers and automakers. While it sets forth aggressive standards, the Act also recognizes the challenges faced by the auto industry and ensures that those concerns will be addressed.  Providing flexibility to the automotive industry, the sponsors of these fuel economy provisions have worked together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that automakers have the tools they need to meet the requirements enumerated in the Act.  The Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to create two fuel economy curves, one for passenger cars and one for light trucks. 
This change from the Senate–passed bill provides the certainty that American automakers, auto workers, and car dealers requested, but the Act still requires that the combined car and light truck fleet meet a fuel economy standard of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.    
“Our actions today will improve national security, create jobs, help consumers, and protect the environment. At times it is the government’s responsibility to balance conflicting interests. Today, I believe we found that balance.”

Sen. Stevens Speaks on Aviation and Surface Transportation Security Legislation

March 1, 2007



Senator Stevens:  I thank my colleagues, Senators Lieberman and Collins for working with the Commerce Committee to include important security measures in this bill.  And, I’m very grateful to my great friend, Senator Inouye, for his willingness to work in our committee on a bipartisan basis to develop and report these measures.   

In the five and a half years since the horrific events of September 11th, we have made many improvements in the security of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and ensured communications interoperability.

Our job is far from over, whether it’s more improvements to be made or gaps to close.  In matters of security, we must not become complacent – as our enemies adapt, so must we. 

The Commerce Committee’s aviation and surface transportation security legislation, which have been included in S. 4 – will significantly enhance the ability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to fulfill their missions.  These provisions were developed by the Commerce Committee while mindful of the delicate balance between implementing tough security measures and the effect such regulations may have on the nation’s economy and the movement of goods.

The aviation provisions incorporated into S. 4 were reported by the Commerce Committee on February 13th as S. 509, the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 2007.  The provisions incorporate aviation-related 9/11 commission recommendations, and provide TSA with additional tools to carry out its layered approach to security. 

To do this, the aviation security provisions dedicate continued funding for the installation of in-line explosive detection systems utilized for the enhanced screening of checked baggage at our nation’s airports. 

We all recognize the importance of screening 100 percent of cargo transported to and within the .  Last year, in the SAFE Port Act, Congress acted to ensure that all cargo arriving in the by sea is screened.  In S. 4, we ensure that 100 percent of air cargo also is screened.  The air cargo supply chain handles over 50,000 tons of cargo each day, of which 26 percent is designated for domestic passenger carriers. 

Screening is particularly important in Alaska .  Anchorage, my home, is the number one airport in the for landed weight of cargo, and it is number three in the world for cargo throughput.  Our provision would require TSA to develop and implement a system to provide for the screening of all cargo being carried by passenger aircraft.

To address on-going concerns about passenger pre-screening procedures, the legislation requires DHS to create an “Office of Appeals and Redress” to establish a timely and fair process for airline passengers who believe they have been misidentified against the “No-Fly” or “Selectee” watch lists. 

TSA’s “layered approach to security” relies not only upon equipment and technological advances, but also upon improved security screening techniques employed by the TSA screeners as well as the very effective use of canines.  This legislation calls for TSA’s National Explosives Detection Canine Team to deploy more of these valuable resources across the nation’s transportation network.

The bill we are considering also contains the provisions of S. 184, the Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007, which was also developed and reported on a bipartisan basis by the Commerce Committee.

While the aviation industry has received most of the attention and funding for security, the rail and transit attacks in , , and all point to a common strategy utilized by terrorists.  The openness of our surface transportation network presents unique security challenges.  The vastness of these systems requires targeted allocation of our resources based on risk. 

Most of the surface transportation security provisions in the bill before the Senate today have been included previously as part of other transportation security bills introduced by Senator Inouye, Senator McCain, and myself.  Many of the provisions in the substitute amendment passed the Senate unanimously last year, as well as in the 108th Congress.  Each time, however, the House of Representatives did not agree to the need to address rail, pipeline, motor carrier, hazardous materials and other over-the-road security.  The time has come to send these provisions to the President’s desk.  We’re hopeful the House will agree this time.

The substitute also contains the provisions of the Commerce Committee-reported measure, S. 385, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Act.  Since 2001, we have heard the cries of public safety officials that the police, firefighters and emergency medical response personnel throughout the country need help achieving interoperability.

With this $1 billion program that helps every state, public safety will be able to move forward with real solutions and begin addressing the problems that have plagued our nation’s first responders for too long.

The legislation addresses all of the public safety issues that have been brought to the Commerce Committee’s attention.  It also includes $100 million to establish both Federal and State strategic technology reserves that will restore communications quickly in disasters equal in scale to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

We must not politicize national security.  The Commerce Committee’s provisions included in this bill are very important, and I urge their adoption.  Again, I thank very much the cooperation of the Homeland Security Government Affairs Committee. We achieved our reported bills that I have mentioned here from the Commerce Committee because of the bipartisanship in our Committee.  I hope that this debate on this important bill before the Senate will continue in that same spirit.  The American people really expect and deserve nothing less.


Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young Speak at Signing of Enrolled Magnuson-Stevens Act

January 3, 2007

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) in his role as President Pro Tempore, sign the enrolled Magnuson-Stevens Act on Wednesday, January 3, 2007. Stevens was joined by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) at the ceremony. The Magnuson-Stevens Act passed both the House and Senate last December. Legislation that passes both the House and Senate must be enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate before being sent to the President for final signature and approval into law.


Can the Right Technology End Distracted Driving?

February 5, 2014

Can the Right Technology End Distracted Driving?

By Sen. Jay Rockefeller

Roll Call

Feb. 5, 2014

JDR Head ShotAt any given moment during any given day, hundreds of thousands of drivers in the United States are using their phones while behind the wheel — talking, texting or searching for information — and endangering their lives and the lives of those around them. Technology may be part of our daily habits, but using these devices while driving is becoming a fatal vice that threatens to undo the remarkable progress we have made to improve highway safety. According to the National Safety Council, as many as a quarter of today’s automobile crashes involve drivers talking or texting on their phones, and there is no sign of the problem abating.

Surveys show that nearly all Americans know the perils of distracted driving — that texting behind the wheel, for instance, makes it 23 times more likely that they will be involved in a crash. Yet the temptations to use electronic devices, and the resulting tragedies, persist.

Auto companies and the software industry are now eagerly developing in-car “infotainment” systems that offer ever-more connectivity and features to mirror the temptations of our smartphones. They say consumers are demanding constant connectivity in the car, and that these systems are safer than the alternatives. Further, they claim transferring such functionalities from the phone to the built-in system will reduce distractions and increase our safety because drivers will put down their phones.

Despite these new advances, I reject this “lesser of two evils” reasoning that, because in-car infotainment systems are supposedly safer than hand-held smartphones, they belong in cars. Lost amid this focus on a technological solution is careful consideration of whether these onboard systems should, in fact, replicate so much of the connectivity — a lot of it completely unrelated to driving — that we have on smartphones. For instance, I see no reason drivers should be able to update their social-media profiles or compare restaurant and hotel reviews while behind the wheel. Furthermore, researchers have shown that distractions come in different forms, and, while these in-car systems can reduce the amount of time that the drivers’ hands and eyes are off the wheel and the road, attention can still dangerously wander. 

In contrast to the current industry approach, I believe we should be leveraging the technology in our cars and harnessing the same ingenuity to reduce distracted driving, rather than creating new forms of distraction. Many drivers may, in fact, prefer to limit their distractions while they are on the road. And many parents would like the ability to establish such limitations for teen drivers in their family. Perhaps we should be looking to limit the functionality of mobile and built-in technologies, rather than accommodate them.

I strongly believe phones should be capable of automatically limiting functionalities while in the car, whether the phones are connected to the in-car systems or not. We know that technological means of accomplishing this already exist, but they are not widely available and do not seamlessly operate across software platforms. Mobile device-makers, software developers, automakers and wireless carriers should be working collaboratively now to remove these obstacles. This is a problem that cannot be solved by just one industry alone, and I would like to see broad cooperation across the spectrum of stakeholders.

Later this week, I am convening a summit on this critical public safety matter and bringing all of the key industries to the same table and pushing them to act — and to act now. Over the course of my chairmanship of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I have dedicated significant attention to protecting Americans on our nation’s roadways. Yes, the car has never been safer, and technology has been a key ingredient in that success, but this progress is being undermined by the glut of nonessential technology that has nothing to do with the task of driving. 

It is my hope and expectation that the summit will spur industries to proactively seek technological solutions that can be widely adopted, readily available, and highlight to the public the life-or-death matter of staying focused behind the wheel.


The Digital Revolution Must Be Televised Nationwide

October 16, 2007

The Hill Special Report: Telecom - A revolution is coming to television sets across this country. On February 17, 2009–less than 500 days away–television broadcasters will switch from analog to digital signals. For viewers, this change holds tremendous promise. By migrating to digital, they can enjoy dramatically sharper pictures and crisper sound. Broadcasters now offering a single channel of analog programming will be able to develop multiple digital channels, with more regional news, weather, children’s fare, and content for non-English speakers. On top of this, the switch to digital means more efficient use of our airwaves, opening up more spectrum for our nation’s first responders.

The rewards of a successful digital television (DTV) transition are enormous. Like in any revolution, however, these rewards come with an undercurrent of risk. As many as 21 million households rely exclusively on over-the-air television. These households risk seeing their sets go dark. So do millions more that have one or more analog sets that are not connected to either cable or satellite service. Yet a recent poll from the National Association of Broadcasters suggests that only 1 in 10 Americans know when the digital transition is coming.

To ensure success, we must draw up a battle plan. At the federal level, this responsibility falls principally on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The FCC is charged with managing the airwaves used by our nation’s broadcasters. It must act decisively to ensure that broadcasters are fully prepared for the switch. It also must ensure that consumers are not only generally informed about the DTV transition, but also are given information tailored to advise them about changes occurring in the communities where they live.

The NTIA is in charge of the government program that, beginning January 1, 2008, will allow consumers to request up to two $40 coupons per household to defray the cost of digital-to-analog converter boxes. These boxes make it possible for consumers who rely on over-the-air service to continue to receive television broadcasts. Without them, their sets could cease to work. But with three months to go, the NTIA program is plagued by uncertainties. It is not clear which boxes have been certified and which retailers will stock them on their shelves.

Getting these boxes in the hands of consumers is a challenge. Getting the word out is even more daunting. Yet to date, efforts on the outreach front have been patchy. The FCC is in the early stages of reaching out to at-risk populations. The NTIA has $5 million to spend on consumer outreach, but its efforts have barely begun. Making a complicated situation even more difficult, the General Accountability Office (GAO) has suggested the absence of federal action is raising questions about who has ultimate authority for the switch. In the ominous words of a recent GAO witness: “It’s pretty clear to us that there is no one in charge.”

The time has come to manage the mechanics of the transition with the American public in mind. First, to get this done right, the Administration should establish a federal, interagency DTV Task Force, co-chaired by leadership at the FCC and NTIA. The DTV Task Force would determine how best to marshal existing resources across the federal government and advise Congress as to what additional measures may be necessary to ensure a smooth transition. A similar structure was used successfully to coordinate federal action in addressing the Y2K problem.

Second, as we develop this national effort, it is imperative that we match our work with local needs and strategies. National messages will only take us so far. What works in Houston may not work in Honolulu. Questions about the impact of broadcast tower construction, the presence of translator stations, and the need for antennas will require local answers. We need the equivalent of DTV “block captains” ready, willing, and able in every media market in this country.

Finally, we must enhance transparency and accountability for the digital transition. Indeed, success will require that we regularly measure data in each television market. As part of this assessment, the DTV Task Force should consider ways of collecting and reporting granular data that will validate successful strategies and provide early warning when we are at risk of running off the rails.

The countdown to February 17, 2009 is on. For the revolution to yield benefits for viewers across the country, the time to act is now.

THE HILL OP-ED: Communications issues still need Congress’s attention

February 7, 2007

As our nation moves farther into the digital age, there are several important issues that Congress should consider which will dramatically affect the way millions of Americans communicate. These issues include reforming universal service, easing the transition to digital television, and encouraging Internet access.

All Americans deserve the advantages presented by essential communications, and telemedicine and distance learning are especially important to rural America. To encourage the deployment of such services, we must maintain and reform the universal service program, which helps connect the entire nation. An important and overdue first step is the USA Act (S.101 – the Universal Service for Americans Act), which mirrors language contained in the comprehensive communications bill reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee last year.

The USA Act would place all communications companies on a level playing field, acknowledging new technologies and lowering the burden on industry. The bill ensures continued support for schools and libraries to provide broadband Internet access to students, library patrons and health clinics (including rural pharmacies). Additionally, it creates a program to support the expansion of broadband Internet access in underserved areas. More will need to be done, but these measures are desperately needed to ensure access to communications for all Americans so our nation does not lose its technological edge.

Basic communications services for Americans are not the only issues that need to be addressed. A sea change is coming in the way Americans watch television, especially for those who receive broadcast signals over the air. Last year, the Senate set a hard date for the transition from analog television broadcasting to digital television broadcasting. This transition will allow broadcast spectrum to be devoted to emergency interoperable communications for police, firemen, paramedics and other first responders.

Also, pursuant to the digital transition law, valuable broadcast spectrum will be auctioned and proceeds will fund a converter box program to ease the digital transition for consumers. Auction proceeds will also fund important grants for public safety and first responders. To help with the transition, the National Association of Broadcasters is launching a massive education campaign to ensure consumers are aware of the coming change and are prepared for the switch to digital signals.

The Internet is an increasingly vital part of our daily lives, and Congress must work to ensure that we do not hinder its growth. It is imperative that the government find ways to encourage the deployment of broadband throughout the nation and promote increased Internet access for all Americans. The digital television transition, which passed last Congress, will free up valuable spectrum for increased broadband Internet deployment.

The FCC has also played an important part in this goal by recently approving an item that will speed the deployment of advanced networks by telephone companies. Such networks will provide competition for cable companies, and reduce prices. These networks will also increase quality television programming and offer Americans even faster Internet access. Congress can also play a role in supporting improved Internet access by extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which will expire on Nov. 1, 2007.

As Congress addresses these pressing communications issues, it should not get sidetracked by theoretical problems. Some members of Congress would impose net regulation in an era of unprecedented investment, innovation and job creation. I continue to support the right of every broadband consumer to access all legal content on the Internet. But behind flashy catchphrases, special interests are pushing agendas that will not solve the communications issues that require immediate attention. In fact, both Robert Kahn and David Farber, known as the father and grandfather of the Internet, are firmly opposed to sweeping regulation of the Internet.

The Internet has not only existed, but flourished without unnecessary government intervention. It is my hope that special interests do not succeed in denying consumers the benefits of communications technology, investment, innovation and jobs.

Stevens is the ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.