tv Transportation Secretary Nominee Elaine Chao Testifies at Confirmation... CSPAN January 26, 2017 5:59pm-8:01pm EST
we'll continue to have coverage of all cabinet level confirmation hearings live on the c-span television networks, the c-span radio app and online at c-span.org. we'll show you the hearings each night in our primetime schedule. former bush administration labor secretary elaine chao is president trump's nominee to head the transportation department. before the president took office, the senate commerce and transportation committee held her confirmation hearing. she's introduced by her husband, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell.
committee's first hearing of the 115th congress. especially our new members, senators inhofe, lee, capito, young, baldwin, duckworth, hassan and cortez-masto. our committee has the proud distinction of being the senate committee with the most women members ever at eight. i also want to thank all of our returning members especially ranking member nelson for their hard work last congress. together we were able to enact over 60 measures in the 114th congress. i'm anticipating another full agenda this congress and i'm confident we'll be equally successful. today we'll consider nomination of secretary elaine chao to be the 18th secretary of transportation. the agency that secretary chao has been nominated to lead plays a vital role in facilitating, promoting the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the country and the world.
the department contains ten component agencies, employs over 50,000 full-time employees and operating budget of $75,000. employs 12 million people nationwide. or 8.6% of the u.s. gross domestic product. my home state of south dakota, this translates into approximately 10,000 jobs. these numbers only begin to tell the story because so much of our economy is dependent upon a thriving transportation sector. for example, without a robust and efficient transportation sector, rural states like mine would be unable to get our goods to market. increasing the capacity and efficiency rail lines are crucial. it will have to be a top priority for the next secretary of transportation. another top priority for the next secretary of transportation must be safety. while our nation's pipelines, railroads, airways and highways have a strong record of safety, improvements can and should be made.
of course, it will be important to avoid one size fits all solutions on safety. instead the department must offer a range of tools to combat unique safety challenges as south dakota has done with its innovator 24/7 sobriety program to combat impaired driving. many of the strong safety improvements this committee advanced as part of the f.a.s.t. act and pipes act last congress are yet to be itch lette itch i. we'll expect our next secretary of transportation to work with us to ensure speedy -- the next secretary of transportation will also have a unique opportunity to show federal leadership in the advancement of transportation innovation. technology, autonomous vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems to name a few have great promise to increase safety, improve efficiency and spur economic growth. but like all new technologies, these must be properly integrated into our current
networks in a way that maximizes their benefits without cop mizing the performance of the current systems. secretary chao, if confirmed you will have a mementos opportunity to transform americans' transportation network by promoting safety, innovation, growing our nation's freight network and ensuring all users, urban and rural, benefit equally. to my colleagues i would say if you were to imagine an ideal candidate to tackle these challenges, it would be harder to come up a more qualified nominee than the one before us today. in addition to serving for eight years as u.s. secretary of labor, secretary chao also served as deputy secretary of department she's now been tapped to lead. her extensive experience also includes leading the united way of america, the peace corps, and the federal maritime commission. secretary chao, you have consistently proven your willingness to roll up your sleeves and address the challenges facing our nation and i would like to thank you for testifying today and for your willingness to continue your record of service to country.
i will now turn to ranking member nelson for any opening remarks then before secretary chao's opening statement, she's going to be introduced by her husband, senator mcconnell, our majority leader in the united states senate and other member of the kentucky delegation, senator paul. chair recognizes senator nelson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. as we start out, i want to take a minute to express on behalf of the committee our condolences to the friends and loved ones of the victims of friday's horrific shooting at ft. lauderdale's airport. i want to thank the heroic work undertaken by the first responders and law enforcement personnel in responding. and also the investigation remains ongoing, i suspect all of us in the congress will
continue exploring ways to protect the traveling public in light of this tragic incident. while we made some progress in last year's faa bill to double the number of the viper teams, the dog teams and bolster the screening of airport workers, this tragic shooting serves as a reminder that our work to improve airport security remains a constant challenge. this year's faa reauthorization bill that we will have to take up could be a good place to start if more needs to be done to prevent similar things from occurring. so mr. chairman, we're here today at a time when our nation is at a crossroads. many of our roads, bridges,
tunnels, and rails are aging. and desperately need to be repaired and replaced. years of neglect and increased demand have brought us to the point that we can no longer sit by idly and watch our country's most critical infrastructure continue to deteriorate. we must step up to this challenge and that's particularly pertinent to the hearing on the confirmation of secretary chao. we must commit to build the next generation of great american infrastructure or risk harming our economy and global competitiveness, risk it by failing to do so. and that means investing in projects that will move people and goods for decades to come. such as ports. we have a lot in florida. they're responsible for moving
a lot of the goods in and out of our country. rails and highways that move the goods throughout our states, transit and rail projects that get americans to work. airports and passenger rail projects that connect our communities and technologies of tomorrow that will move people and goods more efficiently and more safely. these projects will also create good paying jobs whether it's construction workers laying the foundation, an engineer doing the design or the steelworker making the parts. the benefits of updating and expanding our transportation infrastructure can produce thunderous ripple effects, creating new developments, generating increased investments
and driving new economic opportunities, and that's what our country needs now. and the immediate future. it takes a strong commitment, however, from the congress and the administration and specifically the department of transportation. and it's going to take a significant amount of funding. and so secretary chao, i hope we'll hear more from you today on your administration's plan and how you intend to pay for it. and our nation's transportation challenges include more than the deteriorating bridges and roads. safety, of course, continues to be a serious problem. in the last two years, it marked a disturbing trend of rising fatalities on our highways and reversing a lot of progress that we've seen over the last half century. so the department of transportation must aggressively
use all of its authority and resources to bring those numbers down, whether it's cracking down on the drunk and distracted driving, increasing seat belt use, or getting defective vehicles such as those with the exploding takata airbags fixed immediately. and as the department must prepare for the future, as i speak, automakers are rapidly moving toward commercializing autonomous technology and self-driving cars. and the department is going to have to play a very central role in ensuring that this is safe for the american public. then of course, there's aviation safety. it's critical. it's an important task. and it will be before the committee in the faa reauthorization bill.
now chairman thune and i have worked hard on a bipartisan and comprehensive faa reauthorization bill last year and as a result, 95-3 in the senate. the reauthorization bill was stalled in the house, given a proposal there to privatize air traffic control. besides the total opposition of the united states department of defense, which has 20% of the air traffic, besides being costly and disruptive in implementation such as privatization, this scheme would upset the partnership between the faa and a lot of the agencies of government. and last, certainly not least, i hope, madam secretary, that
we'll get a commitment from you that you'll look out for the traveling public by ensuring that they have the basic consumer protections. this means working with us here in the congress to make sure that airline passengers know what they're paying for up front and that those costs are fair. these provisions had broad bipartisan support in last year's faa reauthorization and we should get them across the finish line. and madam secretary, just a personal note. you and my wife are the dearest of friends. she is one of your biggest fans. and i have watched you as you have comported yourself in a previous administration as a
cabinet member, and it has been with grace and excellence that you have done so. and i certainly look forward to you in this new administration doing the same. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator nelson. it may be a first to have a senate leader testify in front of this committee but we're privileged today to have senator mcconnell here to make a very special introduction. and so we would recognize -- the chair recognizes the senate majority leader for a statement. >> chairman thune, senator nelson, members of the committee, obviously, it's a great pleasure to be here today. actually, chairman thune, it's probably not the first time the majority leader's been before this committee. i'm reminded of something bob dole said at the confirmation hearing for another transportation nominee. his wife, elizabeth. we all remember bob for having the best sense of humor ever of anyone who served here.
this is how he began. he said, "i feel a little bit like nathan hale. i regret that i have but one wife to give for my country's infrastructure." [ laughter ] well, that was bob dole for you. the nominee before us is extraordinarily well qualified. incredibly capable and she's got really great judgment. [ laughter ] on a whole variety of things. i know senator paul will have much more to say about her qualifications when he speaks next. but let me just say this, elaine is going to do a fantastic job as secretary of transportation. she's going to do good things for our country. she's going to make the commonwealth of kentucky proud. she'll be only the second cabinet secretary we've had from
my state since world war ii. who was the other, you might ask? secretary of labor elaine chao. i said at her last confirmation hearing that elaine would be one of the best secretaries of labor we've ever had. i'm saying today that elaine will be one of the best secretaries of transportation, as well. she's overcome some pretty big obstacles in her life but everything she does, she does well. i know she'll perform brilliantly again in this new role. her family gathered here today couldn't be prouder especially elaine's father dr. james chao. i feel exactly the same way he does. thank you for the opportunity to be here and let me turn to my colleague from kentucky. >> mr. chairman, it is my privilege this morning to introduce a friend, a dear friend and a fellow kentuckian, secretary elaine chao, for her nomination hearing to serve as
secretary of transportation. i'd also like to welcome her family, dr. james chao renowned in his own right. my wife, kelly, and i, have come to know elaine well since our first election six years ago and we were both grateful for her friendship as we transitioned to public service. we both admire her for her thoughtfulness, integrity, intellect and service to the country. elaine's record of accomplishment and leadership make her a truly exceptional candidate. prior to her nomination, secretary chao had served this nation under three presidential administrations. most notably as the longest serving secretary of labor since world war ii under president george w. bush. as an immigrant to this country, secreta secretary chao's successes are not only a testament to the american dream but the unbridled spirit of kentucky also. having emigrated from taiwan at the age of with no background in the english language, she would copy all the words of her teachers on the blackboard so her parents could go over them daily when she
arrived at home to improve her english skills. her father worked three jobs to support six children but they always expressed optimism for the future. the family was truly grateful to be in america. and despite the challenges, they seized the opportunity that this nation had to offer. secretary chao's parents' belief in education, service and hard work set the foundation for her success. which includes a degree from harvard business school and 36 honorary doctorate degrees from institutions around the world. but for the chao family, education is never the end. it is just the beginning. secretary chao's extensive background in both public and private sectors includes not only her previous stint as secretary of labor but also deputy secretary of transportation, chairman of the federal maritime commission, deputy maritime administrator, and deputy administrator at the u.s. department of transportation, director of the peace corps, it's a long resume. we would all wish to have such a
resume. she was also president of the united way, as well. i have no doubt that she will do an excellent job and that her integrity will lead her to great heights as the secretary of transportation. i look forward to working with chao and officials at the department of the transportation to address our infrastructure issues facing our country. i urge the committee's favorable consideration of my friend, elaine chao. >> thank you, senator paul. thank you, senator mcconnell and at this point, we will ask our nominee, secretary elaine chao, to please come forward and offer her opening statement.
>> chairman thune, ranking member nelson -- chairman thune, ranking member nels nelson, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. i also want to thank my home state senators from the great commonwealth of kentucky for their kind introductions. i'm very honored to have the support of senator rand paul and i'll be working to lock in the majority leader's support tonight over dinner. i'm specially delighted to introduce my father, dr. james s.c. chao who along with my mother ruth mulan chao is the foundation of everything that my sisters and i have been able to achieve. like so many others as you've heard, my father left everything familiar behind to come to this country and build a better life
for our family. my mother, two sisters and i endured three long years of separation before we were able to join him traveling from asia to america via a cargo ship on an ocean journey that lasted 37 days. there were many challenges during those early days. living in an apartment in queens, new york, learning english and adapting to a completely foreign culture. but my parents' love, optimism, faith, and diligence kept us together. if i can ask my father to stand up, i would really appreciate it. stand up. thank you so much. i'm also very pleased to introduce one of my sisters, may chao and her twin daughters miranda and jessica from new
york city. may is the daughter whose name symbolizes america. my mother was seven months pregnant with may when my father left for america and he did not see his third daughter, may, until she was 3 years old. and may, if i can ask you and the girls to stand up. and my brother-in-law, gordon, is here. so that's it for the family. my executive career in government began at the u.s. department of transportation. during my career, i've had the extensive privilege of leading large, complex organizations. in the public and the private sectors as deputy secretary of transportation, director of the peace corps, president and ceo of united way of america, and the u.s. secretary of labor. in each of these positions, my goal has always been to help
others access opportunities in mainstream america and build better lives for themselves and their families by supporting policies that foster job creation and workforce competitiveness. our country's transportation infrastructure is the underpinning of a world class economy. one of the most productive, flexible and dynamic in the world. it is a key factor in productivity growth which has provided millions of hardworking americans with a standard of living that is the envy of the world. and it has provided us with unprecedented mobility, safety, and security. and yet today, these gains are jeopardized by aging infrastructure, growing congestion, increased fatalities on our highways, and a failure to keep pace with emerging
technologies. the u.s. department of transportation has a rare opportunity to shape the transformation of our critical infrastructure. and the chance to lead the department at this pivotal historic time is a great honor. first and foremost, safety will continue to be the primary objective. regulatory decisions should be rooted in analysis derived from sound science and data with the risk-based analysis that prevents accidents before they occur. and considers can both the cost and the benefits of new rulemakings. railroads, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, pipeline operators, transit authorities and hazardous waste material shippers should be deploying comprehensive approaches to safety. the department will also work with states to ensure that billions of dollars of federal
funding are focused on improving transportation system performance and project delivery. our rail and air traffic operational efficiency which is so important to america's competitiveness need to be continuously improved. i look forward to working with this committee on faa's transition to 21st century air traffic control technologies known as neffgen. eight months remain before faa reauthorization. so it's important to start the collaborative process soon to provide air travelers with a system second to none. another major challenge is to unleash the potential for private investment in our nation's infrastructure. as we work together to develop the details of the president-elect's infrastructure plan, it's important to know the significant difference between traditional program funding and other innovative financing tools such as public/private
partnerships. in order to take full advantage of the estimated trillions in capital that equity firms, pension funds, and endowments can invest, these partnerships must be allowed to participate with a bold new vision. and again, we look forward to working with you to explore all options and to create a mix of practical solutions both public and private, that provide the greatest cost/benefit to the public because we all know that the government doesn't have the resources to do it all. it's also important to recognize that the way we build and deliver projects is just as important as how much we invest. and we want to seek your advice in identifying and addressing unnecessary bottlenecks in the processes that govern project
development and delivery as well as the manufacturing processes that we oversee. and finally, we want to work with you to address the unique transportation needs in rural america as well as the challenges that major metropolitan areas face. looking to the future, we also have a unique opportunity to address the exciting new technologies transforming travel and commerce. the private sector is driving this innovation. they're working with cities and states to demonstrate improvements in the safety and efficiency of autonomous vehicles. drones are poised to become a major commercial force. and the federal role in these sectors is still very much in its infancy. we want to work with congress to position the federal government
as a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not as an implement -- and not as an impediment. in summary, the department of transportation has a key role to play in modernizing our transportation systems. strengthening our nation's competitiveness and improving our quality of life. and i look forward to working with you to rebuild, refurbish and revitalize america's infrastructure so our economy can continue to grow, create good paying jobs for america's working families and enhance our quality of life. thank you. and now i'll be pleased to take your questions. >> thank you, secretary chao. before we begin our questions, i want to ask unanimous consent to put 20 letters of support for secretary chao into the record.
they come from a diverse group of stakeholders ranging from first responders and transportation infrastructure groups to labor and shippers. without objection, so ordered. secretary chao, i think i counted at least a half dozen references to working with congress and more specifically to working with this committee in your testimony. i know you appreciate the importance of cooperation between the branches of our government. nevertheless, these hearings give us an opportunity to underscore that point. so if confirmed, will you pledge to work collaboratively with this community and provide thorough and timely responses to our request for information as we work together to address transportation policy? >> i look forward to working with members of this committee and also the congress on all these issues of concern. >> planes, trains and automobiles are particularly important in a rural state like south dakota where long distances often separate people from economic hubs. the markets for their goods and even hospitals.
secretary chao, i appreciated your recognition of the need and challenge of achieving equity between urban and rural areas in your top priorities for the department. as a senator from the state of south dakota, this balance is especially important to me and to my constituents. the f.a.s.t. act struck a careful balance to ensure we appropriately invested in both urban and rural infrastructure critical for connecting the country, supporting mobility options for all americans and moving agricultural, manufactured and other products to the market. to what extent to do you see the funding allocations in the f.a.s.t. act as providing a framework for thinking about potential allocations under any infrastructure proposal put forward by the administration? >> i think the president-elect's vision for an infrastructure proposal is ambitious and futuristic and comprehensive. we will be starting a task force and a process to address these issues.
the f.a.s.t. act was a tremendous accomplishment by the last congress and there are many, many financing options which should be considered and we would hope that as we go into the future, that we'll also be creative, innovative and consider other options as well, because as mentioned, the government does not have the resources to address all the infrastructure needs within our country. so all of us need to put our best thinking forward as to how to fund the aging infrastructure. >> would you strive also to try and strike the balance or achieve the balance when it comes to funding allocations between urban and rural areas that was accomplished in the f.a.s.t. act? >> i've -- absolutely. i've lived on the east coast, the west coast. i now live in kentucky. i'm very, very familiar with the balance that needs to be kept between the urban and the rural areas. >> another area of importance for south dakota and for a lot
of the members on this committee is the availability of reliable and affordable commercial air service which has the ability to allow access to and from geographically isolated areas of the country to hubs in metropolitan areas. and while it's a convenience for travelers, commercial aviation is something that often helps communities attract businesses creating jobs and spurring economic development. various factors have altered the market and unfortunately in some cases threatened or eliminated access to commercial aviation for curl communities. if confirmed, what will you do to improve commercial aviation connectivity to rural communities? >> rural communities are a central part of our country and their access to affordable and easy air service is an issue and something that we have talked about in many, many ways and over the years. so i look forward to working with the congress on continuing
the eas program and finding ways in which we can improve it, as well. >> new technologies i mentioned in my opening remarks like autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve our transportation system by saving lives, increasing mobility and improving fuel economy. the department has begun developing a framework for autonomous vehicles and as you noted in your testimony, but the federal role is still at an early stage of development. so i welcome your goal of making the federal government a catalyst rather than an impediment for technologies that improve safety and efficiency. if confirmed, how will your department under your leadership keep pace with evolving advanced technologies and foster innovation? >> innovation and creativity is a hallmark of america. we are famous throughout the world because of the ingenuity and creativity we have shown. and we have led the world in so
many fronts because of the new technologies that our country has been able to pioneer. we are now seeing the advent of autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, smartcars, and also drones. while the benefits are very much known, there are also concerns about how they will continue to develop and i will work with this committee and the congress to address many of these concerns. but we need to do so in a way that will not dampen the basic creativity and innovation of our country. >> thank you, secretary chao. senator nelson? >> mr. chairman, i want to welcome the four new members on the democratic side. they have certainly helped the ratio of male to female that you talked about. senators baldwin, duckworth, hassan, and cortez-masto. and i hope to announce very shortly the ranking members of the subcommittees very shortly. i'm just going to ask one
question. i want to give the opportunity for our members to ask this plethora of subjects that this committee handles and then i'll do any cleanup at the end. the question of privatization of air traffic control, the opposition of d.o.d., the fact that whereas the business roundtable supports the privatization, there is dissension within that organization. on the other side, the aerospace industries association opposes privatization. you want to offer any of your thoughts on this? >> i'd like to get confirmed first. [ laughter ] obviously, this is an issue of great importance. and this is a huge issue that
needs to have national consensus and for that are national consensus to occur, there needs to be a dialogue, a great discussion, a national discussion. the administration has not made a decision on then point. and i expect that come january 20th, this will be one of the issues in which the white house will have some say as to where this -- where the position of the administration will be. i am open to all ideas. i'm very cognizant of those who are in favor of it. i'm also very cognizant of those who are concerned about the safety aspects of it. >> okay. >> but i will work obviously, with the congress and also with this committee on all those issues. >> well, in view of your answer, let me just say that we will collaborate extensively. >> yes. >> with you with regard to this.
and it is so important that we get a full faa reauthorization, a multiyear. the chairman and i worked it out where we would get basically one year and get a number of important things etched into law in that bill. but for the certainty of the airline industry and the future for the future of the next generation of air traffic control, et cetera, we need to this multiyear faa reauthorization bill and there is a huge contention between the house and the senate over there issue of privatization. so we will be consulting with you and collaborating and communicating with you extensively on this. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i look forward to it.
>> thank you, senator nelson. senator wicker? >> madam secretary, i think most members of this committee are delighted that have you been chosen for this position. i think you'll be confirmed with a nice bipartisan vote and i think we'll be consulting and collaborating with you on a wide variety of issues because you have quite a bit of jurisdiction. i think what i heard you say with regard to senator nelson's question is, if we're going to make a major change as has been proposed, then there needs to be a national consensus on that, and that there needs to be more of a national conversation and certainly i appreciate your assurances that congress will be consulted on this. so i appreciate that. i would also simply like to underscore that in response to senator thune's question about
rural america, you expressed support for the essential air service. and i would just use part of my time today to say i think the point there that i would underscore in endorsing your statement, madam secretary, is that it is a bargain for job creators and economic developers in the united states to have this assurance and so i appreciate hearing that from you. i'd like to just touch briefly on three other things, and those would be the federal contract tower program, the merchant marine academy, and the jones act. now, with regard to the federal contract tower program, this has been one of the faa's one of the faa's most successful government industry partnership programs. it is critical to air traffic control safety and 253 smaller
airports including 7 in my home state of mississippi. what are your plans to ensure that this program would enjoy strong bipartisan and bicameral support in congress, continues to provide these important air traffic control services for our travelingi inpublic and our sma airports. >> i would hope to work with the congress. obviously, i've always done that in the past. this is a very important issue. i look forward to working with you on it. >> okay. i look forward to a continuing conversation on that also. now, as you may know and i think we had this conversation when you came by early on for a visit, which i appreciated. i'm a member of the board of visitors at the merchant marine academy. this has been one of the finest collegiate degrees a young american man or woman could receive in the united states of america and we've had some bumps
and hiccups along the way. on january 6th, i was pleased to learn that secretary fox has lifted the suspension of the "c" year on commercial vessels for students, for midshipmen at the merchant marine academy. i want to encourage you to continue efforts to ensure the integrity of this critical training program for our future merchant marine mariners. the merchant marine academy is operating also under a warning with regard to accreditation. this is unimaginable to me based on where this academy has been historically in terms of academic achievement. the accreditation warning presents a serious risk. i hope you have plans, and my question to you is will you make
it a priority, madam secretary, to ensure that the academy will stay on track to address the cited deficiencies prior to the april 2018 deadline and will you agree with me that the alumni of this fine institution have a lot of knowledge and wisdom that they can impart to us as government policymakers in this regard? >> senator wicker, during my courtesy visit with you, you were very concerned about this issue. and i listened very carefully to what your concerns are, which you echoed once again here today. i have been to kings point when i was deputy maritime administrator, i know the facility very well. this is a an huge issue and i can assure you if confirmed, this will be the first issue that i take up.
>> thank you very much. briefly because my time is fleeting, a vitally important part of our maritime industry is the jones act which this committee has jurisdiction over. i hope you will be a strong supporter of the jones act and advocate for our domestic maritime sector as a bipartisan majority of this committee has always done. >> the jones act is a law of the land and it will be obeyed. unless the congress changes its mind on that. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator wicker. senator cantwell. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and welcome and congratulations on your nomination. i think we had a chance to discuss the state of washington and how rapidly it is growing. how fact that being a gateway to the pacific has made our transportation system one of the key cornerstones of our economic
success, that our state and local governments are making strategic investments. in 2014, washington businesses, though, lost $800 million because of congestion, and we have very challenged infrastructure issues. for the third consecutive year, seatac is the fastest growing airport in the united states. in the last three years, the passenger volume has increased by 32%. railroads are moving over 105 million tons of freight each year. sound transit is the fastest growing light rail service in the country. the northwest seaport alliance, the largest cargo center and our gdp in the state grew by 3% compared to the nation as a whole which was 2.5% and washington employment grew 3.5%, the fastest in the nation, adding 109,000 jobs in 2016. so we have growth. we have an economic engine.
but we desperately, desperately, desperately need the infrastructure investment. so i listened to your words very carefully as you phrased out ways in which to get that infrastructure investment. i'm all for creativity. i would say that our last transportation bill stretched us to the limits. there's no more spro dollars to get for infrastructure investment. and so it is very important that we move forward, so i just have a couple of questions. you can just answer yes or no. it's not trick yes or no questions, more trying to get a sense of what you will prioritize as far as funding. so do you support the legislation that this committee passed that was implemented the freight act and funding fast lane grant programs to move freight more cost effectively through the united states and continuing to fund that program? >> in concept, of course, we want to make sure that freight is moved efficiently. it adds to the productivity of our country. it's good for the economy.
as for the second part of your question, i'm not quite sure yet because i've not been briefed on what the current situation is. but if confirmed, i'll be more than glad to do that. >> okay. when it comes to the faa, my colleague mentioned this, so i just want to be clear, do you support coming up with additional funding, however it works out? you do support in a new infrastructure investment in our airports? >> we need to more resources to build, repair, refurbish, our infrastructure including those that relate to the aviation sector, yes. >> okay. i mentioned sound transit, one of the fastest growing commuter systems in the country. there are projects that are already in the pipeline. do you support continuation of those projects? and you mentioned creativity. one of the things that they've been able to use is the master credit agreements so they can
get more affordable loan rates. are those the kinds of programs you would support for sound trans transit? >> at this point, if i'm confirmed, i need to take a look at those projects. there are many projects that are on the books and there are different reasons why some are faster, some are slower. i need to take a look at what is happening with each of those projects. >> okay. i'd like to follow up with you, if i could, on that in writing. >> of course. >> see if we can get an answer to that. then when you and i visited, i mentioned this issue of the volume of crude by rail going through the state of washington. extraordinary growth rates of trains that have every city in my state concerned about the volatility of this product. department of energy and d.o.t. are working on an analysis of the volatility of that product. will you continue to support that research? >> you and i have talked about this at length. the prospect of having these products go through urban areas is of great concern, but, again,
until i'm confirmed and i have an opportunity to be briefed on all of these, it would be premature for me to say anything at this point. >> okay. >> but i will work with you on this. >> i definitely came here very interested in your nomination and very enthusiastic about the prospects of a former cabinet member moving over to focus on something that has been very, if you will, administrations sometimes choosing someone of the opposite party just because of the bipartisan nature of transportation. and its ability. so i would hope you could look at some of these -- >> absolutely. >> -- and give me a more specific answer. i'm not trying to box you in as much as the main debate for my state right now is are we going to fund infrastructure investment. we need to know that you're going to step up and say yes to that and work creatively with us to find those solutions. >> the way you have just phrased the question, absolutely. >> okay. >> yes. >> but the specifics you have -- >> yeah, if i'm confirmed, i do need to take a look at the specifics.
>> i'm going to send you a few more in writing. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator cantwell. senator blunt? >> thank you, chairman. secretary chao, it's wonderful to have you here. other committee will have somebody that goes true this process this year who has already been confirmed four times. so far without a dissenting vote on the senate floor. you're in the process of setting a record that it will be hard o t to -- hard for anybody else to meet in the future. we had a chance to work together when you were at the department of labor, the secretary of labor, i thought you did a tremendous job there. one of the things i liked best about your focus there was on compliance, even more than on enforcement. and i wonder if you could talk a little bit about that theory of trying to get people into compliance as a principle focus, rather than the heavy hand of enforcement as your first place to go.
>> a lot of times, the rules and regulations can be very confusing. and so, the government, whether it be at the federal, state, local levels, i believe, has a responsibility to engage in outreach, to help the regulated community understand what is required of them. this benefits not only those who are being protected, which is the sole criteria, of course, but also, it builds a culture, for example, of safety, that benefits those who are being protected. because workers alone cannot protect themselves, they need the rules and regulations and the laws. they need the cooperation of the government, they also need the cooperation of their employers. working together by making it very clear what the obligation
of the employer is and how best to understand the plethora of federal, local, state and local regulations, to make it transparent and easily understandable. that's the best way to protect workers, and that was a philosophy in compliance that we followed. >> you know, i think another area that comes into that immediately, too, all of our appropriate discussions on in a infrastructure, and, you know, in kentucky and missouri, really transportation is our greatest advantage. the rivers come together, the highways come together, the rail systems come together. and obviously, not as dependent on geography, but air, as well, but i think it's really important that we now be thinking of how all of those things work and i believe ten
years from now, we'll look back at this moment, where world food demand is going to double in three, four decades, and such great economic opportunities and think it was a good thing that we got started right now, looking at that intermodal opportunity, or, why didn't we do that? and i'm wondering what your thoughts are, as to the inland port structure, the rail structure and the highway structure, how those things, along with air, come together. >> intermodalism is a concept that's been discussed since the 1970s. and as we progressed since then, we've improved many aspects, but not nearly enough. we still have sectors of the economy, different modes of transportation, viewing each other as competitors, where as we should all be working together in an integrated intermodal system. and so, as we consider the in a infrastructure of the future, we need to focus more on how different modes of
transportation can be a seamless partner, deliverer of services together to provide a more efficient and productive transportation system, for the benefit of the consumer and the shippers and overall quality of life for our country. >> yeah, i think that competitive model, where we're all trying to figure out where we compete as a country, by making this all work more effectively is a much more realistic model than trucking people wore rid about the barge people worried about the rails. how do you use this whole system in a way that makes us as competitive as we need to be, and can be. and one last thought, on streamlining, which you've mentioned, you know, in both the last highway bill and the ra railroad bill, we've created some opportunities where you're working in existing space for a more fast-tracked process that
lets you go ahead and improve that rail spur, that rail line, that bridge that's already standing there, just a few minutes, your thoughts on streamlining that regulatory process to get things done? >> if i'm confirmed, i think one of the major things that i'll be looking at is the issue that you discussed, and also, the intermodal compatibility and interaction that it can occur. we are seeing more cooperation between the different modes of transportation, but again, more needs to be done. part of it is the lack of federal resources, overall resources to improve our inf infrastructure, but all of that is connected to the question that you've raised, and, again, if confirmed, that would be an issue that we would be having with this committee and the congress, on how to improve the situation. >> thank you, secretary. thank you, chair. >> thank you, senator blunt.
senat senator? >> thank you, senator. and congratulations on your nomination, and we're excited to work with you going forward. i'm not going to pose an exact question about infrastructure except to say how important it is in our state. we are the state that had the 35-w bridge collapse in the middle of that summer day, it got rebuilt with some good bipartisan work in a year, it was my first few years in the senate, i'll never forget that, and i've been devoted to this issue of infrastructure ever since. i've joined with senator warner and blunt on their proposal for financing authority. and there's a lot of ideas out there. and i was heartened by the fact that the president-elect listed this as the number one issue on election night, which all of america saw, so, i'm hoping that we can come together on something that makes sense to up our infrastructure in our country, which would include
bro broadband. a number of the members here are members of our broadband caucus, and you and i discussed that. but i thought i would get to some specific questions. first, some air questions. both democratic and republican administrations have pursued and expanded open sky agreement to provide u.s. consumers, carriers and airports with more choice, access to new destinations. i'm concerned that recent actions by some companies like norwegian air international and some countries, like the uae and qatar, are undermining our open skies agreements, hurting american workers because of the way they are financing their airlines. could you work with me on this to make sure that our american airline workers aren't harmed by unfair competition from abroad? competition is great, but not when it's not an even playing field. >> thank you for offering that, i look forward to working with you on this important issue if confirmed. >> thank you very much.
the first item on the nts b's list of most wanted safety improvements for 2016 was reducing fatigue-related crashes. we have all seen a number of horrific crashes in the last few years, including flight 3407. we have worked really hard on this issue, for passenger fli t flights. senator boxer, who is no longer with our committee, as she retired, and i worked on a bill with captain sully sullenberger from the miracle on the hudson involving cargo flights and having some rules in place that makes sure their pilots are flying safe. secretary chao, do you share my commit. to increasing aviation safety, working on this cargo issue, and continuing to have this as a priority? >> i look forward to working with you on all these issues if i'm confirmed. >> okay, thank you. you and i talked about the
general aviation, minnesota's home of cirrus, in duluth. we make small jets. it is an expanding industry with a lot of exports nationally and we finally got the rules done to speed up the approval process fir their their safety additions. i'm hoping it will continue to help us as an important manufacturing area of america. >> if confirms, i look forward to helping you on that. >> now, we go to snow mobiles. the recreational trail program is extremely important. it funds offhighway vehicle, snow mobile, nonmotorized trail uses. we've had the cross country skiers and the bicyclists working with the motorized vehicles, it derives its funding from gas taxes paid by offhighway vehicle users, when they fill up their machines, and i hope that you will work with us going forward and that issue, as well, it's maybe not the first thing you thought of when you got up this morning, but
that's been a very positive program for recreational use. >> i look forward to working you with on it. >> last, just thoughts on rail safety. we have got a lot of issues in our state, you and i talked about the fact that we are at this hub where the oil's coming in from north dakota, some from c canada, and we're glad we've had more production in our country, but that combined with the bio-fuels, we've had a number of derailments. just your thoughts on that. rail safety. >> rail safety is number one. there's no question about that. and so, safety will continue to be the number one priority, and responsibility, of the department of transportation, and if confirmed, i look forward to working with you, both of you, we've talked about this during our courtesy visits and with all members of the committee and the congress on this very important priority. >> okay, thank you, and i will
put some questions on the record on distracted driving, i've been leading those efforts, and we've had some success, it's a very hard issue, but overall, nationally, 7% increase in traffic fatalities from 2014 to 2015. secretary lahood, which was one of his top priorities when he was in, and i hope that we can reinvigorate those efforts and make this a top priority. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator. senator fisher? >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome. it is a pleasure to see you today, and i want to add my congratulations on your nomination. i appreciated you coming in for a private meeting that we had in our office, and i thought we covered a variety of issues, and i just want to touch on a few of those today with you. of course, on everybody's mind is highway trust fund.
when you hear the president-elect speak about inf infrastructure and putting money into infrastructure, part of that, i would assume, would go to the highway trust fund. we are looking at a short fall of $107 billion over the next five years following the expiration of the fast act, and what are your thoughts on addressing that long-term solvency of the federal highway trust fund? >> the highway trust fund is in bad shape. because of the declining miles, because of the increased miles per gallon that cars normally get, the gas tax, which is 90% of the funding of the highway trust fund, is no long -- is not as lucrative as it used to be. and the fund annually spends $47 billion, takes in 37, there's a $10 billion deficit every year. you can't make that up on volume.
so, this is a huge issue. and the pay force for any inf infrastructure proposal are all challenging, and all have their particular champions and also detractors, so, witness again, if confirmed, i look forward to working with this committee, and also the congress on this number one priority, among the top priorities, of this president-elect. >> thank you. this -- >> and it will go bankrupt by 2021 if we don't do something. we know this. >> this is an issue i worked in my state, as a state senator. we were successful in thinking outside the box on some policy issues, and in a couple weeks, we'll be putting forward a proposal here to start that conversation on how we're going to be funding our highways. another thing that i've worked on in this committee, secretary
chao, is addressing and reduce the growing number of those unnecessary regulations that we face and during the last congress, the subcommittee on surface transportation that i chaired held nearly 20 hearings and events on how best that we can keep goods moving across this country and do so safely. so, i was pleased to be able to have language in the fast act to reform the federal motor carrier safety administration's regulatory process, by making it more transparent, and responsive and open to input from your stake holders. i would ask you, what do you think is the best way that we can keep passengers and freight moving across our system and how do you plan to approach looking at regulations that many consider to be a burden on how we are moving goods and people
across this country? >> you and i had a long conversation during our courtesy meeting, which i'm very grateful that you granted. many of the transportation issues in your state. and it was very clear from your career in the past, part of the state legislature that you are quite an expert on all of these transportation issues yourself. so, it was a real benefit for me to learn from you and hear your points and also see your passion for protected interest of your state. what was the question, i'm so sorry. >> how are we going to -- >> oh, the regulations, sorry. so, on the regulations, i think the great challenge for all regulators is to balance the ultimate goal, obviously, of safety, but also, to make sure that the regulations that are enacted are based on sound science, on true data and that
the underlining analysis is solid. that is the best way that we protect consumers and passengers. >> right. i agree with you on that. another point, we're looking at shortages with regards to commercial truck drivers, with airline pilots, and that has a direct impact, not just on our transportation system, but on our country as a whole. when we're not able to move people, when we're not able to move and see products and see commerce grow, so, i look forward to working with you on that, as well. my time is up, but i thank you for being open to all of the issues that your portfolio is going to encompass when you take over the department as the new secretary. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator fischer. senator moran? >> mr. chairman, very much. elaine, welcome to the committee. we offer our congratulations to you on this nomination.
and while i have always been an admirer of your abilities, it is your nieces that i'm most admiring this morning. they are well behaved. apparently -- seemingly attentive to what's being said here. and it's perhaps the only people in the audience that seem to be interested in what members of the united states senate are saying, so, i appreciate the suggestion that what we're saying is of interest to them and i would commend your sister and her husband for raising apparently good daughters, so, congratulations to your family, as well. >> thank you. >> senator nelson raised the topic of privatization of air traffic control. one of the justifications that's been used, and i'm very concerned with that privatizati privatization, so, i join senator nelson in that regard. one of the justifications of proponents of that have utilized is the failure of the faa to, in a timely manner, implement next
gen. to bring the latest technologies and safety to our air traffic control system. and the knock is that by the time the department of transportation completes its work on next gen, its technologies will already be outdated. so, my question is, maybe you can help us eliminate one of the reasons that people advocate for privatization, by telling us how we could have faster, quicker, more efficient implementation of technologies designed to improve our air traffic control system and the safety that it provides. >> when i was deputy secretary, until president george h.w. bush's money strags, modernization of the air traffic control was a huge issue then. a lot has changed. a lot has been done, but more needs to be done. obviously, as times change, and
the lag in the ability of the organization to keep up with the modernization that is required. this is a huge issue. i'm very much aware of those who are for it, those who are against privatprivatization, i you, with your state, of many general aviation interests, have not been a proponent. we need to have a national discussion about this. and so i look forward to working with the congress, especially with the faa reauthorization bill coming up on september 30th of this year, on addressing many of these very important aviation issues, if i'm confirmed. >> well, i am interested in working on the issue, but my belief, one of the ways we can diminish the demand for a different system is to get the technology in place necessary for the latest updated advanced air traffic control system, even
under its current governance structure. you're right, wichita, kansas, is the air capital of the world. we manufacture more aircraft than any place in the country. and that would give me the opportunity to highlight the importance of something that's developing today, and that involves the certification process, the method by which we get new aircraft, new -- to market. and getting that done in a timely fashion enables our manufactures, but the aviation system in our country, to compete in a global market. reforms that encourage the full use of organization designation authority, odas, is important to us, meaning that it is moving in a direction of self-certification. the faa has been helpful in recent times in accomplishing
that, and i would bring that issue to your attention. it's -- the faa and industry are moving toward a risk-based safety oversight approach and i would encourage you to encourage the faa to continue that process, so that we can get the latest technologies and our manufacturing sector utilized. new products in the market. and better able to compete in a global economy. any reaction? >> i would certainly hope to do that. yes, thank you. >> i appreciate that. i would only mention, because as it was indicated earlier by one of the colleagues as the clock had already turned to red that his time was fleeting, my time is fleeted, and i would be interested in meeting with you, dealing with vehicle to vehicle technology, and we have jurisdiction over nista and we
look forward to hearing your views in how we can implement safety in the latest technologies. there seems to be a theme here in my conversation, which is technology provides us great advantages, and we want to work with you to see that it is available to the industry and to the consumer. >> i look forward to working with you. >> thank you, ma'am. >> thank you, senator moran. following up on that point, i think the reason that there's been such a discussion about faa and reform is because the promised benefits of next gen have not been realized. >> i understand. >> there's plenty documentation, and you've indicated an open mind about how to proceed. i have an open mind, too, but it's going to require that we work together, and it's certainly important that travelers, taxpayers, people in the aviation stakeholder comm committy, realize the benefits of this and make sure they're getting a good return on the billions that have already been spent. >> and mr. chairman, let me just chime in on that issue. what we're doing, with next gen
is, we're basically going to have air traffic control off of satellites instead of radars. and as a result, you can vector and aircraft much more efficiently to its designated airport. at the same time, aircraft can be aware of each other, so that you've got real-time awareness in air traffic control, in the cockpit. the technology is there. we just need to implement it. and those contracts are being vigorously performed in the faa. i just wanted to add that, mr. chair. >> senator nelson. senator blumenthal? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. welcome, miss chao, and thank you for your past service.
i look forward to working with you, and i might just say, although senator mcconnell has left, he and i have something in common, which is, we both married above ourselves. and my wife, cynthia, is a friend and admirer of yours, and welcome to our committee. i look forward to -- >> thank you. >> -- to working with you on issues that concern investment in infrastructure. you and i have talked a little bit about the need to modernize and upgrade our deteriorating rail road railroads and bridges. we see this issue particularly in connecticut, on our roads and bridges, but also the safety and reliability and speed of our rail system. which needs to be significantly improved. and that requires real investment. public resources, not just tax
credits. and you and i have talked about the need for a public private partnership, i hope that we can work together to make that happen and build a bipartisan consensus in favor of it, as i think is very possible. i also think that safety in our other kinds of transportation is very important. as you well know, a lot of the recommendations made by the agencies that will be under your jurisdiction very simply have not been implemented, according to the latest numbers from the national transportation safety board. there are hundreds of open safety recommendations, 305, at the federal aviation administration, 61 at the federal railway administration, 91 at nhtsa. these recommendations are, essentially, potentially, life-saving, for people who are effected by them. and the agencies have failed to
fulfill recommendations, and so, my first question to you is, what can -- what are your plans to close those recommendations, make sure they are implemented? >> as mentioned, safety is a top priority of the department. if confirmed, one of my first tasks will be to get briefed on all of these outstanding issues, and i look forward to working with you and your committee on all of this. >> i know there's a tendency, sometimes, to be dismissive about these kinds of recommendations, i hope that you will make them a priority. >> if confirmed, i will look at them very seriously. >> and make sure that they are implemented. i know you are a doer, and these recommendations need doing. let me turn to one of the areas where technology is tremendously
important. you mentioned technology in your opening statement. positive train control. not a new technology. been around for many years. the deadline for implementing it was 2015, which then was extended to 2018. over opposition from a number of us, including myself. and, again, you and i have talked a little bit about it. would you plan to make sure that that deadline is fulfilled and that, in fact, positive train control, which is a life-saving technology, is implemented by 2018? >> if confirmed, i hope to get briefed on this, and if there's a deadline, as you mentioned, of that particular date, i would like at it very seriously, and, again, i want to get an up to date briefing on what is going on and i did promise you that i would do that. >> you have promised, and i hope the promise, again, is not just to be briefed, but also to take
action, because we've seen in the northeast the consequences of the failure to implement it, in a number of the rail catastrophes that have happened, in pennsylvania, and others, where these disasters could have been stopped. with positive train control. one last question, relating to the plan recently issued by the federal railway administration, which would, in fact, reroute some of the rail going through connecticut, in bypasses, through areas like old lime, where they would have disastrous effects on the environment, culture and historic landmarks, quality of life. i would ask your commitment that you will review this plan and change it in response to the
overwhelming outcry from people in connecticut that the recently implemented fra plan simply is unworkable, and it is also unaffordable. >> you and i have spoken about this before, during our courtesy visit and i will certainly review this very carefully, if confirmed. >> thank you. mr. chairman? >> thank you, senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, secretary chao, and thank you to your family for their commitment to public service and their commitment to you. this morning was historic, at least for me it was the first time i see leader mcconnell hug anyone, so -- >> i'm glad it was me. >> so, secretary chao, we have a serious safety crisis on our roads, more than 35,000 people died in crashes in 2015, that's
a 7% increase over the previous year, and the largest increase in 50 years. the early estimates show that that number will surpass 40,000 in 2016, and these are not car on car accidents. we are also failing those that walk along the roads. in 2015, 10% of all roadway deaths were pedestrians. seniors are 50% more likely than other pedestrians to be struck and killed by a car and this problem is particularly bad in the state of hawaii, where we have the unfortunate distinction of having the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities among our elderly in the country. these deaths are preventable. they are preventable. we have worked on the implementation of safe streets, and we worked with the current secretary of transportation to try to get metropolitan planning organizations, state departments
of transportation to implement safe streets. to e have your commitment totmn work on pedestrian safety and the implementation of a safe streets agenda? >> we've talked about this, as well. i look forward to working with you on that. if confirmed. >> thank you, secretary. following up on senator wicker's question, regarding the jones act. it is a bipartisan consensus, as you know, it's the foundation of the domestic u.s. flag maritime industry. and it is also essential to our national security. u.s. flag vessels and american merchant marines support our war fighters, transporting medical supplies, food and other cargo to troops in combat. the military's confidence in a fleet of u.s. flag ships, to move cargo to troops deployed in places like iraq and afghanistan, allow the navy to save limited cargo space for weapons, fuel and other essential goods, and that's why every secretary of defense,
every secretary of the navy, for generations, has supported the jones act. and with the usual caveats, but understanding that you have a unique role as the form er depuy of transportation and the former secretary of labor, and your private sector experience in the shipping context, can you talk about the importance of the jones act from both a national security standpoint and from an economic security standpoint? >> the jones act is a very important program that secures national security. we have seen two wars now in the last 25 years. i'm of an age where i have seen two wars in pivotal areas of the world. if we did not have the merchant marine assets to assist the
great hauls on these campaigns, military, naval campaigns, our country would not have been able to supply our troops, bring the necessary equipment, all of that is not done on the gray bostons, but merchan t marine bottoms. i have great interest in this, as well, and the national security of the merchant marine fleet of this country is part of the way that we are able to be effective overseas and protect this country. so, i am a great proponent of the u.s. flag merchant marine fleet. >> thank you very much. and my final question is just, following up on our conversation during our courtesy visit, hawaii is the most isolated, populated place on the planet, and so our unique geography and
topography, the fact that we're an island state, means our aviation picture is broadband. inf infrastructure needs. surface transportation needs are different. not dissimilar to senator sullivan's unique situation, representing the state of alaska. we would just ask for your continued understanding, both as we're crafting statutes, but also as you make rules and also as you interpret existing rules and statutes and procedures to understand that every place says they are different, and that is only true in hawaii and alaska. >> we've talked about this and i appreciated you sharing with me the concerns of your state. >> thank you very much. >> thank senator sullivan? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and kon graj lakes. i certainly agree with the chairman that you are an ideal
candidate for this position. my wife, julie, sends her congratulations, as well. and i want to begin by thanking you for your exceptional service to our nation. when you look at your background, it's just remarkable, what you've done for this country. and i also just want to mention that you and your family, including your nieces, have a great example for all americans, and i hope a lot of people are watching to hear this story of your family, it's very powerful. i appreciate your focus on modernizing the transportation system, but i really want to emphasize that it's going to be very difficult to do that without modernizing the federal permitting system, and you and i have had the opportunity to discuss some of these challenges, but just last year, in a hearing in this committee, we had the head of the seattle airport, sea-tac airport, he talked about, it took four years to build the new runway at
sea-tac, but 15 years, 15 years to get the federal permits to start building. there's stories all across the country that i know you're familiar with. in alaska, we've had many nightmare scenarios, took 20 years, almost, to per milt a gold mine in my state. and you know, our country used to be the envy of the world, in terms of building infrastructure projects responsibly, on time. the 1,500-mile alaska-canada highway was built under a year. now, in america, it takes on average to get a permit for a bridge six years. so, if we are looking at major infrastructure initiative, which i support, if we're not also undertaking major federal permitting, i think that we're not going to be successful in our infrastructure initiative.
do you see this as a major problem and will you work with us, both from your regulatory authority standpoint, and legislation, that we would understand take here and on the epw committee, to try to address this? >> yes, i would. senator, you wrote a very, very good article in "the wall street journal" about this particular issue, and what we hear from many investors and outside interests, just various stakeholders, is that due mrikive and bureaucratic permitting that may occur, we want to make sure the regulatory process works, but that also means getting rid of some of the ren dun dancies and some of the unnecessary burdens. so, you have certainly been a leader on that, and i look forward to working with you. >> well, we look forward to working with you, as well. i would note that both the epw committee, former chairman inhofe and chairman thune, we're all very committed to. that one other area, and we want
to work with you and in that op-ed that you mentioned, i appreciate you commenting on that but we're working on a major permitting reform bill called the rebuild america now act, and certainly look forward to working with you and the rest of the trump administration on those kind of permitting performs. one other area that i wanted to mention. we have all these opportunities in regard to energy in this country, where once again the world's energy super power, and yet, the obama administration has clearly politicized and delayed the permitting of pipelines. the keystone xl pipeline took eight years until the president finally plugg lly pulled the pl. the reality is that pipelines are much more safe than delivering by rail. so, can we get your commitment to helps streamline the permitting of pipelines and to depoliticize what has become a very politicized permitting process with the current
administration on that important area of permitting? >> i look forward to working with you on this issue, as we've discussed, if i am confirmed. >> thank you. and finally, i will turn a little bit, talk about alaska and some of the rural areas, you know, we're a very resource-rich but infrastructure poor state. at almost 600,000 square miles of land, alaska is more than two and a half times the size of texas. we like to say in alaska, if you split alaska in two, texas would be the third largest state in the country. but we only have 10,400 miles of paved roads, compared to texas, which has 313,000. another comparison, alaska has 118 times the size of connecticut, but we have less than half the roads that connecticut has. so, if confirmed, will you
commit to come to alaska, with me, to meet my constituents, to help us address the unique challenges and opportunities with regard to infrastructure, roads, bridges, pipelines in alaska that are not only important to my constituents, but really important to the nation. >> i would be delighted to. senator, you mentioned how important your office is in terms of convening important stakeholders to address these issues and i'd be more than glad to help and to participate in those, as well. >> great. thank you. thank you again for your great service to our country. >> thank you senator sullivan. and newly minted chairman of the ocean subcommittee, so, we're all for more roads in alaska. next up is senator peters, followed by senator inhofe. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary, it's great to have
you here and i'll concur with my colleagues that it's a privilege to have you testifying before us today and also appreciate your story and your family's story. it's a true american story, and shows the power of immigration and how immigration has brought many wonderful people to our shores to pursue their version of the american dream, so, thank you for being an embodiment of that. >> thank you. >> i want to thank you for the time in which you spent with me in my office, talking about a variety of issues. i think it was clear, you know i'm foe kusd on automobiles, being from michigan, and some of the incredible things that are going to be happening, when it comes to autonomous vehicles, or as i referred to them as self-driving vehicle. autonomous sounds a little severe. we'll have incredible benefits when it comes to things about safety. i was just at the detroit auto show before coming here, the whole focus of that is mobility.
we think, nhtsa believes we can eliminate all auto crashes, 80% of auto crashes could be eliminated, saves tens of thousands of lives. this is transformational technology on par with the first car to come off of the assembly line. it's that big. but as we talked about, it is also an area where there's intense competition, and who gets there first with this technology, from an international perspective, will have a significant competitive advantage. we know the asians are moving on this very aggressively. the europeans are moving very aggressively. we know our american auto companies are doing a phenomenal job, in fact, ford motor company has announced that they will have a production vehicle by 2021, a mass production vehicle of a self-driving vehicle available. that's roughly five years, and we may actually see that accelerated. so, i want to just touch on a couple issues. we know that speed is critical. we have tough competition, as i mentioned. we need to move this forward. one aspect we talked about is test facilities to test these
technologies. we're in a competition right now with a number of sigtes around the country. there may be multiple ones that are selected as early as next week to do these kinds of testing. i would hope you would want to be fully engaged after those facilities are selected, to work on collaborative ways that we can work with the federal government to help industry fully use those facilities to test vehicles and get your thoughts on that. >> i would certainly want to do that. >> well, i appreciate. that and the other aspect is federal policy, you know, these technologies are going at an exponential rate. policy moves much slower than that. you have some specific ideas as to how we speed that process up, but understanding, as you have said over and over again, safety is paramount. the public already will be a little bit concerned about self-driving vehicle and, so, any kind of accidents that occur will be -- will have a tremendous public blow-back. we certainly can't do that. but on the same token, we need
to be able to allow innovation to go and test vehicles, not just on test tracks, but getting them out on the road. any thoughts as to what you'd be open to see on that? >> i'm very open to working with you on it. we've talked about it. you are obviously a tremendous proponent for your state, and for the manufacturers that are in your state. i thought it was very interesting, with senator her here, as well, that you talked about testing grounds, and how sometimes snow and cold weather are actually advantages in testing grounds. but what we are seeing is, obviously, technology outstripping the consumer ability to accept and understand some of the technology, so, i think it behooves all of us, as a country, as a society, to bring greater familiarity and greater comfort for those who are passengers and other stakeholders, who will be eventual users of this technology, to understand the
benefits, the limitations, and also, what it means going forward in the future, so, it requires a national discussion and i look forward to doing that with you. >> i look forward to that, as well. one final question, another important issue for me, back in 2005, following hurricane katrina, president bush and the department of labor, which was under your leadership at that time, suspended davis bacon provisions on federal contracts in the gulf coast. this action was very concerning to me, as i know many others, because even a temporary suspension of davis bacon will drastically reduce wages to american workers who are tasked to rebuild their community. i know president-elect trump has stated that his administration will follow a mantra of buy america, hire america, and we hope that part of that mantra also means that there are fair wages paid to those americans who are doing that work. and that's why just, final
question, can you commit now to us to the application of davis bacon for all department of transportation contracts issued under your leadership? >> well, davis bacon is currently the law. and unless the congress changes that, it is the law. >> so, the suspension we saw in the past -- >> the suspension in katrina was very, very extraordinary. >> right. >> it was extraordinary circumstances, in which we needed to get rebuilding, going at a very fast rate to enable, obviously, very distressed communities to come back to life. >> so, you support the basic foundation of davis bacon, as well, and you will continue to support it? >> as i mentioned, davis bacon is the law, and the law -- it will be the law, unless the congress changes it. >> right. well, thank you. appreciate that. >> thank you, senator peters. senator inhofe? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i say to you and the ranking member that i'm just delighted to be on this committee. and i'm looking forward to it.
you know, i think -- keep thinking, last night, i was with you and your family, your daddy, how much -- how popular, how excited your daddy is right now. thinking about the things that are -- >> thank you. >> the things that are going on, and that he is responsible for you, and your performing. and your cute little nieces -- >> yes, miranda and jessica. >> yeah, they're great. well, anyway, but -- i say that, because as you well know, i've got 20 kids and grandkids. you got some more work to do, but that's all right. let me share a couple of things with you that perhaps even you didn't know -- i think you probably did know this, i think a lot of the members of this committee did not know this, that i've been on a committee that is like this, the environment of public works has a lot of jurisdiction here also in transportation, for 21 years.
prior to that, eight years on the tni committee in the house of representatives, so i've been around this thing for a long time. our biggest problem used to be, when i was in the house, that we had too much surplus in the highway trust fund. >> not anymore. >> yeah, and you outlined in your opening statement why that changed. but that was actually a fact, in fact, i remember when bill clinton was first president of the united states, he was looking for some money to rob out of some other accounts and he took -- he took $16 billion out of the highway trust fund. so, those days are behind us. and we can't go back to them. but nonetheless, it's kind of under review. the history. i'm going to ask two articles be made part of the record this morning. that's a uc, mr. chairman. >> without objection. >> these articles are articles very complimentary to you, when
you had your previous secretary position, of labor. and they talk about how you got on the job, i wouldn't bring this up, except it's in writing here, on virtually the first day, you got everybody in there and said this is what -- these are our problems, these are going to be our solutions, we're going to stay on top of them and you never slowed down from the very beginning. >> thank you so much. >> and i would hope and would ask that you do the same thing in this job. and i do happen to know, because they've contacted us, that in the audience here, we have people who were strong supporters of you and worked for you, during those years. they're all gone and doing grand things now, but they still have that allegiance and that love for you. in fact, i have to say this, in the years that i've been here, that's 30 years now, i've never seen anyone come into, get the nomination for a position, that people loved more than you. there's goit to be a reason for
that. all right, let me -- a couple of specific things i do want to get in. and one is, we've been talking about the big issue, the privatization in all this, you know, i think i might be the only active commercial pilot on this committee, and so, i deal with this. and on controllers, i know that there's other options out there, has have been pointed out by the ranking member. they've done a great job. and we need to make sure that we do this thing right. i see, as a problem, just an observation to me, my communications normally with the general aviation community, because i've been in voluvolvedt for so many years. it just seems to me there's not a lot of communication going back and forth. and i would just suggest, judging from your past performance, that one of the first things you might do is get them all in one room. and talk about it.
it's surprising how sheltered people are in their own opinions. just a thought. what do think about that? >> thank you for making that suggestion. and obviously, confirmed, the convening power of the secretary of transportation is immense, and that certainly could be put to good use in convening these various stakeholders to talk about an important issue like this. >> yeah. one of the things that has not been mentioned so far and a lot has been mentioned during this, is the use of drones. and how significant that is now. it started out with, in my experience, with them in the house armed services committee, then the senate armed services committee. and, of course, we had some provisions put in the faa bill to facilitate the use of drones, areas like pipelines and other areas. and i know this is going to be one that is -- is going to be of interest to you.
one of the inhibiting factors with drones is all the overrelations that are there. number one, do you agree with that, and do you have plans to attack these regulations, pretty quick in your service? >> you know, the drones started out as, as you mentioned, with the department of defense. it's an emerging technology. there are those who see the benefits of commercializing them for various uses, it's transforming the way we work, the way we do commerce. there are also others who are very concerned about privacy issues, security issues, and, again, for going forward with an emerging technology as important as this, with such vast implications for our future, i think we need to talk about it. we need to have, again, a national consensus on where we're going. state by state patchwork is of concern. what does that mean for federal regulations. so, i look forward to working
with the committee and also with the congress on these issues. >> that's great. my time has expired, so, for the record, if you would address something that hasn't been addre addressed, and that is the energy infrastructure. hasn't really been given the attention that it should be and perhaps you can give me your ideas, give us your ideas for the record. >> i would be glad to do so. >> thank you senator inhofe, and welcome to the committee. senator baldwin is up next, followed by senator -- nobody else shows up, capito. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to thank the chairman and ranking member for a warm welcome to the committee. i'm delighted, secretary chao, my first commerce committee meeting is your confirmation hearing. >> thank you. >> and thank you for our visit last week. it was helpful to start the conversation, and i actually want to start by asking you to speak a little bit more on a topic that we discussed when we
visited, which is the buy america rule. simply put, i firmly believe that american workers should build our infrastructure with american products. and that taxpayers money should not be spent on chinese or russian steel and iron. so, here in the senate, i have spent some time working on including a buy america provision in our recently passed water infrastructure bill that was signed into law just a few weeks ago. and despite broad bipartisan support in the senate, speaker ryan and the congressional republicans pulled my buy america provision from the water inf infrastructure bill, as we discussed. now, their position against buy america is at stark odds with
the president-elect, who has repeated his pledge that there will be two rules for rebuilding america's infrastructure, quote, buy american and hire american. so, if confirmed, you will undoubtedly play a leading role in implementing the president-elect's infrastructure plan. but it's noteworthy to me that you have previously been critical of buy america rules. in 2009, you wrote an op-ed describing buy america as, quote, dig a moat around america policy. this is in a heritage foundation op-ed. and to further quote you, you said, buy america squanders america's credibility on international trade. so, i want to tease out how this conflict might be resolved, and my question is, if confirmed as
secretary of transportation, will you stand with the president-elect and support buy america? >> the president has made very clear his position on this, and it is his policy and all cabinet members will follow his policy. >> okay, well, that's a welcome change and welcome news to me from your past writing on this topic. and i look forward to working with you on buy america language, as we move forward. i -- i do want to note that buy america provisions have been written into the authorizing language of several department of transportation grant programs. every single statute, however, allows the secretary of transportation wide latitude to waive the buy america requirement. if, quote, it would be
inconsistent with the public interest. and given your past views on buy america restrictions, i guess i'd like to hear more about how you would intend to use that authority to waive buy america restriction restrictions. how you would evaluate what is in the public interest and under what -- my specific question is under what conditions would you see granting these waivers or will you grant them sparingly or frequently? >> i think it is premature at this point for me to comment on any of this until i get fully briefed. i have mentioned that buy america is the president's priority. when you drill down to some of the details that you talked about, thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. i am not fully cognizant about that, so if confirmed, i look forward to getting briefed on
those issues. >> i look forward to working with you, in that -- >> yes, of course. >> implementation role. the president-elect pledged to rebuild our nation's crumbling inf infrastructure with a trillion dollar investment in transportation, clean water, telecommunications, and other pressing needs, and i welcome that discussion, especially if it includes real investments and not just tax credits. when we met last week, i mentioned my support for reliable broadband inf infrastructure, to insure access to quality and affordable internet in rural communities and we have many of those in wisconsin. additionally, it's well documented that water inf infrastructure across the country is in need of repair and upgrade. not only to avoid the failure and tragedy we experienced in flint, michigan, but to also meet the growing needs for delivering clean water to
families and businesses. we talked about the water council, located in milwaukee, wisconsin, that is working to find solutions to the nation's most difficult and pressing water problems. and i've introduced reforms that encourage the development and deployment of innovative water technology. and i believe these reforms have a place in any bold inf infrastructure investment. so, my colleagues and i are eager to learn more about the scope of the infrastructure package that you will help shape, but my final question is, if confirmed, will you work with me on an infrastructure package that includes real funding to address both the infrastructure challenges and support innovation, chemicexemplified b is occurring in my home state of wisconsin? >> i would be more than glad to.
>> thank you, senator baldwin. senator duckworth has returned, so, you are up next. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm so pleased to join you on this committee. i'm looking forward to working with how placed i am to join you on this committee working on infrastructure and issues critical to the northwest and illinois in particular. secretary chao, first, let me thank you for the time you took with me earlier this week. your commitment is matched to mine where my interests and those of my state are aligned. the question i have for you has to do with this new rule for the department of transportation on the consolidation rule. as we discussed in my office, i'm very concerned this recent d.o.t. rule passed december 20th at a time you push through rules that are problematic and may have some opposition, it was
pushed through and threatens to disrupt important transportation projects in noile and the midwest. i appreciate it may have been to produce better results and regional cooperation. the i'm pact of the new mandate may have unintended consequences for some localities and in particular for chicago in illinois, if it doesn't work for illinois it's hard to see how it will work for any metropolitan area around the country. and the chicago metropolitan agency to merge with a similar agency in wisconsin and indiana and any funding transportation in chicago be approved by the governors in indiana and wisconsin. the application of this rule will slow down the importation
projects nationwide and in chicagoland give other states huge leverage best made by the local community. the converse is true for decisions made in wisconsin or indiana or our neighboring st e states. if confirmed, will you work with me to either reverse this rule or at the very least, make sure that it works for everyone including illinois and other metropolitan areas, especially those near state borders. >> senator, thank you so much for that meeting in your office and thank you for bringing this to my attention. as i mentioned, if confirmed, i will be very eager to look into this particular issue because the way you have characterized it, i need to understand it more so i look forward to getting more briefs and look forward to working with you on it as we go forward. >> thank you. thank you. >> the department of transportation administers a set
aside program for minority and women business enterprises come monly known as dbe. it serves as a guide for state department of transportation small business programs and many of our states department of transportation align directly with whatever the federal d.o.t.'s policies are nmany businesses are concerned about the future of the disadvantaged business enterprise program. we're looking to put significant investments in the nation's infrastructure. i am concerned that women owned business disadvantage business enterprises may not have as good an opportunity to bid on these contracts, to bring those jobs into the local economy, bring those jobs into the local enterprises and local entrepreneurs and local women owned businesses if the dbe program is not emphasized. will you commit working with me to reassure illinois small businesses, you will preserve
the dbe program and if the president elects to invest trillions in new infrastructure proje projects, small businesses such as women owned businesses and minority businesses will be included in the initiative. >> i've always been a tremendous supporter of small businesses. i've been a tremendous supporter of communities of color, of women. when i was secretary of labor i was the only federal cabinet secretary to have gender parrity in the executive leadership at the department of labor. so these are issues i've worked with all my career and i will continue to work on them with you. >> thank you. that is very important to me. these entrepreneurs are very vital toil notice such as rural illinois and do hire local businesses and they're incredibly important for areas economically depressed areas, the south side of chicago and east louis and i look forward to
working with you and share many of my senator inhofe's concerns about drones. i in fact have flown not too far from here and flying at 2500 feet when a remotely controlled vehicle flew off the nose of my aircraft and missed my propeller by about 2 feet. it shared the living heck out of me. it should not have been there and so i will be monitoring the drone rules and their programs very closely myself. thank you for being here and i look forward to working wu. >> thank you. thank you, senator duckworth and senator. >> thank you. i would like to thank you for allowing me to join the committee and thank the ranking member as well. i look forward to serving on this committee. i'm very pleased to see my friend secretary chao and my husband, charlie, sends you his congratulations as well particularly because of your past service and neighboring
states. nice to see a neighboring kentuckian here. thank you for your office visit last week. when you were secretary of labor you came and visited me and senator bird to west virginia and i would e tend an invitation for you to come to west virginia to talk about these issues. >> look forward to it. >> great. it's hard to come after many people have asked the most important questions i had before me. you and i talked about the significance and the chairman mentioned this in his statement attending to the needs of rural america in terms of transportation needs. they are different than urban america when i heard senator cantwell talk about the tre veils of congestion. a little congestion might be good for west virginia because it does indicate economic development and vibrancy. the financing part of the
infrastructure package the president-elect has been talking about was mentioned many times including private investment, private dollars. as a person who represents almost all rural state like west virginia, i'm concerned about how are we going to be able to in sent the private dollars to go to the less populated less economically developed areas of our country because the investments are just as important and i wonder if you had any thoughts on that? >> rural america needs to be more connected also to different w ways. as we look at the national infrastructure proposal, one of the great challenges are the pay f fors. how are we going to pay for all these great ideas which are so necessary to keep our country, maintain the competitiveness of our country. once again it's a huge issue that demands the best thinking of all of us. that's why we need to work together, the executive branch needs to work very closely with
the congress especially how to pay for all these projects. i might antioxidalso add it's n the pay-fors important as well but the number of projects. how do we find projects that can beg be shortened in duration and funded as well. that should be part of the equation, too. thank you for asking. >> we view successfully in west virginia thy private public partnerships to complete proj t projects like u.s. 35 and we're working on the coal fields expressway and quarter h which comes directly from washington, d.c. i know many people who live in and around the washington, d.c. area that have driven on our roads in west virginia and wonder how we could possibly need one more road because they're all named robert byrd highway, interstate. but at the state level it's challenging for states because a lot of states are having trouble meeting their match much less
figure out how to kolb together a private-public partnership. i look forward to working with you to find those answers. i will shift to high speed internet. we have worked on a bill, dig once, this would mean if you're digging and creating a new highway, you're running the high speed internet at the same time. i would encourage you to look hat that bill to see where you could help us with that and present the concept of not only speed but also being am ble to pinpoint certain areas that need that critical infrastructure as well. it's just as important. >> i look forward to working with you on that. >> one last thing i'd like to talk about something i worked with on the house transportation committee and worked with then senator udall, he was still a senator and i was a congresswoman at the time, the concern of the 10,000 lives we
lost through impaired drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs, we were able in the fast act to get the driver alcohol detection system for safety to try to get some innovation to try to work on prevention of -- to prevent the massive loss of life we have that people get behind the wheel when they shouldn't. i would encourage you in your department to keep moving forward on research and development in this area, lots to be done and a lot of good ideas and i'm sure you would be committed to that as well. >> we look forward to doing that. >> thank you so much. i look forward to voting in the affirmative. next, a forum on chinese investments in the u.s. and confirmation hearing for the small business administration. after that, the congressional budget office's economic outlook. w,