Hearing Of The Senate Commerce, Science And Transportation Committee - Nominations
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR DANIEL K. INOUYE (D-HI)
JOSEPH C. SZABO, ADMINISTRATOR FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; PETER APPEL, ADMINISTRATOR -- DESIGNATE OF TRANSPORTATION, RESEARCH AND INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; DANA G. GRESHAM, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS -- DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; ROBERT RIVKIN, GENERAL COUNSEL -- DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; SHERBURNE ABBOTT, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ENVIRONMENT -- DESIGNATE, OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY; CAMERON KERRY, GENERAL COUNSEL -- DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; APRIL S. BOYD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR LEGISLATIVE AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS -- DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; ROY W. KIENITZ, UNDER SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION FOR POLICY DESIGNATE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
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SEN. INOUYE: The committee will come to order. Unfortunately, Chairman Rockefeller cannot be here with us today. He had a very serious, painful knee injury last week and he had to be hospitalized and then underwent surgery, and I think we all wish him the best for a speedy recovery. I hope you'll forgive me for my voice. That's what happens to politicians who talk too much.
The committee will consider nominees for the United States Department of Transportation, the United States Department of Commerce and the Office of Science and Technology. If confirmed, these men and women will be charged with leading the federal government's efforts to promote transportation mobility, advance commerce, strengthen ocean management, and improve environmental science and technology throughout the nation and the world. Working together we have the opportunity to creatively reform our entire transportation system.
Mr. Robert Rivkin, Mr. Dana Gresham, Mr. Roy Kienitz, Mr. Joseph Szabo, and Mr. Peter Appel will face many important issues and challenges as we work to improve our nation's transportation and infrastructure in an environmentally sustainable manner. The two nominees for the Department of Commerce, Mr. Cameron Kerry, Ms. April Boyd, have been (inaudible) support of diverse responsibilities for the Department ranging from fisheries management to the census.
I would also like to welcome Ms. Sherburne Abbott, the nominee for Associate Director for Environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. This important position has been left vacant for the past eight years, and I am pleased that this administration has made filling this position a priority. Climate change is a critical long-term issue this country must address. Therefore, it is important that we have coordination across the many federal agencies responsible for developing the solution, and I wish to congratulate the nominees and express the committee's appreciation for their commitment to public service.
Before I proceed any further, I have a statement for the record by Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV, the chairman of this committee. Without objection, it will be made part of the record. And now may I call on our ranking member, Senator Hutchison.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-TX): Well, thank you very much Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate, as I know all of us do, that you are presiding over this hearing in Senator Rockefeller's absence, and we all wish him well with his recovery.
I want to thank all of you for coming, and I'm so pleased that we're having a hearing and putting these nominees out because we know that the agencies need all of you to start taking some of the load off these beleaguered secretaries, for one thing.
Let me say I also want to introduce especially my Texas constituent here, Shere Abbott, which you mentioned earlier, is the nominee for Associate Director for Environment of the Office of Science and Technology policy. She has had 25 years of human development and environmental research education and policy experience and has been an active faculty member of the University of Texas at Austin for three years, where she has served as deputyas Director, I'm sorry, of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. She's also worked as a consultant before that, advising the World Bank, private foundations and non-governmental foundations.
She was Chief ExecutiveChief International Officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science from 2003 through 2005, and has vast experience in this field. She graduated from Goucher College and earned her Master of Forest Science from the university, where she was a Dodge fellow in human animal ecology. In 2000 she was appointed senior research fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and I'm very pleased that she is a nominee and will be a part of this administration, as well.
I just want to make a general statement that the committee can't do the work that we are expected to do without the cooperation and help from our legal and governmental affairs officers of all of our agencies and our cabinet offices. These offices are charged with the task of keeping us aware of activities and undertakings at the agencies and responding to our information requests, often within a very short timeframe. This committee has successfully maintained a productive and bipartisan working relationship with the agencies within our jurisdiction and I look forward to continuing that bipartisan cooperation in this administration.
I also note that we have a number of important positions at the Department of Transportation, particularly. It is very important we have a lot of input here because we have both FAA reauthorization and highway reauthorization. Very important for our transportation infrastructure, and I hope very much that we will be able to work through getting the next gen air traffic control system at the Department of Transportation and certainly we hope to be able to do highway reauthorization, which is so important to so many states.
So, I appreciate all of your being here and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for subbing for our chairman.
SEN. INOUYE: Thank you very much, and I am pleased to call upon Senator Kerry. He has a statement and convictions.
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Obviously, we wish Senator Rockefeller were here, but we're also pleased to see you back in the chair, though temporarily, obviously.
Mr. Chairman, this is a great pleasure for me and obviously a special privilege. I'm going to recuse myself from the vote because I think that's the appropriate thing to do, but I'm not going to recuse myself the introduction to the committee of my brother, and we're in that rare situation where an introducer gets to actually say I've known somebody all my life and, here, (laughter) there isn't much question about that. So, I think he was the first person I ever babysat for, and some might allege that I'm here doing that again, but I don't think so. He's here accompanied by his wife, who is an attorney in her own right and in fact president of the Boston Bar Association, Kathy Weinman, my niece, his daughter, Jessica, who is a recent graduate of Brown and has been deeply involved in guess what, politics, for the last year or so, and more.
But, Mr. Chairman, what's important here is whether or not Cameron Kerry is qualified for this job, and I believe with all my years of service on this committee and knowing what the job is about that he is highly qualified. He is a thoroughly public service-minded person. He's a gifted and capable lawyer who will make a terrific legal counsel for the Deponent of Commerce. He spent all his life in the private sector as a lawyer navigating very complicated legal issues ranging from environmental law to toxic tortes, privacy, insurance regulation, and as we know, the Department of Commerce has a very broad, diverse portfolio. It calls for a general counsel who is able to bring public judgment, tested in public policy, and in fact Cameron has all his life been involved in supporting other people, myself included, who have run for office and is very, very knowledgeable about those issues.
I think he brings a judgment and a facility with a range of issues and that's been the nature of his career as a litigator, as a regulatory lawyer at leading law firms in both Boston and Washington, D.C., and also as a teacher of communications law. I think he has a special appreciation of the needs and interests of the Department's business stakeholders. He has represented the private sector, he's been on the front lines of seeing the kinds of conflicts and tensions and needs that businesses have, and he has a deep understanding of the economic crisis that our country and our people are facing today.
He also, I might add, has a very strong sense of the Internet and technology because we come from Massachusetts where we are privileged to have this extraordinary network of colleges and universities and research laboratories and people who are on the front lines of much of the business that comes before this committee, so I know that he believes deeply in President Obama's agenda and he will roll up his sleeves and put everything he has into serving the administration and our country and he will uphold the best standards of legal judgment and of the Constitution of the country. And I think he'll put country ahead of politics, which is an important ingredient in all of this.
SEN. INOUYE: Will you yield at this point?
SEN. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.
SEN. INOUYE: Since I won't be here to hear Mr. Kerry speak, may I ask that Mr. and Mrs. Kerry stand to be recognized? Thank you, sir.
SEN. KERRY: You're welcome.
SEN. INOUYE: Congratulations.
MR.CAMERON KERRY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. INOUYE: He's a good looking fellow.
SEN. KERRY: We've argued about that for 57 years. Mr. Chairman, can I also say I'm also very proud of another nominee before the committee today, April Boyd, who has been nominated as we know, to head up the Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commerce. And I haven't known April her whole life, but I have known her long enough to share the President's confidence in her skills that she brings to this job.
She served as my national press secretary between 2004 and 2006 and before that she was Chief of Staff to Representative Ellen Tauscher of California and before that a Special Assistant in the Department of Energy and the Media Liaison at GSA. And I think the President in nominating her has found someone who will work with us on the Hill with knowledge of the Hill, of our lives and of the intersection of the requirements of the Department of Commerce.
So I'm really pleased to be able to commend both nominees, maybe one slightly more than the other but both nominees, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the courtesy. Thank you.
SEN. INOUYE: Thank you very much.
SEN. KERRY. I have another meeting going on right now, so I need to excuse myself. I apologize.
SEN. INOUYE: It is my great pleasure to call upon Senator Durbin. He has introductions to make.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Chairman Inouye, Ranking Member Hutchison, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to introduce two Illinoisans. I'll hold this a little closer. Thank you for the opportunity to come before your committee and introduce two Illinoisans, Robert Rivkin and Joe Szabo, for their nominations to the Department of Transportation. Both men have made significant contributions to the state of Illinois, and I believe they'll make a significant contribution to our nation at the federal Department of Transportation.
First a few words about Bob Rivkin. He has a long, successful legal career and his experience will serve him well. He recently served as Vice President and Deputy General Counsel with Aon Corporation, a Chicago-based management and financial services firm. In this capacity, he's been responsible for all litigation, employment law, regulatory and government affairs for Aon's businesses in North and South America.
In addition to his work at Aon, Bob Rivkin has developed a long resume working on transportation issues. From 2001 to 2004, Bob was general counsel to the Chicago Transit Authority, the second largest public transportation system in America. There, Bob was instrumental in negotiating a $530 million full funding agreement between the Federal Transit Administration and the CTA for the massive overhaul of the brown line, and today that project enables thousands of commuters to have quality access to public transportation. Because of Bob's work early in the process the project has been on budget and on schedule.
I'd like to mention one more thing about Bob. It's something that he's going to bring to this position as general counsel of DOT. That's his family's dedication to public service. Bob's father, William R. Rivkin, served this country honorably, as the chairman did, as Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he earned a bronze star. Following his decorated service in the military, President Kennedy appointed William Rivkin ambassador to Luxembourg where he served from 1962 to '65. President Johnson then appointed William Rivkin ambassador to Senegal and Gambia, where he served until 1967.
Bob begins the process of senate confirmations today with this hearing, a process his father underwent more than 40 years ago. I am sure this committee will learn today that Bob Rivkin is ready to serve this country and continues his family's legacy of distinguished public service.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I'm also pleased to introduce Joe Szabo of Chicago, Illinois, nominee for the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. Joe is here today with his father, Joseph F. Szabo, and three sisters, Jo Clark, Susan Szabo and Peggy Szabo. The FBI investigation found only one major flaw when it came to Joe Szabo, and I think we should put that on the record early in the hearing, and that flaw is that Joe Szabo is a diehard Cubs fan. Luckily for all of us, the Cubs are playing a night game so they won't miss any of the action at Wrigley Field to come here to Washington. Seriously, I'm pleased they could join us today for this important and proud moment for Joe and his family.
Joe Szabo understands better than most the long days, unpredictable schedules and sometimes hazardous working conditions that come with the railroad industry. He's worked for the railroad, both the Illinois Central and Metra, since he was 18 years old, including stints as yard switchman, road trainmen and commuter passenger conductor. Five generations of his family have worked in the railroad.
Joe learned firsthand about the railroad from his dad. His father instilled in him a passion for rail work that has helped Joe become a trusted and respected voice in rail labor and in the industry. Joseph F. Szabo is a 40-year switchman for the Illinois Central Railroad. Today he's watching from the front row as his son, Joe Szabo, goes through this confirmation hearing to be the chief railroad official in the Obama administration, a job he is uniquely qualified to hold.
Joe has a distinguished career of public service and many accomplishments. As an elected mayor of Riverdale, Illinois, and the state legislative director for the United Transportation Unit, UTU, Joe has developed a reputation as a passionate advocate of freight and passenger rail and its workers. During his tenure as UTU state director, Joe's work was integral to the state of Illinois doubling its investment in passenger rail. This additional state investment allowed Illinois to double the frequency of AMTRAK trains leaving Chicago to Quincy, Carbondale and St. Louis and laid the groundwork for expanding AMTRAK's service. His advocacy helped Illinois passenger rail achieve the fastest growth in ridership and revenue in the entire AMTRAK system.
Joe now brings his passion for the railroad industry and his experience of rail labor to the national stage. As all of us know, President Obama, Vice President Biden and this Congress have made the single largest investment in passenger rail in our country's history. The $8 billion we included in the stimulus for high-speed rail and outlined by the president last week represents a commitment to taking the next step in the next generation of inter-city passenger rail. Implementing this vision won't be easy. It will be monumental. It will take a good faith working relationship between Congress, the administration, the railroads, state and local governments.
Joe has earned the confidence and full support of President Obama. They worked closely together when the president served as state senator in Springfield and I'm here to tell you what President Obama and I already know: when it comes to making high-speed rail a reality and ensuring that millions of Americans have access to safe, reliable passenger and freight rail, there is no one better for the job than Joe Szabo.
Chairman Inouye and members of the committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to introduce my good friend and neighbor and fellow Illinoisans, Joe Szabo and Bob Rivkin. As you conduct this hearing and the strong oversight that's to follow, I can assure you that you will find that both of them understand their unique responsibilities at the federal level and look forward anxiously to serving our nation in this new capacity. I thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.
SEN. INOUYE: Thank you very much, sir, and will Mr. Rivkin rise so that we may recognize himand your family. And Mr. Szabo and your family.
JOE SZABO: My father(off mike)
SEN. INOUYE: Oh, my God. Beautiful. Congratulations. Thank you very much. And now may we have the panel. I'd like to call upon our first nominee, Peter Appel.
MR. APPEL: Peter Appel, yes. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, ranking member Hutchison, distinguished members of the committee, it is a privilege to appear before you today. Thank you very much for your time and your consideration. I would also like to wish Chairman Rockefeller a very speedy recovery.
I want to express my appreciation to President Obama for nominating me and to Secretary LaHood for his confidence in me and I'd like to thank my wife, Barbara, who has provided tremendous support as I pursue further public service. Barbara is sitting right here behind me.
The U.S. Department of Transportation today faces challenges and opportunity unlike any it has seen in its 42 year history. Never before has the DOT had a better opportunity to leverage the talents of its people and the commitment of Congress and the administration to improve the lives of the American people. We see frequent reminders of the need to continue to improve safety, the pressing need to achieve economic recovery, the critical need to rebuild our infrastructure and to improve mobility and the imperative of sustainability. The Department is well positioned to simultaneously advance the goals of safety, mobility, livability, sustainability and economic growth through well thought-out policies and investments in transportation and infrastructure.
DOT's research and innovative technology administration, known as RITA, is in an ideal position to help ensure that our investments make the best use of our taxpayers' dollars. RITA sets out to bring together first rate transportation and training, thorough data analysis and an innovative spirit to ensure the safest, most efficient, most sustainable and robust transportation network across every mode of transportation.
My background in transportation research and analysis and federal transportation policy, management consulting to large and complex organizations and innovative problem solving across every mode of transportation positions me well to lead this agency at this critical time. One of RITA's mandates is to foster top-notch transportation education through its university transportation centers and another is to bring together some of the country's best engineers and scientists to do multi-modal research at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.
I am a product of one of those university transportation centers, the MIT transportation program, and my studies there 22 years ago just a few hundred yards from what is now called the Volpe Center, allowed me to see firsthand the kind of advanced thinking that this Department produces. In these challenging times for our nation, we must ensure that all this great thinking is brought to bear in tackling some pretty complex issues that we do face.
I very much look forward to the opportunity to work with this committee and the secretary to advance our nation's transportation's interest. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you, and I welcome any questions the committee may have.
SEN. INOUYE: May I now call upon Mr. Joe Szabo.
MR. SZABO: Thank you, Chairman Inouye and I'd also like to thank Chairman Rockefeller and ranking member Hutchison for calling this hearing today, and, of course, the members of the committee for the privilege of appearing here today. I'd certainly also like to thank Secretary LaHood for his trust in offering me an opportunity to serve the administration and, of course, to Senator Durbin for the incredibly kind introduction.
As a fifth generation railroader, it's certainly an honor to have been nominated by President Obama and have the opportunity to serve, and I'm especially pleased to have with me members of my family today, especially my father, who is a 40-year rank and file switchman for the Illinois Central. It is from him that I inherited my genetic affinity for railroading, as well as the Chicago Cubs, and it was from my father as well as my mother that I learned the importance of civic duty.
When I hired out on the railroad and first began breaking in as a railroad switchman, my very first day it was my father that was training me out there in that rail yard. And that's when I learned firsthand the dangers of railroading.
The mission that FRA has is very, very personal for me. I've had friends and coworkers killed in the line of duty. I've been on the locomotive when we've been involved in grade crossing accidents that have caused fatalities to motorists. I've been the mayor of a community that had two major railroad yards, and so from a public safety perspective understand the issues of railroading and public safety. If confirmed, heading FRA would allow me to enforce the federal rail safety laws to protect rail workers and enhance public safety, but equally as important it would allow me to help grow an industry that I truly love. It would give me the opportunity to implement financial assistance programs that would help both freight and passenger rail and help the industry prosper. And this, in turn, would improve the mobility of goods and people, reduce vehicle congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If confirmed, I will make it a priority to implement the many new statutory requirements of the Rail Safety Improvement Act, and this includes more than 40 rail safety rule makings, studies and model state laws. Obviously, it includes a high priority of this committee implementing positive train control of major freight railroads and passenger railroads no later than 2015. It means implementing the mandates of hours of service reform passed by this committee and, of course, the opportunity for more creative risk reduction programs.
It also means implementing those statutes, mandates in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which, of course, reauthorizes AMTRAK for the first time since 1997. It provides capital grants for states congestion relief programs, and the development of high-speed rail corridors. And if those weren't enough, add to it the requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes the $8 billion in capital grants for high-speed rail. And, truly, what we're seeing is a renaissance in rail as part of a balanced transportation network in our nation.
If confirmed, it would be my duty to ensure that all of these programs are carried out effectively, efficiently, and in a timely and transparent manner. Obviously, the plate is full, but I truly cannot think of a better time, a more exciting time, to be leading FRA. I look forward to your questions, comments and any guidance that you might provide.
SEN. INOUYE: I thank you very much, Mr. Szabo. And now may I call upon Mr. Dana Gresham. Mr. Gresham.
MR. GRESHAM: Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would like to summarize my remarks and ask that my full statement be entered.
SEN. INOUYE: Without objection, so ordered.
MR. GRESHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss my nomination for the position of Assistant Secretary for Governmental Affairs at the Department of Transportation. I am deeply honored to be here as President Obama's nominee for this important position. I am also grateful to secretary LaHood's support of my nomination. And in addition, I would like to thank my wife, Kathy, who is here with me today. Stand up, Kathy (laughter) for all of her support throughout this process.
Mr. Chairman, this is an extraordinary moment in our nation's history. While there is no doubt that we are faced with enormous challenges, we're also presented with enormous opportunities to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. This is particularly the case in matters related to transportation. In the coming months the Department and the Congress will have an opportunity to work together on many important initiatives, including both the aviation and surface reauthorization bills. As work begins in earnest on these and other major initiatives, it is critically important that there be clear and open lines of communication between the Department and Congress.
Indeed, in his testimony before this very committee, Secretary LaHood made a commitment to be available to you and to be receptive to your ideas and input. Mr. Chairman, I share Secretary LaHood's commitment. If confirmed, I will work diligently to ensure that we are responsive and available to you and that your voices are heard within the Department, that we effectively communicate the Department's efforts to implement the legislative mandates passed by the Congress and signed into law by the president. And that we work closely with the (inaudible) administration throughout the Department and the White House to ensure that the Department is not only speaking with one voice to Congress but also to state and local elected officials, other federal agencies and all of the relevant transportation stakeholders.
Mr. Chairman, ranking member Hutchison, and members of the committee, it is an honor and a privilege to appear before you today. Should I be confirmed, please know that I will always be available to answer your questions and will maintain an open line of communication with you. Thank you for your consideration of my nomination. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
SEN. INOUYE: Thank you very much, and congratulations. May I now call upon Mr. Robert Rivkin.
MR. RIVKIN: Thank you, Chairman Inouye, ranking member Hutchison, and members of the committee. I am proud to appear before you today as President Obama's nominee to serve as general counsel to the Department of Transportation. I deeply appreciate, as do my colleagues, Secretary LaHood's confidence in my ability to assist him, if confirmed, with the exciting challenges and opportunities facing our nation's transportation system.
I'd also like to thank Senator Durbin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to introduce me to the committee today.
I'd like to introduce my wife, Cindy Moelis, who is here to support me today.
Our three children, Stephanie, Claire, and Alexander Rivkin are at school back in Chicago and couldn't be here today.
Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy, the foundation for economic development and job growth, and the tie that binds our communities. It is fundamental to farmers and manufacturers who ship their goods to markets around the world, as well as to urban families trying to get their kids to school, parents to work, grandparents to doctor's appointments.
Helping move people and goods affordably, efficiently, sustainably, and, most important, safely is at the core of our national transportation policy. More than any time in recent memory this moment offers the opportunity to return our roads, bridges, and roads to a state of good repair, to bring our aviation system into the 21st century, to rediscover, reinvigorate and reinvent freight and passenger rail, to better utilize our maritime assets, and to more tightly knit our transportation resources into a system that is defined not by its modes but by its contribution to our economy, our environment, and our quality of life.
If confirmed, members of the committee, I will do my very best to bring the skills I have developed as a lawyer in private practice, a federal prosecutor, a municipal legal policy director, the general counsel of our nation's second largest transit system, and a legal executive at a multinational financial services company to provide the very best quality legal advice and representation to the Department of Transportation.
I will address congressional mandates expeditiously, work to harmonize the efforts of DOT's operating administrations, seek creative solutions to complex problems, listen thoughtfully to the ideas and concerns of others, and work closely with the Congress, the EPA, HUD, DHS, Energy, Commerce and other departments of government to implement the transportation policy goals of this administration.
If I'm entrusted with the position of DOT general counsel I will look forward to working closely with the members of this committee and their staff as well as engaging all stakeholders in respectful consultation about the challenges we face together in the spirit of openness and fairness that is the hallmark of Secretary LaHood's leadership.
As Senator Durbin mentioned, I was raised in a family that honored public service, accounting in part for my having left the private sector on prior occasions to work in government.
I believe that the mission of the department of Transportation is crucial to the economic vitality, environment and safety of our country. And the opportunity to serve as its chief legal officer would be the highest honor of my career.
Thank you very much.
SEN. INOUYE: Thank you very much, Mr. Rivkin.
And I will have to relinquish the chair to Senator Dorgan, I have a prior commitment.
Mr. Chairman, may I ask that my questions be submitted?
SEN. DORGAN: Without objection.
The next order of business will be to hear from Mr. Roy Kienitz. Mr. Kienitz you may proceed. Your entire statement will be made part of the permanent record.
MR. KIENITZ: Thank you, sir.
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Hutchison.
Once again, my name is Roy Kienitz and I'm the president's nominee for Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy.
A little about myself, I began my professional career in this building, two floors up, working for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. And for those of you who knew him, knew him to be a great advocate of many things in transportation policy and I learned many of my most valuable lessons from him.
Since then I've worked in the nonprofit sector and in state government in the state of Maryland and most recently for Governor Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania, where I was Deputy Chief of Staff, another well known advocate of infrastructure investment.
So I've helped shape transportation policy at the staff level here at the Senate in the federal government and then had to help implement it at the state level. And I hope that that will give me a balanced perspective of what's required to take the ideas we have here and turn them into practical policies on the ground.
My primary goal at the department, working in the policy area, will be to implement the president's and the secretary's policy ideas and so far I think that that can be summarized in four key areas, many of which have already been mentioned.
First of which is obviously the economy. We've lost millions of jobs over the last two years and the department has been fortunate enough to participate in the economic recovery bill, which included $48 billion in transportation investment.
So far $37 billion of that has actually been made available to grantees of one kind or another and products are already getting underway. And just last week the president came to the department's building and with Secretary LaHood announced the 2,000th transportation project being released by the federal government. So that work is already underway.
Obviously, however, these --- the short term investments that are necessary for economic recovery also need to have long term benefits and that will be, obviously, a big focus of the department.
Second, when we make investments we need to improve the sustainability of the transportation system. This is, obviously, a key priority for the president across the government and will, as such, be a key priority for the Department of Transportation.
Examples of those kind of investments include the strategic plan for high speed rail that was announced by the president last week as called for in the recovery act and the billions of dollars of investment that will go into that.
A third priority and one of particular concern to the secretary is something that many people call livability and these are sort of transportation investments that are uniquely tailored to the communities into which they are put. In more populated areas that can be things like walking, biking, public transportation, things that make it easier for people to avoid traffic. In the less populated communities that can be reviving main streets or connecting rural communities. The key idea there is, I think, tailoring the investment very carefully to the place where it's made rather than a one size fits all solution.
On March 19 Secretary LaHood and Secretary Donovan announced a partnership --- the beginning of a partnership between the department of Housing and Urban Development and the department of Transportation on this very subject.
And finally, obviously, something that's been mentioned, safety is one of the first missions that was given to the department of Transportation upon its creation in 1966 and that continues to be a major focus today and that will obviously be part of my focus if I have the good fortune to be confirmed.
So these areas, economic competitiveness, sustainability, livability, and safety are priorities and I believe if we can focus our transportation policy around those areas it will be successful for the country. As Senator Hutchison mentioned we will have the opportunity potentially for both aviation and surface reauthorization this year. And if I have the honor of being confirmed I look forward to working with the members of the committee on those issues.
And I'll be happy to respond to any questions the members have.
Thank you, sir.
SEN. DORGAN: Mr. Kienitz, thank you very much.
I had asked whether those of you who are here for your nomination hearing had introduced your families or whether you wished to introduce your families. I suspect that some of you have your families present. Would any of you wish to do that at this point?
MR. : We have, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DORGAN: Alright.
My understanding also is that Senator Warner wished to introduce one of the --- or say a few words about one of the ---
SEN. WARNER: (Inaudible) --- to simply indicate my support for Peter Appel who's from Virginia and as somebody from Virginia understands the enormous challenges we have in transportation. I'd like to submit for the record my introduction comments as he's already spoken.
SEN. DORGAN: Without objection.
And let me say, although I was not here for the first part of the hearing, let me thank all of you for your willingness to serve your country and serve in the department of Transportation in some very, very important positions.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you. I would --- thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to ask each of you to answer individually, starting with Mr. Appel, if you will work with members of this committee on both sides, the Republicans and the Democrats, to provide the information that we would ask and to give us any updates that you think are relevant to our oversight role?
MR. APPEL: Yes, I will absolutely work with this committee. I consider it an extremely valuable part of doing the job that I'm nominated for.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
MR. SZABO: Senator, most definitely look forward to working with the committee in a very open manner.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
MR. GRESHAM: Yeah, absolutely I would consider that primary responsibility of this office.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
MR. RIVKIN: Yes, Senator.
MR. : Yes ma'am, obviously. And that's -- we've, you know, that's a big priority of the secretary as well, to do that on a bipartisan basis.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
I have a question for Mr. Szabo. The Amtrak, our national rail system, is very important to many states, mine included, and at Secretary LaHood's confirmation hearing I ask him if he was committed to a national system for Amtrak to continue to pursue and I will ask you that same question because, of course, you have a major role in Amtrak and I want to know if you are committed to a national system that covers all of the lines that are now in being and what would be your thoughts, if you do, on how you would go forward helping to develop those?
MR. SZABO: Well, Senator, most definitely I believe in a national network. I believe that that needs to be the backbone of our passenger rail program. And obviously then the development of the high speed rail corridors and such start overlaying on top of that national network.
In many ways this is very similar to what's been done in Europe, where the different levels of rail overlay each other, feed each other, supplement each other. And so you'll have your commuter railroads, you'll have your regional corridors, and then you'll have your national rail network. We consider that a priority.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you. I certainly agree with you and I think it is so important that we look at it from the national perspective and not just one line on the Northeast, which is important, but it's not everything.
Let me ask you on the stimulus package, where there was $8 billion allocated for high speed rail projects. How would you, working with the secretary, propose to designate which communities have the best prospects for a high speed rail project and how you would allocate -- or not -- you would not allocate it all by yourself, I know, but how would you envision it being allocated?
MR. SZABO: Obviously if confirmed I think it's imperative that we have a merit based application process, you know, that's very fair, very transparent and we ensure that the dollars go to where we get the best return on our investment.
SEN. HUTCHISON: So you would be working with the secretary to come up with criteria that you think would be a fair and open process?
MR. SZABO: Absolutely.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
Mr. Kienitz, one of the areas where Senator Rockefeller and I have worked very hard in the last administration and we almost got FAA reauthorization with NextGen included. And, in fact, we also worked on an amendment in the stimulus to try to get a head start on NextGen and it was not put in the bill. There was a resistance to having amendments to that bill. So we didn't get that but it is important to both the chairman and myself that we have the NextGen and the concept and a funding mechanism to go forward.
What is your thought about how we might jumpstart NextGen for FAA?
MR. KIENITZ: Thank you, ma'am. I think there's two pieces to it, from my perspective. The first of which, obviously, is a funding source and that was a source of the disagreement last year, I think, and Secretary LaHood in his private conversations with you that I was present at and in his public statements has indicated a very strong desire to achieve agreement on that question. I think last year it's fair to say there was a lot of interest in the topic and then perhaps more interest -- not quite enough interest in reaching agreement on the topic. And I think his view is, there's a lot of good ideas on how to finance it but the most important idea is the idea of let's agree to something and get it done so we can start down the road.
The second piece is an implementation strategy by the department and the FAA that inspires confidence and that's something also that the secretary has identified as one of the chief assignments that he will give the FAA administrator when that person is confirmed and on board to roll out a plan that contains schedules that you all can have confidence bring that system to fruition as quickly as possible.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Well I think we finally came to pretty much an agreement on the funding and we were still working on it. But one of the issues that held it up was a disagreement about air traffic control contracts and reopening a contract that has been negotiated.
Are you going in with a view about reopening the air traffic controller's contracts or do you consider that settled and we should go forward? What is your view on that?
MR. KIENITZ: I think that the secretary's view has been that the current situation is perhaps not perfect. Although, as you say, the terms that were imposed a couple of years ago aren't currently in place, I think that he takes the optimistic view that perhaps we could come to some sort of understanding about terms going forward that will inspire a higher level of morale among controllers and more confidence going forward in the future.
He has not described in any specific whether -- what exactly he thinks that needs to be but, once again, I think that's one of the two top priorities he's identified for the FAA administrator is to look into that issue to see if some kind of change that improves morale among controllers can be agreed to.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Well we'll have an FAA administrator, I'm sure, to discuss that with and it will be a major topic of interest because there's much disagreement. That's what really held up the NextGen and the FAA reauthorization and there would be strong disagreement. So I will just put that out there and we'll talk to the FAA administrator about it at a later time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DORGAN: Senator Johanns.
SEN. JOHANNS: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
And to the panel, congratulations. It's a great honor just to be here and having sat where you sat four or five years ago I just wanted to underscore that.
I'm going to ask a question just to the whole panel if I could because I'm kind of searching for some expertise here. Has anybody on this panel ever worked rural transportation issues, roads, intrastate air service, that sort of thing? Somebody want to jump in on that one?
MR. KIENITZ: In my prior work I worked for Governor Rendell in Pennsylvania and although we have big metropolitan areas there's a lot of Pennsylvania is very, very rural so a big area of focus was really three things, I would say.
The first of which was trying to maintain commercial air service to our small airports, regardless of whatever the EAS program does or doesn't allow we had major struggles with our major airlines trying to serve those smaller communities.
Second of which is really a lot of money invested in rural roads, which, you know, anyone who's driven in Pennsylvania knows aren't that great in a lot of places.
The third of which is we struggled very much to support rural transit systems, particularly for people who -- with disabilities or others who don't have the ability to drive. And eventually by the -- I think by now we have almost all the counties in Pennsylvania are covered by rural transit of one kind or another.
SEN. JOHANNS: Both areas that you mentioned, transportation via air and roads, are hugely important in the state that I come from. We have really no intrastate air transportation system. And the difficulty with roads in rural areas is, of course, they won't have the traffic count that a major metropolitan area would have.
How would you deal with that issue as we start thinking about reauthorization and funding? How do you get money into these rural communities that desperately need these roads for farm to market, just simple transportation needs?
MR. KIENITZ: I think, Senator, that the Senate, in particular, has a tradition of making sure that that issue receives -- there's a lot of Senators who represent rural communities -- to make sure that initially formula allocations aren't, for example, based entirely on where traffic is or population or something. And so the highway funding formulas have traditionally been, perhaps, somewhat more friendly to very rural areas which don't have the ability to generate tax receipts on their own from traffic to support roadway investment.
If you look at the profile of where there are roads in poor condition that need repair across the country you'd see huge concentrations of it in very rural areas. And I think the highway program, in particular, so far, has been structured to recognize that.
The struggle is to how to figure out a program that does that well but also deals with the terribly complicated issues you find in a place like Chicago or Los Angeles or something like that.
SEN. JOHANNS: Okay.
Anyone else have any thoughts they want to -- yes, sir.
MR. SZABO: Senator, to a certain extent I've been involved with advocating for funding for short-line railroads, which are the smaller mom and pop operations that tend to serve rural communities. So, obviously we consider that a bloodline to those communities and part of a network that feeds into the larger rail system. So consider that an important linkage.
SEN. JOHANNS: Anyone else want to offer any thoughts?
MR. RIVKIN: I think, Senator, though I have not worked on rural transportation issues in a rural area I think we are well aware that the administration's policy and the Secretary's intent is to make sure that all of America is served with a unified transportation system and the importance of things like EAS and bus service and train service as well as rural roads is well --- all of us are well aware of that.
SEN. JOHANNS: Great. I'll just wrap up, Mr. Chairman, with this thought. I asked that question mostly to use this opportunity to highlight the importance of these issues. Eight billion dollars for transit relating to trains that run back and forth between metropolitan areas is great, certainly don't have any problem with it, don't know that'll help a lot in Nebraska, if you know what I'm saying. Not to say that it isn't insignificant, because we do have Amtrak that goes through the state. But when you focus on rural transportation issues, moving from one small community to another, it's going to be roads, it just simply is roads that makes that work.
So as you enter into your new assignments if there's ever an opportunity to influence that discussion for these small communities it will be greatly appreciated.
And I look forward to working with all of you and best of luck.
SEN. DORGAN: Senator Begich.
SEN. BEGICH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you all very much for your willingness to serve and be part of the Obama administration.
First I do want to say, Mr. Szabo, as a former mayor as of January of this year, I'm glad to see another mayor in the department of Transportation. That'll help, I think, influence the ability that local governments know how to do it best and know how to deliver.
But let me -- I'm going to follow up what Mr. Johanns said -- Senator Johanns said in regards to rural. His comment I liked is roads make it work. We don't have roads in lots of our areas in Alaska so air makes it work also. So I want to augment that. Rural in Nebraska is nothing like rural in Alaska. And I did notice most of your -- I did, I've got to remember that, thank you.
I want to -- and I think your resumes are all very strong and I have no problem with all of your appointments and so I'm looking forward to working with you. But I did notice most that most of you are coming from the mid-West to the East and, I think, the point Senator Johanns is saying is when you look at the Southwest, the deep mid-West with rural Alaska, we have very different kind of situations.
With Southeast Alaska it's the marine highway system, never really gets any funding from the federal government even though it is the only way to move from one community to the next for food, services, medical.
So as you take on these new roles I would hope you'd keep that rural aspect in the, what I would call the extreme rural aspect. And I would encourage you, if any of you would want to come to Alaska, not on a cruise, but -- even though there are really good prices right now -- but encourage you to come on up and kind of see what we have to deal with when it's literally life and death with regards to rural transportation.
But I am anxious to get your appointments moving forward.
Mr. -- is it Appel?
MR. APPEL: Yes.
SEN. BEGICH: Appel. Your role in research innovation -- in the last TLU (ph) bill there was, I believe, 10 research institutes established. I'm not sure how familiar you are with these but one is in Alaska in very unique cold climate conditions especially which would benefit states like myself and others that have very rural and also cold climate conditions in the winter, pavement conditions and so forth.
I would be interested in your comment now or later how you see those playing in? As you know they were authorized only for a five year period of funding under the TLU (ph) bill. So reauthorization will have an impact on those 10. So I'd be curious of how you see those research centers across the country, I think there's 10 and they usually are working with universities and how they play a role -- I don't know if you have a comment now on that or --
MR. APPEL: Well, just in general, RITA has within it a number of different great sources of research, whether it's the Volpe Center within RITA or the university -- the 60 odd university transportation centers are very focused research institutes that get funding from it. And they all are playing a very important role and one of my priorities when I get there is to really understand what the complimentary roles across all of these different sources of thinking are to make sure that we align them to address the issues we have and make sure we take advantage of the unique skills and qualifications and resources that each one brings.
And I know that -- I enjoyed your remarks about Alaska. When I was with the FAA in the 1990's I had a chance to spend some time with my boss, the administrator David Henson, visiting -- we must have visited 15 FAA facilities in Alaska in the course of about four or five days. And --
SEN. BEICH: It's a unique experience.
MR. APPEL: In terms of the amazing dedication that the people there have to maintaining very complex electronics, very complex facilities in conditions that are just so much more difficult than what their colleagues in the rest of the United States have.
So I respect that and I also realize the unique issues that are faced in Alaska and the institute in Alaska will be something that I will take a look at to really understand how they all play together.
But I am very confident that there are some unique contributions coming from each.
SEN. BEGICH: Well thank you very much. And we'll look forward to talking with you in more detail. It's just that it's a very unique, especially around winter city climate conditions and so forth.
And again the last comment I'll make and really encourage folks as you deal with rapid transit rail, you know, in Alaska we have literally one rail system. But the big deal in the long term is how do we connect rail to the lower 48 for transportation of goods? That's a very new item. Alaska is aggressively looking at it. The military is also looking at it because it will move military goods from the lower 48 into very strategic locations.
So maybe at a later time, Mr. Szabo, you could give us some feedback on how you see that or if you don't see that. It has kind of a dual purpose. It's commerce but it's also military equipment and movement. So, just food for thought, later discussion not now.
Thank you very much.
SEN. DORGAN: Senator Lautenberg.
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Thanks Mr. Chairman.
Rarely do we see such a distinguished panel of people ready to take on these important jobs and I welcome all of you to take on these important assignments. That doesn't mean you're confirmed but it -- (laughter) you've got a good step forward.
The -- in my state of New Jersey we're looking to break ground on the largest mass transit project in the country, a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. It's not just -- it's not a regional thing, it's a national thing in terms of the services that are provided around these states, this very densely populated area of the country.
The project will take 22,000 cars off the road each day, create 6,000 construction jobs each year for 10 years. They're shovel ready, pick ready, drills ready, it's all ready and I think this totally meets the president's commitment to getting people to work. Nothing can be as ready to go as this tunnel project is and we hope that it will.
And Mr. Kienitz, how do you kind of ensure that projects like the Hudson River tunnel that reduces commutation time and reduce emissions, how do we get it going as quickly as might be possible?
MR. KIENITZ: Thank you, sir. I will say a few things. The first of which is you're continuing advocacy for this project has made it sure that all the senior leadership of the department know all about what the ARC project is. So you've succeeded on that count.
The difficulty, of course, as you know and as your conversations with the secretary have indicated that the federal share of that project in the largest commitment of transit dollars that there ever would have been to one project and it's larger than the amount that is available to commit right now. So obviously, as you say, the project is ready to go and in terms of the internal evaluation criteria of the department it scored very well on all of the, you know, objective criteria.
But -- so I think your conversations with the secretary indicate that they're looking for a way to allow the project to keep on track in terms of going forward, recognizing the fact that there's just not enough authority right now to give it the full promise of federal support. I think that comes with the reauthorization.
But your question is a good one, which is how in the reauthorization do you create a structure whereby things that are big can get funded because we've had up until now, I think, is a system --
MR. LAUTENBERG: Well you've had wonderful experience working for Pat Moynihan. He's one of the great United States senators.
MR. KIENITZ: Yes, sir.
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Ed Rendell is someone else. And I'd like to fill in their footsteps. So I urge you to do what you can to remind the secretary, in case he didn't hear what I had to say these last few days, to go ahead and take out the starter's gun, shoot it off and let's go.
Mr. Szabo, welcome to you. You're going to be an important person in the railroad system of the country. My Amtrak though is assigned last year we required that the Northeast corridor be brought into a state of good repair by 2018. Now as administrator of the FRA how do you see the priority getting fulfilled to meet this deadline and to be sure that we do accomplish the goal that we want for the Northeast Corridor?
MR. SZABO: Well, obviously, if confirmed, it's my obligation to make sure the mandates, the statutory mandates from the laws that you have passed are implemented in a timely manner and to provide the appropriate level of feedback to you of our progress or, of course, any hurdles that we might be facing. But it's our obligation to deliver.
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Thank you.
Mr. Rivkin, Aon, did they have substantial presence in New York in the World Trade Center?
MR. RIVKIN: Yes --
SEN. LAUTENBERG: That was the firm that you joined there?
MR. RIVKIN: Yes, Senator Lautenberg. A-hundred-and-seventy-five colleagues from Aon perished in the World Trade Center disaster.
SEN. LAUTENBERG: I remember that very well. That brings, certainly, the question of safety right squarely in front of you when you -- the things that we're doing now to make sure that we're going to operate as efficiently and safely -- as secure as we possibly can. We welcome all of you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Senator Klobuchar.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to all of you. I think we'll be working a lot together, since I not just serve on this committee, but, like Senator Lautenberg, also serve on the environmental committee where we're doing the transportation bill in the coming year.
And so I had some questions, which I know I talked to Secretary LaHood about when he visited me with the two of you, Mr. Gresham and Mr. Kienitz, and that was about bridge maintenance. As I think I told you, I live six blocks from the bridge that fell in the middle of the Mississippi River that day. And so, whether I wanted to or not, I became something of an expert on bridge funding.
And one of the things that Congressman Oberstar and I have learned is that there is supposed to be money -- for bridge maintenance. But, oftentimes, that money goes to building new projects, because then we have a -- it's more fun to cut ribbons at new projects and celebrate new projects.
And some of our infrastructure is crumbling and needs to be inspected better and also needs to be maintained better. And I wondered if you could comment about that, Mr. Kienitz, and who else wanted to join in.
I also, thought, Mr. Appel, there's some new technology that could be used more effectively to inspect bridges and maybe you want to talk about that part.
MR. KIENITZ: Thank you, ma'am. My aunt and uncle actually live about eight blocks from that bridge and have a very good view of it from their high rise there.
Yes, I would say I'm very familiar with the issue that you've raised, and that's something that's been debated and ultimately not changed in the last three reauthorizations by my count. I know, for example, in Pennsylvania, our program, the history was exactly you're allowed to take 50 percent of the bridge money and not spend it on bridges and that was the tradition.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Put it on like flowers. Okay. Yes.
MR. KIENITZ: Or whatever. And our response to that really was to try to spend money on bridges in proportion to their need as part of the system and how many of them required repair. And so that -- you know, we tripled, I think, the amount of spending on division bridges in Pennsylvania, because we have more deficient bridges than any other state. So I'm very aware of that problem and look forward to working with you, if confirmed, on that particular legal issue as the way the law is written now.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Appel, the technology.
MR. APPEL: Certainly. Well, what RITA is all about is taking the best technology that we can either do research in house for or identify the right research and technology from outside to bring to bear to make sure that when we make those investments in transportation infrastructure we're doing it well.
I haven't looked specifically at the civil-engineering types of research related to what you're talking about, but it's one of the first things I will do when I get there.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Right. There's just some very antiquated methods right now that are still being used to check bridges for safety, and I think we could use some more advanced methods that are available.
And then another thing I want to talk about -- and, actually, I've talked to Senator Warner -- he had a little to-do with telecommunications in his past -- but just as we look at the infrastructure issues with broadband and what I call the rural electrification of our generation.
I am working on some legislation, and I hope others will join me, with the upcoming reauthorization of the transportation bill to look at ways to integrate the broadband infrastructures in road construction with the work that's going on with transportation infrastructure -- and this is the whole digging-up-the-streets-50- times issue -- to see if there is ways we can save taxpayer money as well as reduce disruptions on the roads and also just facilitating the laying of this broadband. And I just wondered if anyone wanted to comment on that, if anyone had any thoughts on that.
MR. APPEL: I'll just start --
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Have you driven on the streets when they're digging them up?
MR. APPEL: Absolutely. Well, I just want to sort of talk from a sort of intermodal perspective, which can be -- in other words looking -- the entity RITA looks a lot at how work done with one particular mode of transportation impacts another mode of transportation and trying to find efficiencies such that when projects are done they're integrated well.
And integration between one mode and another mode has very much in common with integration between a mode of transportation and some other type of commerce. And so what you're describing is absolutely the kind of thing we would want to make sure we understand at RITA.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Thank you very much. And then just, Mr. Szabo, I know everyone's been talking about their rural projects, and I loved how Frank described his as truly national instead of regional. And I would think rail through the Midwest, which is in the middle of the country, would truly be national as we have to connect both sides of the country. So I wanted to point that out as well as the good intercity projects that are out there.
Vice President Biden recently visited Minnesota, and I think he was kind of stunned by all the questions in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which is in the middle of our state, on adding an extra part to the rail to connect Big Lake to St. Cloud. Mark my words, you'll hear about this. So I just wondered if you could comment a little on the intercity rail piece of this.
MR. SZABO: Well, senator, obviously, I am aware that there's a very healthy debate in Minnesota about passenger rail. And, frankly, it's one of the most exciting challenges before FRA right now that's become one of the keystone pieces of the administration's efforts in the recovery. And it truly is a renaissance for passenger rail. So I look forward to working with you on trying to make these projects become a reality.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Thank you very much. And I will say, Mr. Chairman, I learned a new term today from Senator Begich. I always thought we had something in common with the rural areas. But now I know his are extreme rural. I don't know where North Dakota fits in, but --
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Senator Thune from South Dakota.
SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Extreme rural. (Laughter.)
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Thank you. We'd be happy to take you to some extreme rural areas in our state.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Hutchison, for holding today's hearing. And I want to thank our panel for their willingness to serve. These are important positions, important to the operation of our government, and, obviously, we may not always agree on every policy, but it's important that the positions be filled in a timely manner by qualified nominees who are ready to take on many of the challenges that we face in our country, and we have many.
Whether that's an overdependence upon foreign energy, infrastructure that's aging, there's no shortage of issues that we need to take on. So thank you for your willingness to serve. I'll look forward to working with all of you and hope that we can find some solutions and some good results for the American people.
I'd like to pose, if I could, a question to Mr. Kienitz. And it has to do with the -- some of which has already been alluded to -- but the upcoming highway-bill debate and -- just to get your overall thoughts and -- without drilling down and getting real specific about how do we address the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that is so critical to our nation's infrastructure.
And I don't know if you are familiar with it or not, but Senator White and I have a bill, the Build America Bonds Act, which would supplement funding that states currently receive via the Highway Trust Fund. But I'm just kind of curious about -- might get your overall thoughts with respect to that issue and where you perhaps see us going.
MR. KIENITZ: Yes, sir. Thank you. Yes, I think that is the biggest obstacle right now in the way of the kind of debate over service reauthorization that I think a lot of people want to have which is how to create a program that looks to the future and what are the new opportunities available to us.
And, as you know, the gasoline tax as a source of predictable year-over-year growth in funding has sort of collapsed, as it were. I think everyone feels that it's going to come back eventually. The economy will come back and driving will come back. But even over the last 10 or 12 years, there's been a growing mismatch between the rate at which project costs go up and the rate at which revenue goes up.
So the secretary is committed to, and I think is already engaged in, a process inside the administration of looking at all the many possible options there are about how to fund reauthorization at the levels that I think the members are expecting.
That conversation is not complete. And so I'm not sure what I can really say about it other than I know they're talking about a whole bunch of different ways to do it. And I think he is well aware of the great difficulty there will be in reauthorizing the program if the funding were to go down substantially from the last reauthorization rather than grow, for example.
SEN. THUNE: -- that was sufficiently vague. (Laughter.)
MR. KIENITZ: But those are my instructions --
SEN. THUNE: I understand. Just one other thought about that, though. There was injected into the stimulus debate this whole notion of no new capacity policy.
And I'm a little concerned we're going to be dealing with it in the surface transportation bill. It seems to me that when you have roughly eight-five percent of your highway funds are spent on maintenance activities anyway that this could be a solution in search of a problem.
And I guess my question is if maybe you can explain why, on one hand, we want increased flexibility for state and local governments, and, yet, on the other hand, we're trying to constrain that flexibility to only certain activities.
MR. KIENITZ: Well, I guess I'm not familiar with that conversation as part of the recovery-act discussion. I know there was a debate in the recovery act over what the total amount would be, how much would go to rail, how much would go to transit, how much would go to roadways. But, as far as I knew, the conversation on highway funding was really provided to the states according to the usual system, whereby projects are selected at the state level.
I will tell you, from my experience working at the state level in Pennsylvania, our ability to fund big new capacity projects just grew less and less every year as funding stayed level and needs grew and they had 6,000 deficient bridges and tens of thousands of miles of deficient roadways. And so, as a practical matter, that's sort of where the squeeze ends up. But as a sort of a particular mandate at the federal level, I guess I haven't seen that yet.
SEN. THUNE All right. Mr. Chairman, I have a -- and I don't mean to ignore the rest of you trying to drill down on some of these highway issues, but I do have a question for the second panel if I could submit for the record. I don't know if I'm going to be able to --
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Without objection.
SEN. THUNE: -- stay around for that. If I could enter that in the record, that'd be great. So thank you all very much again for your willingness to serve. Thanks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. ROCKEFELER: Thank you. Senator Warner.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me add my voice to my colleagues in saying hopefully a prospective congratulations on your nominations and hopefully very quick approval.
I've got two areas I'm going to take my time on. One is, while I'm not a mayor, have dealt with state-level transportation challenges. And one of the most frustrating things at a state level is the silo nature of our transportation funding.
And one of the things that I particularly was happy to see in the recovery ap was finally at least -- albeit smaller than I would have liked -- a pot of resources that would be supportive of multimodal transportation projects, which, I believe, if we're going to really think in a prospective way about how we fund thinking about how we not only connect our road system with our rail system, but the airports and ports in a state like Virginia, where we have one of the gateway ports for our East Coast and international gateway airport at Dulles, this multimodal notion, I think even maybe for extreme rural states, is part of the mix.
And I'd just like to hear any of the panel -- Mr. Kienitz, perhaps starting with you -- comments about commitment to multimodal, and how, on a going-forward basis, we don't have the recovery -- kind of a one-off time -- and that we don't get back to funding cycles, even -- as Senator Thune, I think, has appropriately pointed out -- kind of funding -- not going to get us where we need to be. And fighting over an ever-diminishing pot of dollars is going to get tougher and tougher. Is there going to be any chance that we're going to be able to have multimodal as a real transportation policy for the country?
MR. KIENITZ: Thank you, sir. I guess I'll start with that. Personally, I would say I couldn't agree with you more. I think that that small funding program, though, is a great way to sort of show people what policymaking -- without consideration for the source of the funds being directed to one mode or another -- what that can actually look like. And it means doing things where there's more than one mode involved in a project and not having to go through a horrible legal exercise, say, okay, this is the airport dollar. This is the transit dollar. This is the roadway dollar. But, rather, look at the project as a whole.
When I spoke earlier to Senator Thune about the idea of what is the challenge for the 21st Century that looked like the rewriting of the transportation program, I think that's -- to be able to set overall national objectives -- economic competitiveness, safety, environmental sustainability, things like that -- and then make funding decisions that drive the country towards those outcomes.
It would certainly be my hope that, by making funding available through that discretionary program, it can be demonstrated that that doesn't end up being an anti-rural program, but it may be that the funds you spend in very congested urban areas get spent in different ways than they might have done in the past and that the connections between passenger rail and freight rail and airports are perhaps a greater source of interest to that funding than might have traditionally been in the past, when you're spending money in places that have those complicated systems.
SEN. WARNER: I would simply add on that -- let me just -- amen to what you said, but I would hope that those -- dollars that you're going to -- the department is going to soon allocate that you look at how the criteria will be established.
I mean, there was a group that I was involved in before my election that was kind of a bipartisan policy group looking at transportation about what ought to be those new metrics. And this would be a great opportunity, I think, with these early dollars to set out some new policy goals that could become part of the active debate next year on -- or later this year on the service transportation reauthorization act.
I apologize. I wanted to get one question -- perhaps -- any answers for the record, but I do want to get back to Mr. Appel on one question about technology, and that is that -- mentioned the notion of combining roads and broadband, so that when you make those changes you lay in the broadband. We started an initiative like that in Virginia.
But there's been so little real advancement in surface transportation technology, and a little bit earlier today I was looking at what I hope will be one of the first generation of new electric vehicles that may have plug-in capabilities. There's Hawaii, Israel. Denmark's got a proposal to actually retrofit their whole transportation system -- and my time is going to run out -- but comments about how do we make sure we really push the technology edge.
And from the parochial standpoint as you look at locations to push that, Virginia Tech has been one of the leaders in this area with the Smart Road down in Blacksburg. And I hope that that would be -- get on your radar screen along with those Alaska projects in terms of how we can push this technology. And I think I've actually used up about all my time, but if you've got a quick response, I'd appreciate it.
MR. APPEL: Absolutely. First of all, with the transportation infrastructure investment going on right now this year, we have a great opportunity to combine a lot of goals at the same time. Sustainability, which relates a lot to the electrical vehicles, is a huge priority of the department, as is safety, as is capacity.
And a lot of the technology, the research that's being done at these universities, working with RITA and the research being done at RITA itself at the Volpe Center, are geared towards trying to identify technologies that will both increase the capacity of existing highways, but also bring about the sustainability, bring about safety at the same time.
And, basically, if you take a look at what the Volpe Center up in Cambridge is doing right now, they are perhaps the most cross-modal group within the department. There are engineers and researchers across every mode of transportation. They are working with their counterparts at the university. And the kind of issues you're talking about are the kind of issues that they're looking at not just in applying to roadways or surface transportation, but really across the modes.
So these are exactly the kind of issues that I'm going to take a look at as soon as I get there and really try to make sure that our priorities at RITA are aligned with the overall priorities of the department and the administration in those areas.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Senator Warner, thank you very much. Let me thank all of the nominees. I intend to support all of the nominees. I think you're of extraordinary quality. All of you aspire to join an agency that is part of a big bureaucracy, including bureaucracy within the specific agency to which you will aspire to work.
And let me urge you, to the extent you can -- because every bureaucracy around this town is filled with the cholesterol that blocks the arteries of progress every single day -- I hope you'll just tip it upside down and shake it when you get there. You've got a lot of big issues on the plate. I mean, really a lot of big issues. And I want you to transform the bureaucracy rather than have the bureaucracy transform you.
I have a lot of questions that I would ask, but I think I'll defer and submit some questions. But the issue of the modernization of the FAA system -- I chair the aviation committee here in the commerce committee, and we've got a lot of issues there with respect to how do we fund modernization. Amtrak is very important. Essential air service. There are just so many issues. Rural roads.
I'm not going to get into the issue of extreme rural. Let me observe that -- I mean, I come from a town of 300 people, and on the 4th of July at the parade we just park the float and let people walk around the float. (Laughter.) But where I come from, they call that real rural. So let me thank all five of you and appreciate very much your appearance here today. You are dismissed.
And we will ask that the next nominees come to the table. We will call to the table Mr. Cameron Kerry, who is nominated to be general counsel of the Department of Commerce. Let me hold just for a moment while we clear the table. Miss April Boyd, assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Commerce. And Miss Sherburne Abbott to be associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.
If we can clear the room quickly, we'd appreciate that. We'd like to begin with the second panel, please.
Let me thank all of you for your cooperation. We're pleased here to receive the nominations of Mr. Cameron Kerry to be general counsel of the Department of Commerce. Miss April Boyd is nominated to be the assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Commerce and Miss Sherburne Abbott to be associate director of the Office of Science and Technology. I thank all three of you for being here.
My understanding is that Congresswoman Tauscher wishes to have a statement entered into the record at this point with respect to the nomination of Ms. Boyd.
We will begin with Ms. Boyd, and I would ask any of you if you have members of your family who you wish to identify for the committee, please feel free to do so.
MS. BOYD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the interest of time, I'd like to summarize my prepared remarks and ask that my full statement be submitted for the record.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Without objection.
MS. BOYD: Thank you. If I may, I'd like to thank yourself, Chairman Rockefeller, and Ranking Member Hutchinson, for holding today's hearing, and especially Alan Domeski (ph) for her graciousness throughout this process.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't thank the career staff at the Department of Commerce for their help thus far, especially Jim Shufrater (ph) and Karen Fonsimwolf (ph) in the general counsel's office, and acknowledge my large contingency of family here today, my husband, Rob, who without his support I couldn't even think about taking on this incredible responsibility; my daughter Adeline, who is probably going to be practicing her walking in the back of the hearing room; my mom, Claudia; and my sister, Monica.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Welcome.
MS. BOYD: Thank you. I'm honored and humbled to have been nominated by President Obama and have Secretary Locke's support to appear before you this afternoon.
If confirmed by the Senate, I will be honored to serve as the assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs and play a role in tapping the Department of Commerce's vast potential to help address our nation's economic challenges.
If confirmed, whether it's the $4.7 billion in broadband grants the NTIA will distribute in communities throughout our country, to NOAA, the upcoming census or efforts to spur economic development and the growth of new industries, it's hard to find even one American whose life is not impacted or cannot be improved by the work of the Department of Commerce.
If confirmed, I believe my top priority at the Commerce Department should be to be as responsive as possible to Congress and other elected officials in keeping with President Obama's call for the federal government to be open, accountable, bipartisan, transparent and efficient.
The opportunity to serve as a liaison with Congress and state and local governments is one I take very seriously. As someone who spent the last eight years working in both the House and Senate, I respect and understand the role of the Congress in ensuring our government is accountable to the people you and the president represent.
I was fortunate to work for two amazing people on Capitol Hill, Representative Ellen Tauscher of California and Senator John Kerry. I particularly want to thank Senator Kerry and his staff for teaching me about this incredible chamber and also that the Department of Commerce has a lot to do with our oceans and fisheries.
I most recently served as the chief of staff with Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, the chair of the House New Democrat Coalition. There, I devoted much of my time to working to help enact policies that focus on strengthening America's competitiveness in the global marketplace and fostering the innovation that has always put our workers and businesses at the forefront.
I believe my skills and experiences on the Hill, and previously in the Executive Branch, have prepared me well for the assistant secretary position. If confirmed, I would be honored to serve the president, Secretary Locke and you at this unique time in our country's history. Thank you. Be happy to answer any questions you may have as well.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: -- and, Mr. Kerry, your entire statement will be made a part of the permanent record, as will Ms. Abbott's when she testifies.
MR. KERRY: Thank you, Chairman Dorgan and Ranking Member Hutchinson and members of the committee. I'm honored to be here today. And I'm humbled by the trust that President Obama and Secretary Locke are placing in me. And I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve the American people as general counsel at the Department of Commerce. I'm also very honored to join a distinguished group of lawyers from both parties who have held this post, who have set the bar very high.
I do want to thank my brother, Senator Kerry, for his very generous introduction today. Sometimes, between siblings, words like that don't come easily. So I'm certainly enjoying the occasion. And I think the committee can rest assured that I will be very attentive to this body, because, if I'm not, my big brother is going to beat me up.
In truth, I have always looked up to my big brother because of the way that he has invested his life in public service. And I've seen up close the sacrifices that public servants, both elected officials and government workers, made and how hard they work. And I'm awed and humbled by their example and gratified by the opportunity to serve myself.
I would like to take a moment to introduce to the members of the committee who were not presented to my family earlier to introduce my wife, Kathy Weinman.
Kathy and I actually met here in the City of Washington as young associates at a law firm, and this is where we fell in love, so this city has romantic associations for us.
And since we've made our home in Boston, she has, as my brother mentioned, become a distinguished lawyer there, now heads the Boston Bar Association, which is the nation's oldest. It was founded by John Adams.
And our youngest daughter, Laura (ph), is keeping her college class schedule in Senator Snowe's state, but we're proud to have with us here my daughter, Jessica, as well.
The Department of Commerce, as April Boyd has discussed, has a broad mandate of stewardship, of knowledge, of innovation and of economic growth. And as the agency's chief legal officer, the general counsel faces an array of complex problems from trade to climate science to internet technology to fisheries to intellectual property among many others.
And the general counsel has to manage some 400 lawyers in 14 bureaus and face the difficult issues ahead immediately of the 2010 Census, the stimulus program and of patent reform. All this will be a challenge, but it is a challenge that I welcome. In 30 years, as a regulatory lawyer, as a litigator, I've had to master a number of complex areas of the law. From the time that I started practice here in Washington at Wilmer, Cutler as a communications and anti-trust lawyer to teaching communications at Suffolk Law School to reaching beyond those boundaries to litigate complex cases in environmental cleanup and toxic torts, and insurance regulation, all of which demanded a mastery of expert witnesses in a variety of scientific and professional disciplines. And I appeared in various jurisdictions, not just in New England but around the country and here in the District of Columbia.
So, I come before you today with much to learn, but, I believe also with the skill, the judgment, and the range to address the broad array of issues at the Department of Commerce. So, I plan to give this job every bit of energy, creativity, versatility, curiosity and intellect that I can muster. And as I do that, I will have the help of an experienced career staff. A law office depends on its intellectual capital and that is something that the General Counsel's Office has in abundance.
So my goal, members of the committee, if I am confirmed, is to make sure that this intellectual capital is harnessed in the service of economic recovery and the national task of creating jobs and economic growth. The lawyers of the department can support that task, by turning to it urgently with their most thorough analytical skills, their most creative imagination, and their most careful ethical judgment.
If I'm confirmed, I will also bring the experience in politics and in my brother's national campaign. There's bearing because each of the members of this committee and in this body knows well the campaigns are a crucible and in some small measure, I have been through that crucible and had the opportunity to deal with national issues, to advise on national issues, and to have as I've gotten to know the states of some of the members here, the opportunity to have some of the conversations you've had with people who wonder how they are going to pass on to their children what our parents passed on to us.
I believe I can be a better adviser to the Secretary, a better counsel to the department and more attentive to the members of this body because of those experiences. So, this is an extraordinary time of challenge, a time to be in public service. I am honored to be asked to serve as General Counsel and I'm grateful for the opportunity not just to be here today, but to the members who've shared their time, their insights on the issues before the Department of Commerce and I hope that those conversations are just a beginning. That Secretary Locke and the Department of Commerce can look forward to a productive partnership with this committee, with this body, in the work of lifting the nation out of its economic crisis and renewing prosperity and opportunity.
I'd be happy to answer any questions the committee has.
SEN. CANTWELL: Thank you, Mr. Kerry. Thank you for your testimony and welcome to your wife. Thanks for coming back to Washington, D.C. Thanks, both of you, for Mr. Kerry's willingness to serve. So, Ms. Abbott, would you like to make a statement?
MS. SHERBURNE ABBOTT: Thank you, Madame Chairman. If the committee will indulge me, I will introduce my family in waves because there are several here. Thank you Senator Hutchison, for your kind remarks of introduction and other members of the Committee. I am honored to appear before you as President Obama's nominee for Associate Director for Environment of the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. If confirmed, I look forward to working with all of you to support and improve our nation's environmental science and technology efforts.
My presence here today represents a journey in science and the natural world that began with a little girl's curiosity. It was guided by a crew of mentors, and was shored up by the support of family and friends. Some of my fondest childhood memories were of walks with my brother in the woods of New England, discussions with my grandfather and father, both engineers, about the power of technology, and talks with my mother and grandmothers about the improbable women scientists who are nested in our family tree. And I'm grateful to introduce my father, my mother, my brother at this moment.
Along the way to the present, I have been privileged to encounter some remarkable educators and practitioners who shaped my view of science and public servicefrom a high school physics teacher who danced on lab tables to show that science had a human side; to Nobel laureates who used their celebrity to promote "hands on" science teaching across the globe; and to many individuals all over the world who volunteer their time in pursuit of international scientific cooperation so the benefits of their knowledge accrue to everyone.
For the final and central leg of the journey to this table I've been accompanied by my husband whose intellect and integrity I admire more with each day, and by my kids whose future on this planet and the planet of the future is what our work is about. Jim Steinberg and Emma and Jenna Steinberg.
SEN. CANTWELL: Welcome to all of you.
MS. ABBOTT: Thank you. I am hoping that if confirmed by the Senate, I can draw from these lessons of optimism and opportunity to refine our national strategy for environmental research and development, with the primary goal of moving the nation toward a clean energy economy and on a path toward sustainability. This is the vision President Obama and the Director of OSTP, Dr. John Holdren, have presented to the nation and to you, and one that I enthusiastically share.
I am currently a faculty member and director of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Austin. I work with all departments and colleges to build university- wide research and education programs focused on sustainability issues. These efforts and others like it in higher education institutions are breaking down the barriers between the academic disciplines and between scholarship and practice. They are building new, integrative and interdisciplinary problem-solving approaches to the complex concerns of environment and development. They call for rethinking the ways we teach, the ways we support research, and the ways we partner with the private sector and other stakeholders.
Most important, they are revealing that we no longer have to choose between the economy and the environment. Providing energy that is reliable, affordable, and clean will have the intended and added benefits of reducing the emissions that contribute to global climate change, as well as create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Considering the challenges ahead on all fronts of the economy and environment where science matters, OSTP has an opportunity to help produce information and analysis that contributes both to the resolution of the environmental issues of today and to the better management of natural resources for future generations. Though climate change is at the center of these discussions, we cannot overlook the quality of our air and water sheds, the toxins in our soil and foods, the conditions of our forests and oceans, and the diversity of life that inhabits our planet. Tomorrow's celebration of Earth Day provides a well-timed reminder of this.
For the past 25 years I have worked at the intersection of science and public policy on environmental issues ranging from global climate change, to regional issues of high latitudes, to the health of marine mammal populations and fisheries.
I believe that science should inform our decisions. Therefore, I believe we need strong and balanced federal research programs that support the promising areas of R&D that contribute to understanding and solving these environmental concerns. There are substantial tools at our disposal and enormous talent across our nation. We must find imaginative ways to better deploy the tools, and bring new perspectives and experience to the challenges facing our government. We also need to reach out to communicate findings and warnings in ways that build confidence in our ability to protect the health and the safety of the public, as well as preserve and restore the ecosystems on which their livelihoods depend.
If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with the exceptional science and environment team assembled by President Obama, with the Congress, and particularly with the members of this committee on the environmental challenges and opportunities facing our nation. I am grateful for the courtesy shown by your staff over the past several weeks, and I look forward to continuing and deepening our discussions.
I will be pleased to try to answer any questions that you may have.
SEN. CANTWELL: Thank you, Ms. Abbott. I'm going to start with you. Thank you for your willingness to serve and it's a pleasure to have your family with you here at the hearing so, thank you for attending this hearing. I wanted to ask specifically about NOAA and your role with NOAA in our efforts to make sure that ocean's policy and particularly coastal science programs. What are your thoughts on how we improve those to work better with local governments? My main concern is we talked a lot about climate litigation and we've had legislation through this committee to talk about adaptation and things that we need to do to better plan for climate change. So, I don't know if you want to comment on how you think that we can provide better science and information through your agency and office to work with local governments.
MS. ABBOTT: Thank you for that question, Senator Cantwell. President Obama has made it very clear that the cornerstone of his activity is a robust strategy for research dealing with climate change. And I see that the Office of Science and Technology's Policy together with the OMB will provide a very strong and helpful coordinated research program across the budgets and across the agencies and I look forward to -- (inaudible) -- helping that process.
NOAA is a very strong element of those agencies and one of the great opportunities that we have ahead of us is that many of us, including myself, and I've known Dr. Lubchenco for 20 odd years, or longer than I care to admit, as well as other members of the team, and I think that we'll work very strongly together so that the coordination function across the agencies I would assume would be quite substantial and I think that there is a long way that we could go in that direction.
SEN. CANTWELL: What do you think, in your opinion, are some of the mistakes that we'll make if we don't focus on the right kind of adaptation and climate information and how that information's shared?
MS. ABBOTT: I think your point is well taken. I think that adaptation research has been one of the overlooked or at least one of the less-funded efforts of the climate science program and I think that, going forward, we need to look at the various strategies that have been put forward to try to get the best out of our research activity, including an adaptation research strategy. We need to look at the national assessment that is mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act looking across the sectors and across the regions and we also need to look at a strategy for addressing the climate services that all of our communities are going to depend upon to make decisions about them going forward.
SEN. CANTWELL: You would agree that it's impossible for them to do that kind of researchthe local communities.
MS. ABBOTT: It's impossible for them to do it alone. So, they -- (inaudible) -- for the federal government to do.
SEN. CANTWELL: Thank you. Thank you. Mr. Kerry, obviously as General Counsel, part of your activities is lowering barriers to trade opportunities for U.S. companies as they look for market opportunities abroad and one of the issues is a lack of infrastructure of commercial law in those countries. My understanding is that the General Counsel office provides commercial law assistance to those foreign officials. How do you think we should enhance that or change that or grow that function to better serve the United States?
MR. KERRY: Yeah. Well that, Senator, is part of one piece in overall review that the administration has undertaken of trade policy and all of its various components, but the market access, the countervailing duties and anti-dumping aspects, and review of the trade agreements. Certainly, one of the functions that I look forward to, if confirmed, is the opportunity to work on the commercial law development program to try to promote transparency in other countries and to promote transparency in market access.
SEN. CANTWELL: Would you say that the program could grow in our efforts on the international basis to support more activities?
MR. KERRY: I think, Senator, the role that that program is going to play in the overall trade strategy is something that will emerge from that review. I certainly look forward to a discussion with you and with your very capable staff of ways that that program can help advance the choices that we need to make in the area of trade.
SEN. CANTWELL: Thank you. I see my time is up. Senator Hutchison.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-TX): Thank you, Madame Chairman. I want to ask each of you to answer the same question that I asked of the first panel and that is--Would each of you work with committee members on both sides of the aisle and give information and any answers to requests that are made so that we can do our job of oversight of your agency? Ms. Boyd?
MS. APRIL S. BOYD: Yes, Senator Hutchison. Absolutely, I'd see that as the primary function of my office. I'd also like to note that I think our federal government works best when it has a healthy relationship with congress, so I would absolutely do my part to ensure that.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you. Mr. Kerry?
MR. KERRY: Senator Hutchison, I took notes during your introductory comments when you said the committee can't perform its functions without information from the legislative and legal staff, so my answer to that question is "Yes".
SEN. HUTCHISON: Ms. Abbott?
MS. ABBOTT: And yes, Senator Hutchison, along with my fellow nominees, I share their view. Also, with respect to the fact that the president has made openness a very strong commitment on the part of the government, so yes I would
SEN. HUTCHISON: Thank you. My only question really is for you, Ms. Abbott, and the OSTP really is an office that can be what you make it. It can be very active and productive and give the kind of guidance in science that we really need and it would be a wonderful service if you do. But, many times, we never hear from OSTP until, well actually after their hearings for confirmation, so it would be very helpful for you all to be active because I think there are some areas where your input would move the ball forward.
One of those is a bill that I introduced, actually, in the last two congresses to do more research in weather patterns and even mitigation to determine how mitigation works, how does it affect not only the area where it might be occurring, but other areas around it. For instance, cloud seeding, does it affect areas in the north, south, east, or west of the area where clouds would be seeded. There are really no records that have been kept in the last few years. They used to keep them at OSHA and the weather service--not OSHA, NOAA and the National Weather Serviceused to do some of this record keeping, but they do not anymore.
So, I would like forand I talked to the head of OSTP when he was here and he was interested in participating and working with us on this bill. I have the bill now housed at the National Science Foundation, but I would be pleased to work with OSTP on moving it forward so that we can get data to determine if the changes in weather and the violence of the weather that we have seen in the last few years, can in any way be mitigated or let's look at the patterns and see if there's something that that might tell us. So, the question is--Would you work with me on that and maybe help us push something through that would be helpful in gathering data in the beginning and then seeing if that leads us somewhere?
MS. ABBOTT: Yes, Senator Hutchison, I would be pleased to work with you as we go forward. The intensity of storms and frequency is obviously a very important problem and something that we have to address both from its impact on public welfare as well as on the economy. About a third of our GDP comes from coastal communities and clearly, any impact from hurricanes on coastal communities is felt across the nation. So, our understanding of the dynamics of these storms, together with their consequences, and also looking at the various strategies for mitigation and adaptation has to be a very strong part of the portfolio of research that we work with you in an effort to produce for the nation.
SEN. HUTCHISON: Well, thank you and I know that in your time that you have now lived in Texas, you have seen
MS. ABBOTT: We've experienced it first-hand
SEN. HUTCHISON: --and the surges. That's what Katrina, the big damage was from surge, not from the hurricane. And, then, of course, Ike we saw in Galveston just last year. It's something that I think it's high time we look at, study, see what the patterns are, if any, and then see if there's something we ought to be doing. But, we can't take that step until we know what the patterns are and if we can do something with that information.
So, I thank you and I look forward to working with all of you in your capacities. Thank you.
MS. ABBOTT: Thank you.
MR. KERRY: Thank you.
SEN. CANTWELL: Thank you. And thank you, Senator Hutchison, for being here today and allowing the hearing to go forward on these confirmations so that we can get the agency the personnel that it needs to do its job and to work with us here in congress. I want to remind my colleagues that the committee does want to move on these nominees very quickly so if they have questions for these nominees, to have them in by noon tomorrow so that they can get response and obviously, if members who weren't here today have questions, you don't have to wait tomorrow, you don't have to wait until noon tomorrow. You can start getting them to the committee to get to these individuals sooner than that.
The sooner you get them, the sooner the answers can come back. So, with that, again, thank you all for being here and for your testimony and your willingness to serve. This hearing is adjourned.