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Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Transportation Secretary

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Note: This is the post #12 in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet. See the series introduction here.

Transportation Department logo / Transportation.gov

Cabinet position: Secretary of Transportation

Department:  U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

Current Secretary: Elaine Chao

Succession: The Transportation Secretary is 14th in the presidential line of succession.

Department Mission: “The mission of the Department is to serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” (Source)

Within the DOT are the following administrations:

• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

• Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

• Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

• Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

• Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

• Maritime Administration (MARAD)

• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

• Office of Inspector General (OIG)

• Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST)

• Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

• St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)

Department Budget: $98.1 billion for FY 2017

Number of employees: Approximately 58,000

Primary Duties of the Secretary: The Transportation Secretary oversees the formulation of national transportation policy and promotes intermodal transportation. Other responsibilities range from negotiation and implementation of international transportation agreements, assuring the fitness of US airlines, enforcing airline consumer protection regulations, issuance of regulations to prevent alcohol and illegal drug misuse in transportation systems and preparing transportation legislation. (Source)

Secretary Info

Elaine Chao / Transportation.gov

Secretary: Elaine L. Chao

Previous occupation: President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America.

Education: B.A. in economics from Mount Holyoke College and MBA from Harvard Business School.

Previous government experience: Served as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation (1986); Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission (1988); Deputy Secretary of Transportation (1989-1991); Director of the Peace Corps (1991-92); U.S. Secretary of Labor (2001–2009).

Family: Chao is married to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Notable achievements:

• Was the first Asian American woman and the first Taiwanese American to be appointed to a President’s Cabinet.

• Distinguished Fellow with The Heritage Foundation

• Board member of the Independent Women’s Forum

• Recipient of 36 honorary doctorate degrees.

Notable quotes:

On economic growth: “It’s not coincidental that America’s vigorous recovery in the early 1980s was led by a president who worked hard to unshackle growth in the private sector.”

On limited government: “Outside of Washington, D.C., most Americans aren’t concerned with doing things ‘big.’ They’re looking for less government spending, lower taxes, and good jobs.”

On government workers: “[A] number of recent studies conclude that federal workers earn 20 to 30 percent more per hour than their private sector counterparts. And where local, state, and federal government workers really come out ahead isn’t just in pay; it’s in the benefits. Most private sector workers can only dream of getting the generous lifetime pension and health benefits typical of government service.”

Previous and forthcoming posts in this series: Secretary of StateSecretary of the TreasurySecretary of Education, Secretary of LaborSecretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of CommerceSecretary of Health and Human ServicesSecretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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