Federal auto tech programs get a new leader. Former labor secretary Elaine Chao was chosen as transportation secretary in the Donald Trump administration’s cabinet, to replace Anthony Foxx, the current secretary, according to CNN. After confirmation, Chao will have oversight in shaping and implementing rules, regulations, policies, and guidelines of U.S. automotive innovation as the head of the Department of Transportation (DOT),
Zero-emissions vehicles including all-electric cars, vehicle fuel consumption mandates, emissions standards, autonomous vehicles, charging station infrastructure deployment, and vehicle cyber security have all been actively in play in the automotive industry in the U.S. and worldwide. Under Foxx, especially during the past six months, the DOT has issued recommendations and guidelines and announced policies and actions affecting all major areas of automotive technology development.
As Transportation Secretary, Chao will also be responsible for U.S. infrastructure programs including roads and highways, bridges, and airports. The infrastructure project will require a spending bill passing through Congress and public works projects backed by the government.
Like all cabinet members of the new administration, Chao will not officially have the job for a while. First President-elect Trump has to be inaugurated. Then Trump presents his cabinet nominees to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.
As the Transportation Secretary nominee, Chao will be in an unusual but not a unique situation. Senator Mitch McConnell, Chao’s husband since 1993, is the incoming majority leader of the same body that must vote to confirm her appointment. Elizabeth Dole, who was Transportation Secretary from 1983 to 1987, was married to Senator Bob Dole, majority leader from 1985 to 1987, making Ms. Dole the first Cabinet member to serve while her spouse was in that leadership position.
Chao, the first Asian-American to serve in a U.S. cabinet position, was Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush’s administration from 2001 through 2009. She previously had served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1989 to 1991 in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. As secretary, Chao will arrive as DOT head not only as an experienced two-time former cabinet member but also with experience as the No. 2 executive in the same department she will be leading.
In announcing Chao’s nomination, Trump said in a statement, “Secretary Chao’s extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner. She has an amazing life story and has helped countless Americans in her public service career. I am pleased to nominate Elaine as Secretary of the Department of Transportation,” as reported by NPR.