Construction Industry News

Connecting America: Improving Access to Infrastructure for Communities Across the Country

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., entitled, “Connecting America: Improving Access to Infrastructure for Communities Across the Country.” The hearing will examine the challenge of connecting Americans, particularly in rural communities, to transportation and information networks.

Technology Subcommittee to Hold Its First Hearing of 115th Congress

The subcommittee will hold its first hearing of the 115th Congress to explore the future of spectrum policy and how wireless technology benefits consumers and the economy. It will also examine evolving market demand for licensed and unlicensed spectrum and the Federal Communications Commission’s recent spectrum auctions.

Hearing to Examine Infrastructure Access Issues

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., entitled, “Connecting America: Improving Access to Infrastructure for Communities Across the Country.” The hearing will examine the challenge of connecting Americans, particularly in rural communities, to transportation and information networks.

Cruz, Nelson Champion American Leadership and Exploration in Space

The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.

<p><strong>Opening Statement - Remarks

Opening Statement - Remarks as prepared

Good morning.  Thank you to the witnesses for appearing before this Subcommittee today to discuss their perspectives on improving the Transportation Security Administration for the security of traveling public.
    
Today, we have before us:

  • Mr. Stephen Alterman, who is both President of the Cargo Airline Association, and Chairman of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee;
  • Ms. Shannon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy at Airlines for America;
  • Mr. Mark Laustra, Vice President for Global Business Development at Analogic, a company that develops state-of-the-art threat detection systems for airport baggage and checkpoint screening; and
  • Ms. Kim Day, CEO of the Denver International Airport.

   
I’m excited to take the gavel of Senate Commerce’s Subcommittee on Aviation, Safety, and Security. From airports and airlines to manufacturing and tourism – aviation supports tens of millions of jobs, and trillions in economic output. We must ensure Missouri, and our nation, has the underlying infrastructure necessary to complement continued growth in the aviation sector. Continued growth is important, but it’s just as important to ensure the safety of air travel through rigorous oversight of the FAA and TSA.
 
Missourians expect our nation’s airports to operate efficiently to reduce passenger wait times, but they also demand we protect against terrorists, criminals, and smugglers. The asymmetric threat of terrorism is most evident in aviation security. TSA cannot miss a single threat, but terrorist only need to slip by once to commit a potentially catastrophic attack. TSA faces a formidable challenge:  In 2016, it screened more than 738 million passenger (more than 2 million per day), 466 million checked bags, and 24.2 million employees at 450 of our nation’s airports.
 
We must be cognizant of the security challenges in airport public areas, and the potential threat posed by insiders with unfettered access in secure areas of airports.  We must also confront challenges with TSA management and its technology acquisition programs, its communication with industry stakeholders, and its communication with passengers to expand Pre-Check.

Striking the balance between efficiency for passenger convenience and security is – and will remain – an ongoing effort. Recent headlines involving attacks at airports in Ft. Lauderdale, Brussels, Belgium, and Los Angeles make the threat clear. From lone-wolf terrorists – including those who may be inspired by, if not directly affiliated with, terrorist organizations – to the prospect of a mass casualty attack involving aviation, we must remain vigilant against the evolving techniques used by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
 
The Senate Commerce Committee made great strides last year in advancing a bipartisan FAA Reauthorization bill. A number of its TSA- and security-related provisions were included in the short-term FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act.

Some of the safety-related accomplishments include:

  • Improvements to TSA oversight of missing airport access badges, and the vetting process for badges of airport employees;
  • TSA review of airport perimeter security;
  • Greater partnership between TSA and the private sector in collaboration on private sector marketing to enroll more Americans in TSA Pre-Check.
  • Authorizing a doubling of “Viper” teams at airports from 30 to 60;
  • Expanding eligibility for the existing State Homeland Security Grant Program for active shooter training exercises and preparedness; and
  • Authorization of multiple provisions to improve security checkpoints for passengers, including a pilot program at 3 of the top 20 largest airports, an assessment of TSA staffing decisions to optimize efficiency, and directing the Aviation Security Advisory Committee  to develop further recommendations for future checkpoints that are more efficient and effective for screening passengers.

Collectively, these enacted provisions represent the most comprehensive reforms to TSA in a decade, and illustrate bipartisanship in striking the balance between passenger convenience and ensuring security.

The purpose of this hearing is to examine TSA’s implementation of these provisions, and to examine what additional steps this committee may consider to enhance security for the traveling public.
 
I look forward to working with our Committee Chairman, John Thune, our Ranking Member, Bill Nelson, and my Subcommittee counterpart, Maria Cantwell, on continued bipartisan success in advancing a comprehensive FAA reauthorization this year that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-passenger, and, most importantly, pro-security.
 
I turn now to Ranking Member Cantwell for any remarks she would like to make.
 

Senate Commerce Democratic Subcommittee Assignments Announced

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today announced ranking member and subcommittee assignments for Democratic committee members.  The subcommittee assignments are as follows:

 

Aviation Operations, Safety and Security                     

 

1.         Ranking – Maria Cantwell, Wash.

2.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.

3.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.

4.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

6.         Cory Booker, N.J.

7.         Tom Udall, N.M.

8.         Gary Peters, Mich.

9.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

10.       Tammy Duckworth, IL

11.       Maggie Hassan, NH

 

 

Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet         

 

1.         Ranking – Brian Schatz, Hawaii

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash. 

3.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.

4.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.  

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

6.         Cory Booker, N.J.

7.         Tom Udall, N.M.

8.         Gary Peters, Mich.

9.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

10.       Tammy Duckworth, IL

11.       Maggie Hassan, NH

12.       Catherine Cortez Masto, NV

 

 

Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security             

 

1.         Ranking – Richard Blumenthal, Conn.

2.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.

3.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

4.         Cory Booker, N.J.

5.         Tom Udall, N.M.

6.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

7.         Maggie Hassan, NH

8.         Catherine Cortez Masto, NV

 

 

Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard

 

1.         Ranking – Gary Peters, Mich.

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash.

3.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.

4.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

6.         Cory Booker, N.J.

7.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

 

 

Space, Science, and Competitiveness         

 

1.         Ranking –  Edward J. Markey, Mass.

2.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii      

3.         Tom Udall, N.M.         

4.         Gary Peters, Mich.

5.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

6.         Maggie Hassan, NH

 

 

Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security                                         

 

1.         Ranking – Cory Booker, N.J.

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash.

3.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.     

4.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.  

5.         Tom Udall, N.M.

6.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

7.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

8.         Maggie Hassan, NH

<p>Good afternoon everyone.&nbsp; Thank

Good afternoon everyone.  Thank you all for being here today for our first hearing of the 115th Congress.  Today’s hearing, entitled, “Moving America: Stakeholder Perspectives on our Multimodal Transportation System,” brings together an esteemed panel of transportation leaders.

As many of you are aware, President Trump mentioned strengthening and renewing our nation’s transportation infrastructure in his inaugural address.  I’m encouraged to see the president making transportation infrastructure a top priority.

As Congress and the new administration seek to develop infrastructure solutions, my hope is that we address future infrastructure funding challenges.  Like many of my colleagues, I am proud of the bipartisan work Congress did to enact the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

However, our work is not done.

According to the latest projections by the Congressional Budget Office, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will face a deficit of over $100 billion in the five years following the expiration of the FAST Act. The HTF serves as a fair and equitable source of transportation funding for all states.

To address this funding shortfall, I’ve introduced the Build USA Infrastructure Act, modeled on Nebraska’s successful transportation funding efforts.  The bill would divert a portion of revenues collected by the Customs and Border Patrol on freight and passengers at ports of entry to cover the projected deficit. 

In addition, the bill would establish measures to offer states greater flexibility in initiating critical transportation infrastructure projects.

Certainty in federal highway funding and project flexibility for states should be key elements of any major infrastructure package.

I also suggest that Congress build off of the successful freight program established in the FAST Act.  The multi-modal freight program provides dedicated formula funding to states for critical urban and rural corridors.

It is important that our work to make America’s transportation system more reliable and efficient also addresses the challenging regulatory environment.  In 2015, I authored the TRUCK Safety Reform Act. This bill reformed the controversial and obscure regulatory process at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was included in the FAST Act.

Because of this measure, the FMCSA now needs to conduct a more transparent, inclusive, and responsive regulatory process with stronger cost-benefit analysis.

The FMCSA’s “entry level driver training” negotiated rulemaking is a good example of stakeholders coming together with the agency to produce positive outcomes and increase safety.

I hope to work closely with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, my colleagues in Congress, and stakeholders to address similar regulatory process challenges across agencies at DOT.

For example, in the previous administration, the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) electronic braking rule represented a multi-billion dollar mandate without clear safety benefits.  In fact, several railroads had tested and then abandoned these systems – a fact effectively disregarded by the FRA. This effort was followed by an ideological ‘government knows best’ PR campaign that criticized operators opposed to the mandate.

In reviewing this rulemaking, the Government Accountability Office found that, “DOT’s modeling lacked transparency as the information published may not be sufficient for a third party to replicate…”

With new leadership at the FRA, we hope the agency will improve.  But we cannot rely on that alone.  Congress must act to improve the use of data, risk-based analysis, transparency, collaboration, and objective based rules at the FRA.

As we examine how the FRA conducts its regulatory process, we must consider the cumulative impact of regulations across the government on a freight rail industry that is projected to infuse $22 billion in private investment in our nation’s transportation system.

We should all applaud this tremendous investment in our transportation network.

Today, I look forward to hearing about how Congress can work to strengthen our nation’s transportation infrastructure while enhancing safety, reliability, innovation, and efficiency across our transportation network.

I now turn to my colleague and Ranking Member Senator Cory Booker for his opening remarks. 

Thune and Peters Announce Joint Effort on Self-Driving Vehicles

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) today announced a joint effort to explore legislation that clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology.

Aviation Subcommittee to Hold Its First Hearing of 115th Congress

The subcommittee will hold its first hearing of the 115th Congress to explore stakeholder perspectives on how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may better serve the traveling public. The hearing will also examine the TSA’s implementation of recently-passed laws including aviation security provisions in the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.

Commerce Committee Leaders Seek Answers on Yahoo! Data Security Incidents

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee, asked Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to answer questions about multiple data security incidents Yahoo! disclosed over the past few months, including what steps Yahoo! has made to “identify and mitigate potential consumer harm.”

FCC Commissioners to Testify on March 8

“Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC has the opportunity to chart a path away from heavy-handed intervention in competitive markets and work collaboratively with Congress to create a modern regulatory agency that better meets the needs of consumers,” said Thune. “The FCC has already taken steps towards increased transparency under Chairman Pai and I would like to see that continue. At our hearing, committee members will have a forum to ask the commissioners about issues facing the FCC that impact Americans.”

Transportation Subcommittee to Hold Its First Hearing of 115th Congress

The subcommittee will hold its first hearing of the 115th Congress to explore stakeholder perspectives for increasing the efficiency and safety of our nation’s multimodal transportation system.

Ranking Member Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you Mr. Chairman for calling this important hearing.

Inspectors general throughout the federal government play a critical role in ferreting out waste, fraud, and abuse and ensuring that agencies serve as good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

For example, the Department of Commerce IG’s office identified approximately $1 billion in financial benefits and potential cost savings for fiscal years 2011 through 2015, while receiving $225.3 million in appropriations – that’s a return on investment of $5.43 for every dollar invested in the office.

And the other offices represented here today have shown similarly impressive returns on investment.

In addition, inspectors general ensure that federal employees are not muzzled by their superiors when they challenge efforts to distort, misrepresent, or suppress scientific research and analysis.

Sadly, we are seeing increasing attempts by some special interests to keep agencies from reporting scientific data and studies on critical public health and safety issues – such as climate change and sea level rise.

I will not stand for its suppression – and hope none of our IGs will either.  That is why late yesterday, 26 senators, including many on this committee, joined me in filing legislation to protect science and scientists from political interference.  The legislation would ensure that federal scientists can communicate their findings with the public, news media and Congress.  It also requires federal agencies to implement and enforce scientific integrity policies and ensure procedures are in place to report instances when integrity policies are broken. 

At the end of the day, inspectors general should play an important role in protecting whistleblowers who believe scientific integrity has been compromised.  

But to carry out these vital functions, they must have one thing:  independence.

Recently, The Washington Post and other news outlets reported that members of the administration’s transition team contacted a number of IGs and told them that they were “temporary holdovers” and may be replaced.

Needless to say, this senator found the news to be troubling, especially since inspectors general have always been seen as independent entities that should only be removed for cause.

Last week, I sent letters to 11 IGs under this committee’s jurisdiction to inquire further about the nature and extent of these transition team contacts and to learn more about each agency’s whistleblower policies.  

I’ve received responses from all 11 inspectors general.  Both the Department of Transportation and Homeland Security IGs have confirmed to me that they were contacted by the transition team and initially informed they would only serve on a temporary basis.

Mr. Chairman, I’d like to ask that these letters be entered into the record.

During today’s hearing, it’s my hope we can learn more about how we can ensure the independence of these offices.   I also look forward to hearing how the inspectors general will work to ensure that the integrity of the scientific process is protected.  

I now look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

<p>Good morning.&nbsp; Last week, this

Good morning.  Last week, this Committee held a hearing on reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens.  We heard from stakeholders representing several sectors of the American economy about ways government agencies can regulate smarter – protecting public safety and market fairness while fostering economic growth and innovation.

Today, we will discuss another important way to make government more efficient and effective – by identifying and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in federal departments and agencies.  For this task, there is no more effective tool than the inspectors general.

Created by the Inspector General Act of 1978, IGs serve as watchdogs over more than 70 federal agencies.  According to the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, agency incorporation of IG recommendations led to $26 billion in potential savings in fiscal year 2015, and IG criminal and civil cases led to another $10.3 billion returned to the treasury.  These figures amount to $14 saved for every taxpayer dollar invested in the work of the IGs.

This year marks the beginning of a new administration, and it will be important for new department and agency heads to be fully aware of the issues that have plagued their organizations in recent years.

Each of the IGs on the panel today recently published the top management challenges of their agencies for the new fiscal year.  In addition to these, we will be discussing some of the hundreds of IG recommendations that remain open after, in some cases, several years.

The Department of Commerce faces a number of challenges across its agencies.  For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manages the acquisition and development of critical weather satellites, and will have to address cost and schedule overruns, while avoiding gaps in satellite coverage.

FirstNet, which is an independent authority within the Commerce Department, is also reaching critical early stages in its rollout of a nationwide public safety broadband network, and I believe FirstNet will continue to benefit greatly from rigorous oversight by the inspector general.

New Commerce Department leadership will also have to ensure that all of the Department’s employees respect and follow government spending rules in the wake of an IG investigation into unjustified spending by the former Under Secretary for International Trade.

The National Science Foundation will have to address significant issues it has had keeping its large facilities, such as the National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON, on time and on budget.

The Committee ensured additional oversight of these facilities in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, and we’ll be eager to see these implemented.

The Department of Homeland Security oversees two components that are essential for ensuring the safety of our nation’s transportation system: the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.

The Coast Guard will have to tackle the challenges of improving cybersecurity, information management, and financial reporting.

TSA has had several high profile issues in recent years, including airport security failures discovered by IG red team testing, as well as breaches involving the Secure Identification Display Area, or SIDA, badges of airport employees.

This Committee worked to address these issues in the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, but new Department leadership will have to continue to work with DHS OIG to ensure the ongoing safety of the traveling public.

Finally, the Department of Transportation’s major challenges include setting up the playing field for revolutionary new transportation technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and self-driving vehicles while also maintaining a world-class standard of safety.

The Department must also more effectively manage the series of major upgrade programs to the National Airspace System known collectively as NextGen and ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the FAST Act.  This work will inform our discussions as we work to craft an FAA reauthorization bill this year.

Finally, I would like to address briefly some recent developments within the IG community. 

The media has reported that the new administration’s transition team considered removing some IGs.  It appears, however, that they quickly changed their minds and notified these IGs, including Mr. Roth and Mr. Scovel, that they would not be removed.  I am confident that incoming agency leadership will continue to find the oversight work of their IGs to be as invaluable as I have.

I’m grateful that the Trump Administration is not behaving in the manner that the Obama Administration did in its first few months in power, when it fired the inspector general of AmeriCorps during his investigation of a prominent supporter of President Obama.

We have testifying before us today a distinguished all-IG panel.  The Honorable Peggy Gustafson, Inspector General of the Department of Commerce—who, I would note, has been on the job at Commerce for only about three weeks, though she is a veteran IG; Ms. Allison Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation, who also served for nearly twenty years in leadership roles within the Commerce Department IG’s office; the Honorable John Roth, Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, who spent 25 years in high-profile positions within the Department of Justice; and the Honorable Calvin Scovel III, Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, who last year celebrated a decade of service as DOT’s inspector general—which followed a distinguished, 29-year career with the U.S. Marine Corps.  I want to thank you all for being here and look forward to a productive discussion.

I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.

 

Four Inspectors General to Testify Before the Commerce Committee

Inspectors general from four agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction will testify on recommendations for improving their respective federal agencies.

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