Construction Industry News

GSA Awards New Model Year 2022 Light-duty Vehicle Contracts

GSA news releases - Wed, 11/17/2021 - 11:00pm
  WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) awarded its contracts for the purchase of model year 2022 light-duty vehicles. The awards include both fossil fuel-powered vehicles and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The agency leverages the buying power of the federal government...

Executive Session and Nominations Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 to consider the following measures:

Agenda:

  1. S.46 Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2021
  2. S.594 Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021
  3. S.1127 Learning Excellence and Good Examples from New Developers (LEGEND) Act of 2021
  4. S.2699 The American Cybersecurity Literacy Act
  5. Nomination of Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (PN909)
  6. Nomination of Max Vekich, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (PN748)
  7. Nomination of Christopher A. Coes, to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy (PN405)
  8. Coast Guard Promotions (PN1350)

 

At the conclusion of the markup, the Committee will go directly into the nomination hearing.

Nominees:

  • Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (PN1322)
  • Mr. Alvaro M. Bedoya, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (PN1156)
  • Ms. Jainey Kumar Bavishi, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (PN1024)
  • Mr. Arun Venkataraman, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service (PN606)

 

DETAILS

Commerce Committee Executive Session

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVE STREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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Commerce Committee Approves Three Bills and Three Nominations

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved three bills, three Biden Administration nominations, and three Coast Guard officer promotions during today’s Executive Session. All are subject to approval by the full Senate.

Below is the full list of the legislation and nominees advanced out of committee:

  1. S.594 Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021
  2. S.1127 Learning Excellence and Good Examples from New Developers (LEGEND) Act of 2021
  3. S.2699 The American Cybersecurity Literacy Act
  4. Nomination of Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (PN909)
  5. Nomination of Christopher A. Coes, to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy (PN405)
  6. Nomination of Max Vekich, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (PN748)
  7. Coast Guard Promotions (PN1350)
    • The following Coast Guard Officers to earn the rank of Captain
      • Monique M. Roebuck
      • Susana E. Lee
      • Russell D. Mayer

 

 

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GSA’s Office of Evaluation Sciences Shares Lessons Learned and New Frontiers from 100+ Collaborations Across Government

GSA news releases - Mon, 11/15/2021 - 11:00pm
WASHINGTON —Today, the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) celebrated the completion of 100 collaborations across the government by hosting a virtual event highlighting an array of speakers who have worked with OES from across government and academia...

Senators Urge Commerce Department to Prevent Unlawful Shipments to Huawei, Other Entity List Companies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Todd Young, R-Ind., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., today sent a letter urging Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to act quickly on preventing unlawful shipments of prohibited products to Entity List companies like Huawei. The Senators also seek to ensure that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is equipped to enforce the Department’s export control regulations, specifically the Foreign Direct Product Rule.

“The Commerce Department’s lax enforcement of this rule has the effect of incentivizing other tech-focused companies throughout the supply chain to jeopardize our country’s security by transacting with Entity List companies like Huawei,” the Senators wrote.

“Unless BIS enforces this rule with the speed the situation necessitates, additional suppliers of sensitive technology will likely engage in unlawful trade practices with companies closely connected to adversarial governments.”  

In October, Wicker released a report following a committee investigation that found Seagate Technology likely in violation of the Foreign Direct Product Rule, which restricts Huawei’s access to sensitive U.S. technologies. The investigation found that Seagate appears to have flouted the regulation designed to protect national security by making unlawful transactions with Huawei for as long as one year, allowing the company to gain significant profits as it monopolized the market. 

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo,

Enforcement of the Commerce Department’s regulations must be a priority to combat growing threats to national security posed by China. This includes enforcement of the Final Direct Product Rule issued by the BIS in August 2020 restricting Huawei’s access to U.S. technologies. 

In late October, Minority Staff on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released a report about Seagate Technology’s failure to comply with the rule by continuing to ship hard disk drives to Huawei without a license. The report simultaneously concluded that the rule’s delayed enforcement has likely allowed Seagate Technology to continue shipping these prohibited products for nearly a year without consequence. 

Reporting suggests that BIS opened a similar investigation into Seagate Technology earlier this year, although no determination or enforcement action has been released to the public. We understand that compliance investigations require thoroughness, but they also must be conducted swiftly to determine whether violations demand the attention of law enforcement. This situation is especially urgent since Huawei’s access to certain sensitive U.S. produced technology products appears largely unobstructed, despite the company’s known connections to the Chinese Community Party.

Even more troubling, the Commerce Department’s lax enforcement of this rule has the effect of incentivizing other tech-focused companies throughout the supply chain to jeopardize our country’s security by transacting with Entity List companies like Huawei. Unless BIS enforces this rule with the speed the situation necessitates, additional suppliers of sensitive technology will likely engage in unlawful trade practices with companies closely connected to adversarial governments.

Poorly enforced regulations carry neither the force of law nor the respect of the private sector. Distorted incentives in sensitive technology markets caused by enforcement uncertainty requires the Commerce Department to act quickly to prevent additional unlawful shipments of prohibited products to Entity List companies like Huawei. We also encourage you to take action to ensure that BIS is equipped to enforce the full arsenal of the Department’s export control regulations––and meet the challenges posed by this precarious moment––considering the harms to national security they are intended to prevent.

Sincerely,

GSA Administrator Statement on Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

GSA news releases - Sun, 11/14/2021 - 11:00pm
  WASHINGTON -- U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Robin Carnahan released the following statement following President Biden signing into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: “President Biden and Congress have just delivered something truly historic: a...

GSA Announces Projects Selected to Receive American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding for Citizen-Facing Digital Services

GSA news releases - Sun, 11/14/2021 - 11:00pm
WASHINGTON — Today, the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Technology Transformation Services (TTS) announced the 14 projects selected to receive funding in FY21 under the $150 million provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This work will provide government-wide citizen-facing...

GSA Ribbon-Cutting Event Opens Retail Stores at Five U.S. Navy Installations

GSA news releases - Mon, 11/08/2021 - 11:00pm
New public works stores in California provide tools, supplies to support DoD mission SAN DIEGO ㅡ Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner (FAS) Sonny Hashmi of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will join senior Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Southwest...

Historic Investments to Rebuild America’s Transportation Infrastructure, Spur Economic Growth are On the Way as IIJA Heads to President’s Desk

Historic Investments to Rebuild America’s Transportation Infrastructure, Spur Economic Growth are On the Way as IIJA Heads to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, applauded House passage today of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which provides record investments in the nation’s infrastructure, including provisions in the Cantwell-led bipartisan Surface Transportation Investment Act (STIA). The IIJA passed the Senate in August.

“This bill delivers an historic investment in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and in equipping Washington state to compete and succeed in a global economy,” said Sen. Cantwell.  “Whether it’s moving people safely, delivering goods, reducing congestion, protecting coastal habitats, or expanding broadband, these investments are key to creating jobs and building a strong and sustainable economic future.”

Immediately before its passage in August, Sen. Cantwell spoke on the Senate floor regarding several critical new investments she secured in the bill including: new funding for regional megaprojects; the first dedicated program to eliminate congestion-causing rail crossings; the first federal initiative to remove salmon-blocking culverts; authorization and expansion of the Minority Business Development Agency; and increased funding for a range of coastal resilience, salmon habitat restoration, and climate programs. 

Rebuilding and Improving Transportation Infrastructure, Safety

 Megaprojects Grant Program -- $5 billion

  • Led by Sen. Cantwell, this new program provides dedicated funding to support large, multimodal, multijurisdictional projects that are critical to our economy, but too large or complex for existing funding programs.

 Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program -- $8 billion

  • Provides increased funding to support nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects. 

 Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant Program -- $7.5 billion

  • Authorizes, for the first time, U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) RAISE (formerly BUILD) grant program, providing funding for small to mid-sized projects of local and regional importance.

 Passenger and Freight Rail:

  • $3 billion for Cantwell-led highway-rail grade crossing elimination grant program, the first-ever dedicated grant program that local communities can access to address dangerous and costly at-grade crossing delays. 
  • $5 billion for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI) grants to improve passenger and freight rail transportation systems.
  • $12 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration to expand the passenger rail network through multi-year planning and construction grants.
  • $46 billion for Amtrak’s National Network and Northeast Corridor to address the state of good repair backlog, including replacing Amtrak’s aging passenger cars.
  • The bill also requires the Surface Transportation Board to hire additional staff to enforce Amtrak’s preference rights to ensure freight railroads allow Amtrak trains to run on time.

National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program -- $1 billion

  • Led by Sen. Cantwell, this creates the first federal program aimed to remove, replace, or restore culverts, which will enable the recovery of salmon passage and habitats.

Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grant Program -- $500 million

  • Provides funding to states, cities, and localities to pursue smart transportation projects that increase transportation efficiency and safety, and will advance connected vehicles, intelligent transportation systems integration, and support technological transportation advancements in communities nationwide.

Safety:

  • $7 billion for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety programs, research, and education to improve driver behavior and roadway safety.
  • $5 billion for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) commercial motor vehicle safety programs to help states address highway fatalities, combat human trafficking, and improve law enforcement training.
  • $5 billion for a new Safe Streets for All program to help local governments carry out Vision Zero plans and other improvements to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • $750 million to modernize state and federal crash databases to enable better data sharing and research into motor vehicle crashes.
  • $1 billion to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for grants to community-owned utilities to replace outdated gas pipelines in order to reduce injuries and fatalities and prepare our infrastructure for cleaner fuels.
  • The bill also requires life-saving technology on new motor vehicles, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, advanced drunk driving prevention technology, and other mandates to improve road safety.

Port Infrastructure Development Grant Program – $2.25 billion

  • Provides competitive grants to improve facilities, operations and intermodal connections to coastal seaports, river and Great Lakes ports. Funds will support projects to decarbonize port infrastructure, improve movement of goods through our nation’s ports, and enhance port resiliency.  

 Marine Highway Program (MARAD) - $25 million

  • Provides funding to improve utilization of the 26 "Marine Highway Routes" which provide relief to landside corridors suffering from severe traffic congestion, air emissions or other environmental challenges.

Aviation

  • $15 billion for airport infrastructure grants, similar to traditional Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds. Airports would have flexibility to address broader needs like terminal and gate construction, multi-modal projects, and low-emission ground service vehicles.
  • $5 billion to fund a new Airport Terminal Improvement program at DOT for terminal development projects to improve aging infrastructure. The program will target projects that increase airport capacity and passenger access, and that improve energy efficiency.
  • $5 billion to upgrade Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control facilities and equipment. $200 million is reserved for FAA-owned contract towers.

 Rural and Tribal Infrastructure Advancement

  • Establishes a pilot program to provide financial, technical, and legal assistance to help rural and Tribal communities better compete for discretionary funding and transportation financing programs.

 Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy

  • Creates a new Office within DOT to centralize and elevate the Department’s freight efforts. This office will serve as a one-stop-shop responsible for developing and managing national freight policy and grant programs.

 Research authorization -- $1 billion

  • Authorizes funds for new and existing research and development programs at the Department of Transportation.

 Hazardous Materials Safety authorization -- $500 million

  • Authorizes funds to improve first responder planning and training for hazardous material incidents

Growing Minority-Owned Businesses

 Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) – $550 million

  • Led by Sen. Cantwell, the bill expands and makes permanent this Commerce Department agency which aims to promote the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses by providing technical assistance, access to capital, and market opportunities.

 Expanding Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet 

Broadband – $65 billion

  • $42.45 billion for a new National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant program that will provide grants to states to deploy broadband.
  • $14.2 billion to make permanent the Affordable Connectivity Benefit that will help ensure low-income families have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
  • $1 billion to establish a “Middle Mile” grant program that will allow broadband providers, utilities, electric co-operatives, regional planning entities, non-profits, and others to receive grant funding for deployment of middle mile broadband infrastructure in order to get affordable high-speed internet to unserved areas.  
  • $2 billion for Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program grants for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.
  • $2 billion for the Department of Agriculture to support broadband deployment in rural areas.
  • $2.75 billion to establish two NTIA-administered grant programs to promote digital equity and inclusion, ensuring that all communities and community members have the tools necessary to take advantage of broadband connection.

 Boosting Coastal Resilience, Protecting Natural Habitats, Advancing Weather Forecasting through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

 Habitat Restoration and Community Resilience Grants - $491 million

  • Funding will support competitive grants for shovel worthy coastal restoration and resiliency projects across multiple programs.

National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund (NOCRF) - $492 million

  • The NOCRF competitive grant program funds natural infrastructure needed to protect coastal communities while also enhancing habitat for fish and wildlife.

Community-Based Restoration Program: Fish Passage Barrier Removal Grants - $400 million

  • Funding for projects that support restoration of fish passage through the removal of in-stream barriers such as culverts, small dams, dikes and other infrastructure.

Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) - $172 million

  • Funding to support habitat restoration projects for Endangered Species Act-listed salmon stocks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Alaska, as well as federally recognized Tribes of the Columbia River and the Pacific Coast (including Alaska).

Coastal Zone Enhancement Technical Assistance and Grants - $207 million

  • Funding to increase technical assistance and grants to coastal state to advance projects that address wetlands, coastal hazards, public access, marine debris, cumulative and secondary impacts, special area management plans, ocean and Great Lakes resources, energy and government facility siting, and aquaculture.  

National Estuarine Research Reserves System Program (NERRS) - $77 million

  • Provides funding for collaborative research within the NERRS network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems.

Permitting - $20 million

  • Funding to support NOAA’s efforts to complete environmental permits for restoration and other infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads, and ports.

Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROPs) - $56 million 

  • Funding to allow ROPs to coordinate interstate and intertribal management of ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal resources, including set-asides to enhance Tribal participation and engagement.

Fire Weather – $100 million   

  • Funding will be used to expand and develop NOAA’s fire weather activities through the upgrade and replacement of data collection systems, improved modeling for better forecasts and hazard prediction, and improved tools that support land management agencies and emergency managers.

High Performance Computing (Super and Cloud Computing) – $80 million  

  • Funding to increase NOAA computing capacity for weather and climate model development used in predicting and forecasting droughts, floods, and wildfires that will help save lives. 

Coastal, Ocean, and Great Lakes Observing Systems – $150 million  

  • Funding will be used to upgrade the nation’s buoy and ocean observation network, including installation and implementation of high-frequency radar systems, underwater gliders to detect harmful algal blooms, and ensure safe navigation.

Flood Mapping, Forecasting, and Water Modeling - $492 million

  • Funding will support NOAA’s inland flood mapping program, which funds programs for planning and prevention for communities and States, and improved forecasting and flood modeling capabilities that will help in planning and protecting lives and property.

National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) – $26 million

  • Funding to create a pilot program for improved data acquisition on soil moisture and snowpack in the Upper Missouri River Basin, and to support a study to assess the contribution of soil moisture, snowpack, and other network data to improve weather and climate forecasting products on the local, regional, and national levels.

Marine Debris Assessment, Mitigation, and Removal - $200 million

  • The NOAA Marine Debris Program provides grants for removal, habitat restoration, emergency response and research to address trash and pollution in the ocean.

Sport Fish and Recreational Boating Safety Trust Fund

  • Includes reauthorization of the Trust Fund which supports about $650 million annually to state fish and wildlife agencies to fund fishery restoration and conservation programs, boating access and infrastructure, as well as fish stocking programs important to recreational anglers.

Improving Coast Guard Infrastructure and Childcare Services

 U.S. Coast Guard Infrastructure – $309 million

  • This investment will address needed and long overdue repairs and new construction of Coast Guard owned housing, buildings, and piers across the country including bases and Coast Guard facilities in Washington, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Texas.  

 U.S. Coast Guard Childcare Development Centers - $120 million

  • Funding will be used to build Coast Guard owned and operated childcare centers, which are critical to women and families.

 

 

 

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Wicker, Collins, Gillibrand Introduce Bill to Address Sexual Misconduct in the Merchant Marine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., today introduced the Improving Protections for Midshipmen Act, which would strengthen Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment (SASH) prevention, response, investigation, and accountability in the maritime industry and provide additional safeguards for the Midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The legislation would result in improved conditions and reduced risk to all mariners, including USMMA Midshipmen.

“The Department of Transportation’s knee-jerk reaction to pause Sea Year is not an effective way to prevent future incidents of abuse and harassment,” said Wicker. “It will have a negative impact on the professional development of current Midshipmen and increase pressure and scrutiny on survivors of assault. This legislation would protect our mariners from sexual misconduct and hold accountable those who commit these abhorrent behaviors. If these prudent measures are adopted quickly, the Sea Year can be resumed by December.” 

“In light of the troubling allegations that recently surfaced at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, it is imperative that we do all that we can to protect students who have chosen the path of service and ensure they are able to continue their important work,” said Collins. “This legislation would strengthen sexual violence prevention, response, investigation, and accountability measures to improve cadets’ safety. Congress must remain committed to reducing the instances of sexual assault at our service academies and providing appropriate care for survivors.” 

"Sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence continue to plague both the maritime industry and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,” said Gillibrand. “Congress must act to address this scourge and protect our mariners. The bipartisan Improving Protections for Midshipmen Act would strengthen measures relating to prevention, training, investigation and accountability and would give mariners and midshipmen more confidence in their safety."

The Improving Protections for Midshipmen Act would:

Provide Accountability for SASH Offenders:

  • Give the Coast Guard authority to suspend or revoke a mariner’s license if the individual is found to have committed sexual harassment or sexual assault;
  • Include commission of sexual assault as an independent and explicit ground for suspension or revocation, and add sexual harassment as a new form of misconduct on which a license could be lost; and
  • Require the Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard to assess the applicability of the DoD’s Catch a Serial Offender program to the merchant marine, and, if so, how such a program would be implemented.   

Track incidents of SASH and collecting student feedback:

  • Establish a sexual assault and sexual harassment database at the USMMA to track reports of harassment and assault in a systematic way; and
  • Require exit interviews from students after Sea Year and include information from these exit interviews into the database.

Provide information, training, and resources to students:

  • Require the USMMA to create a training program specifically designed for Midshipmen going onboard ships, which would focus on the full continuum of SASH in the at-sea environment, including prevention, identification, reporting, and available support;
  • Codify the position of Special Victims Counsel at the USMMA; and
  • Allow the Department of Transportation the authority for direct hire of employees of the SASH office, to prevent unacceptably long gaps in staffing.

Set up a framework to improve the USMMA’s SASH policies and procedures:

  • Establish a Sexual Assault Advisory Council, with members including USMMA Alumni and SASH experts, to provide feedback to the USMMA for improvements on SASH policy and implementation; and
  • Require the USMMA to promulgate a student support plan aimed at improving Midshipmen well-being by improving the climate and sharing available mental health resources at the Academy.

Increase the Diversity of the Maritime Academy and Maritime Workforce:

  • Advance policies to increase diversity in both the USMMA and the maritime workforce; and
  • Codify the Merchant Marine Diversity and Inclusion Task Force under the Committee on the Marine Transportation System.  

Click here to read the bill.

Implementation of Aviation Safety Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “Implementation of Aviation Safety Reform” at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, November 3, 2021. This hearing will examine the urgency of implementing aviation safety, certification, and oversight reforms mandated by the Aircraft, Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act (“ACSAA”) of 2020. The Committee will discuss the approach of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to effectuating ACSAA and its work to implement provisions of the legislation in accordance with congressionally-mandated timelines. Topics such as the FAA’s delegation and certification processes, safety culture, and systems oversight practices since the passage of ACSAA will be covered.

 

WITNESSES: 

 

  • The Honorable Steve Dickson, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration

  

DETAILS:

 

Full Committee

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

  

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

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Committee Chair Cantwell to FAA Administrator: “I'm a firm believer that engineers on the ground know their job. What's not clear to me is where their people are listening to them, and whether the FAA has their back”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation delivered the following opening statement at today’s oversight hearing with Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson:

 

“We're having a hearing today on the implementation of our new aviation reform law, and want to welcome the Honorable Steve Dickson, Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration for joining us today.

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH

 

“I also want to take a moment to recognize the families who have lost loved ones who are with us today. Thank you so much for being here and for your continued oversight on this issue. I can't imagine the pain and suffering of your loss and the pain that you are still feeling. But I certainly want you to know we appreciate your vigilance on aviation safety reform. You have shaped the safety work of this committee. And with your support and critical input, the committee played a leading role in drafting the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act.

 

“This important legislation, enacted into law almost a year ago, I believe, provided a big down payment on the direction that we need to go to implement safety reforms in the United States, and to make us the gold standard around the world. That is why we're here today to have this hearing. To determine whether the Federal Aviation Administration, has faithfully and vigorously executed the safety reform law in accordance with congressional mandates for deadlines and action.

 

“I will be upfront with you, Mr. Administrator, the purpose of this hearing is to find out whether you are upholding the spirit and the letter of this law. While not the only thing we need to do, the law that we implemented was a clear course correction. It said that we needed to have stronger FAA oversight, the people in place to do that job, and to hold manufacturers accountable.

Directing the FAA, and making sure that that job is done, is critical.

 

“While I know your communication to the committee, your written testimony, talks about a lot of the actions and requirements that were in the law, we also know that there is more to be done.

 

“I want to say that I'm very appreciative of Ian Won at the Boeing Aviation Oversight Office, who, on May 13th, issued a letter basically slowing down the 777x so that more information could be provided, needed to be provided, for the oversight of that plane. I'm a firm believer that engineers on the ground know their job. What's not clear to me is where their people are listening to them, and whether the FAA has their back.

 

“I also want to enter into the record, an August 19th letter from Mr. Won, also talking about the changes to the Boeing BASOO office and things that needed to be done to make sure that they continue to have the oversights and objectives. He's been clear, we need more resources. He's been clear, we need the right people to do this job. So we need the FAA, as I said, to be that gold standard.

 

“When a Special Committee Review of Aviation Certification Process, the SCACP,

came back with a whitewash of what we needed to do, I was disappointed that you did not take more critique with that. In fact, basically, you testified before Congress, ‘basically, the system is not broken.’ Well, there were parts that were broken, and they need to be fixed.

 

“So I look forward to your testimony. But reading it, I see more of the same. Now is not a time to mince words, now is the time to provide the leadership that it takes to get the staffing, the oversight, and the direction that is required of an oversight agency to hold manufacturers accountable.

 

“Make no mistake, the manufacturer has its own responsibilities here. And we will also hold them accountable. We believe there's more to be done on certification, more to be done on the oversight and certification process, so that we are not just creating checkmarks on a list that now we can say ‘the list has its checkmarks’. That is where we were with the MCAS system. In the end, it was the tragedy that we all know too well and are still living with.

 

“So I'm very challenged by your testimony. We don't believe the FAA is prepared on January 1 of 2022 to restore direct supervision and control over those manufacturing engineers and delegated authority because they that process should have started sooner, because it is a big oversight responsibility. I will have questions for you in the Q and A about that, and the type of personnel that we need in all of these jobs.

 

“We don't believe the FAA has conducted the necessary workforce review for determining the staffing and experience of those levels. And the FAA has not taken steps necessary to limit the delegation of certification tax to industry until the FAA is verified all human factor assumptions.

 

“Restating the law’s requirement in a two page memo is not what it takes to get that implemented. It might be a basic start, but where is proof of the implementation? This this level of reform is needed immediately. And the FAA has not fully implemented new requirements for applicants to disclose safety critical information —like information related to flight control systems—so that the FAA can be aware and fully assess the impact of those proposed design changes and innovation technologies.

 

“Again, this went into the US Code and was effective immediately, but the FAA expects to issue guidance in 2022. We don't have time to wait. We need that kind of oversight today. And the FAA has yet to complete the work of the Independent Expert Panel, which was supposed to be convened 30 days from enactment to provide timely advice on whether the FAA should formally rein in Boeing's ODA authority.

 

“I also would like to enter into the record a letter from the families who are actually calling for a pulling of that authority. I understand that there is a panel that is meeting now, but the process and procedures in place to review their actions and have it be transparent is critically important if we are going to get this right.

 

“So all of these safety issues are critical to all of us in America. It's critical to our families who fly on planes, it’s critical to our economy. We need the leadership of the FAA, not just before our hearing today. The complexity that got us to this situation is a lot of complexity of language. In reality, it has to be leadership of FAA in implementing the law.”

 

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In Congressional Testimony, GSA Administrator Carnahan, PBS Commissioner Albert Emphasize GSA’s Leadership in Economic Recovery, Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

GSA news releases - Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:00am
Administrator Carnahan: “This is the Moment to Build Back Better” WASHINGTON — Today, Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Robin Carnahan and Public Buildings Service (PBS) Commissioner Nina Albert testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure...

Senators Express Concerns Over Impact of Contact Tracing Order on Data Privacy, Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Thune, R-S.D., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Michael Lee, R-Utah, today sent a letter asking White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients to inform Congress on how the Biden Administration plans to address data collection concerns following the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “contact tracing” order, which requires airlines and operators to collect personal information from incoming international passengers, including American citizens.

“It is unclear at this time whether the aviation industry is equipped to collect and retain more personal information from passengers than it does today and share it across multiple proprietary systems before responsibly and securely transmitting it to the CDC,” the Senators wrote.

“The traveling public must be informed of the potential costs this order could impose on their privacy.” 

The CDC order requires airlines and operators to retain a passenger’s personal information for a minimum of 30 days from the flight’s departure and transmit it to the agency within 24 hours of a request from the CDC Director. This order gives airlines the option to submit contact tracing information to CDC via “an established DHS data system.” If airlines submit via this method, the order notes that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will also submit this information into its Automated Targeting System, which will be retained for a minimum of fifteen years and used for non-public health purposes. It is unclear if consumers are aware of their data being potentially retained by the federal government for a significant amount of time. 

Wicker has been a strong advocate for protecting consumer data. Last Congress, Wicker, Thune, Moran, and Blackburn introduced the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act. The legislation would direct companies to inform consumers on how their data will be handled, to whom it will be transferred, and how long it will be retained at the point of collection.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Mr. Zients: 

Recently, CDC issued an order titled, “Requirement for Airlines and Operators to Collect and Transmit Designated Information for Passengers and Crew arriving into the US; Requirement for Passengers to Provide Designated Information.” The order requires airlines and other aircraft operators to collect additional personal information from all passengers, including American citizens, travelling to the United States from a foreign last point of departure and submit it to CDC for the purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing. The order requires airlines and operators to retain this information a minimum of 30 days from the flight’s departure and, within 24 hours of a request from the CDC Director, transmit it to CDC.

We write to express concerns about the impact this policy could have on the privacy and data security of the American flying public. It is unclear at this time whether the aviation industry is equipped to collect and retain more personal information from passengers than it does today and share it across multiple proprietary systems before responsibly and securely transmitting it to the CDC. This data collection and transfer process must potentially comply with numerous international data privacy regulations. It is also unclear whether the CDC has the data management capabilities to secure a new trove of personal information that would become a valuable target for both criminal hackers and cyber espionage agents of foreign governments. Finally, it is unclear if consumers will be aware that their personal information may be retained by private entities or the federal government for various amounts of time and may be used for non-public health purposes. Per the order, it is possible for a passenger’s personal information to be retained by the Federal government for a “minimum of fifteen years.” The traveling public must be informed of the potential costs this order could impose on their privacy. 

It is essential that Congress is kept fully informed of how the administration will address these and other concerns. We therefore request that you, and the appropriate executive departments, provide a briefing to our staffs as soon as possible on this order.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Committee Leaders Address Potential TSA Workforce Shortage Due to Vaccination Requirement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, today sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske requesting an update on the agency’s contingency planning for a potential sizable reduction in its frontline screening workforce because of President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for federal employees.

“Unfortunately, it appears TSA is headed toward a scenario in which up to 40 percent of its workforce may not be compliant with the President’s Executive Order by the November 8 deadline. Such a scenario could have severe impacts on transportation security and the aviation, travel, and tourism industries,” the members wrote.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) requiring COVID–19 vaccination for federal employees. The EO applies to all employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including TSA’s frontline Transportation Security Officer (TSO) airport screener workforce. TSA has a workforce of approximately 60,000 employees. More than 50,000 of these employees are TSOs. On October 27, 2021, Administrator Pekoske stated that about 60 percent of the TSA workforce has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this leaves 40 percent of the TSA workforce to potentially be ineligible for employment after November 8, 2021. 

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Administrator Pekoske: 

As the ranking members of the congressional committees charged with oversight of TSA, we are concerned about the potential for staffing challenges that could disrupt the transportation sector and related industries as a result of President Biden’s recent federal vaccine mandate.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed EO 14043, titled, “Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees.” As stated in Section 1 of the EO, the President has determined that in order to promote the health and safety of the workforce and the efficiency of the civil service, it is necessary for all agencies to require COVID-19 vaccination for federal employees, subject only to such exceptions as are required by law. The EO’s requirements apply to all employees of the DHS, including TSA’s frontline TSO workforce. Federal employees who ignore the mandate face discipline up to and including being fired, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. However, the Administration has not been clear in communicating these potential consequences. Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, recently said that federal employees will not be fired for refusing the vaccine but will first undergo “education and counseling.” We are concerned that this inconsistent messaging may confuse federal employees about the potential consequences for noncompliance with the EO.

In a recent media interview, you noted that about 60 percent of the TSA workforce has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. You also said you were “very hopeful” the agency will not have an employee shortage. Unfortunately, it appears TSA is headed toward a scenario in which up to 40 percent of its workforce may not be compliant with the President’s EO by the November 8 deadline. Such a scenario could have severe impacts on transportation security and the aviation, travel, and tourism industries. A steep decline in the number of available TSOs to screen passengers during the upcoming holiday season could have severe impacts on our economy, including small and rural communities such as the ones we represent. 

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way for TSA employees to protect themselves, their coworkers, their families, and their communities against the virus. We hope all TSA employees will get vaccinated. However, based on the current percentage of vaccination amongst the TSA workforce, we are concerned about the potential disruptions significant non-compliance with the President’s EO could have on the agency’s operations. We request that you update us as soon as possible on the agency’s contingency plans considering the potential for a sizable reduction in its workforce resulting from the President’s EO. 

We look forward to your response and to continuing our work together to enhance transportation security.

Committee Leaders Raise Concern Over Activists Calling for Physical Attacks on Energy Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, led a letter with 36 Senate and House colleagues to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) raising concerns about the recently published book How to Blow Up a Pipeline. The letter highlights the impact attacks on pipeline infrastructure will have on the economy, environment, and personal security of Americans. The committee leaders also requested information on how the agency is identifying threats of physical attacks to pipelines and working with industry to mitigate those threats.

“Unfortunately, the media attention about this book has generally failed to overtly decry the book’s calls for criminal action,” the members wrote. “Needless to say, sabotaging pipelines during construction or operation can be deadly for communities and workers and disastrous for the environment.”

The Senators who joined Wicker and Graves in the letter include: Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo. The House Members include: Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, Daniel Webster, R-Fla., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Scott Perry, R-Pa., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., John Katko, R-N.Y., Brian Babin, R-Texas, Garret Graves, R-La., David Rouzer, R-N.C., Mike Bost, R-Ill., Randy Weber, R-Texas, Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., Brian Mast, R-Fla., Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, R-P.R., Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, Pete Stauber, R-Minn., Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., Michael Guest, R-Miss., Troy Nehls, R-Texas, Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, and Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla. 

The author of the book argues that pacifism historically does not work and cites examples of the use of violence to reach political goals. The author calls for “intelligent sabotage,” by which he means property destruction. This could include “potentially blowing up a pipeline that’s under construction” as the author said in a recent New Yorker podcast. The author even goes as far as to praise the Colonial pipeline attack.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Administrator Pekoske:

We are writing to express concern with recent statements by some activists calling for physical attacks on energy infrastructure. We encourage TSA to work closely with critical infrastructure operators to detect and deter potential threats to public safety, the environment, and energy reliability.

Recently, the New Yorker Radio Hour interviewed the author of a book titled “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” during which the author encouraged “tactics of sabotage” and “property destruction,” including “blowing up a pipeline that’s under construction” in “spectacular fashion.” The author argues that these tactics are necessary to achieve certain energy and climate goals. Unfortunately, the media attention about this book has generally failed to overtly decry the book’s calls for criminal action. Needless to say, sabotaging pipelines during construction or operation can be deadly for communities and workers and disastrous for the environment.

Unfortunately, amplified calls for extreme action have created disturbing real-world consequences. Last December, activists sabotaged natural gas systems in Aspen, Colorado, putting thousands of lives at risk by leaving families without heat or hot water during freezing temperatures. In June of this year, protesters forcefully entered a pipeline pump station under construction in Minnesota, trapping workers and damaging equipment—including destroying environmental safeguards. Despite claims that these actions are seeking to protect the environment, damaging pipeline infrastructure always puts people and the environment at risk.

TSA reported a noticeable increase in pipeline security incidents in February 2021. As the lead federal agency overseeing pipeline security, TSA is responsible for engaging with pipeline operators to detect and deter both physical and cyber threats. TSA inspectors conduct physical security reviews of critical pipeline facilities and engage pipeline operators in threat intelligence sharing. Based on TSA’s pipeline security work, we request your prompt response to the following: 

1. What are TSA’s capabilities for detecting and deterring physical threats to pipeline systems, in coordination with pipeline operators?

2. What are the top pipeline physical security threats and trends that TSA is currently monitoring? How has TSA disseminated timely, actionable threat intelligence on physical security threats to pipeline operators?

3. Are there actions that Congress can take to enhance TSA’s capabilities for detecting and deterring physical threats to pipeline systems? 

4. A classified briefing for the Committee from TSA on its threat assessment of critical pipeline infrastructure.

5. Assurances that TSA is engaged in regular inter-agency information sharing on potential threats.

We look forward to your response and to continuing to work with you to enhance the security of pipeline infrastructure.

Wicker, Schatz, Rubio Introduce AQUAA Act to Advance American Aquaculture

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., today introduced the bipartisan Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act of 2021 to establish national standards for sustainable offshore aquaculture. The bill would designate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead federal agency for marine aquaculture. The legislation would also direct NOAA to harmonize the permitting system for offshore aquaculture for farms in federal waters, and direct the agency to lead a research and development grant program to spur innovation throughout the industry.

“Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector, but the U.S. lacks a comprehensive, nationwide system for permitting in federal waters,” said Wicker. “This deficiency prevents the development of aquaculture farms, leading to more seafood imports. Our legislation would establish national standards for offshore aquaculture, enabling U.S. producers to create jobs and meet the growing demand for fresh, local seafood.”

“Hawai‘i’s diverse aquaculture produced over $80 million of finfish, shellfish, and algae in 2019. At the same time, the movement to restore native Hawaiian fishponds such as those at He‘eia and Maunalua continues to develop momentum. This bipartisan bill would increase federal support for both,” said Schatz. “I thank Senators Wicker and Rubio for their partnership, and look forward to working with them to pass this groundbreaking legislation.”

“Marine aquaculture presents an enormous opportunity for Florida’s economy and for the food security of our nation,” Rubio said. “Unfortunately, the absence of a federal permitting and regulatory framework has hindered American aquaculture industries. This bipartisan legislation would establish a transparent permitting process and provide regulatory certainty for this important industry to promote new domestic seafood supply chains.”

For several Congresses, Wicker has been working to pass a comprehensive legislative framework for aquaculture in federal offshore waters. The main provisions of the AQUAA Act include siting, permitting, administration, monitoring, and enforcement necessary for a sustainable, science-based industry. The AQUAA framework would promote food security for the U.S. and provide economic opportunity for sustainable aquaculture and meaningful jobs. After working with many stakeholders to ensure the provisions of AQUAA are practical for federal agencies and optimal for aquaculture farmers, Wicker is encouraged that Congress is getting closer to passage.

The AQUAA Act would:

  • Uphold existing environmental standards while providing regulatory certainty and clarity to the industry;
  • Include a set of national standards to guide development of offshore aquaculture, and aquaculture management plans that implement those standards on a regional scale;
  • Include a national plan to identify and establish areas particularly well-suited for aquaculture;
  • Establish an Office of Marine Aquaculture within NOAA, which would be charged with coordinating the federal permitting process;
  • Establish a permit through NOAA that would give an individual the security of tenure necessary to secure financing for an aquaculture operation; and
  • Fund research and extension services to support innovation and the growth of aquaculture in the United States.

Click here to read the bill.

GSA’s 10x Program Announces New Investment Priorities, Accepting Innovative Technology Ideas From Federal Employees now through November 16th

GSA news releases - Wed, 10/27/2021 - 12:00am
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. General Services Administration announced the new investment priorities for 10x, the agency’s venture studio program that invests in technology innovation ideas proposed by federal employees. The new investment priorities for the program align with Biden-Harris...

GSA announces award of federal building in Summersville to county

GSA news releases - Wed, 10/27/2021 - 12:00am
Former Summersville Federal Building and Post Office to support public safety personnel PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is pleased to announce the conveyance of the former Summersville Federal Building and Post Office to Nicholas County, West Virginia. The...

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