Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

Subscribe to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation feed
Updated: 41 min 57 sec ago

11.03.21 Aviation hearing 1

Wed, 11/03/2021 - 12:00am

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”

Wed, 11/03/2021 - 12:00am

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.”

 

###

 

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

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:00am

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

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:00am

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

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:00am

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

Thu, 10/28/2021 - 12:00am

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.

Wicker Urges President to Reconsider Plan Requiring Employees to be Vaccinated, Tested Weekly

Wed, 10/27/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter urging President Joseph Biden to delay or defer the anticipated COVID-19 action plan for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a rule requiring all private employers with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated, or have weekly testing, as a condition of work eligibility.  

“Stakeholders from numerous transportation subsectors are warning Congress of this impending disaster,” Wicker wrote. “Airline pilot unions, truck drivers and operators, major freight companies, and port representatives have all raised alarm about these mandates and the destructive impacts they would have on our supply chain.”

The freight transportation network is currently strained because of COVID-19, significant increases in the purchase of goods, and workforce limitations. This is also a result of freight congestion at ports, railroads, and warehouses. Any additional challenge, such as a vaccine mandate, will lead to more disruptions in the transportation network. The American Trucking Associations estimates that a mandate could cause trucking companies to lose as much as 37 percent of drivers through retirements, resignations, and relocations while the industry currently faces a major shortage of drivers. 

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Mr. President,

I strongly urge you to delay or defer your COVID-19 action plan for OSHA to develop a rule requiring all private employers with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated, or have weekly testing, as a condition of work eligibility.  As the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I am deeply concerned that if OSHA promulgates a rule to implement your vaccine mandate proposal, our nation’s supply chain and transportation network will suffer disastrous consequences. 

As you have publicly noted in recent weeks, our transportation network is currently experiencing critical delays and workforce shortages. These constraints have contributed to bottlenecks at ports, terminals, distribution facilities, and freight hubs. This in turn has led to shortages of chassis, containers, warehouse space, and truck drivers. As a result, Americans are increasingly finding empty shelves in stores and are paying higher prices when products are available.

I have personally advocated for COVID-19 vaccinations and believe Americans should take advantage of these life-saving doses to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19. However, I believe your effort to mandate vaccinations is misguided and will have direct and harmful repercussions across the economy — forcing untold numbers of workers off the job and unnecessarily exacerbating the challenges facing our transportation network. In addition to mass layoffs, American consumers across our economy would be forced to pay the price.

Stakeholders from numerous transportation subsectors are warning Congress of this impending disaster. Airline pilot unions, truck drivers and operators, major freight companies, and port representatives have all raised alarm about these mandates and the destructive impacts they would have on our supply chain. All Americans long for the end of this pandemic, but we cannot afford to gut our transportation network of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of essential, good-paying jobs. I urge you to consider the clear and foreseeable costs of your vaccine mandate, especially those placed on our transportation workers and American consumers, and to direct OSHA to cease action immediately on this Emergency Temporary Standard vaccine mandate rule.

Sincerely,

Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube” at 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Children and teens face immense peer pressure to be on apps such as Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. While social media can provide entertainment and educational opportunities, these apps have also been misused to harm kids and promote destructive acts, such as vandalism in schools, deadly viral challenges, bullying, eating disorders, manipulative influencer marketing, and grooming. This hearing will examine how tech companies treat young audiences, including how algorithms and product design choices can amplify harms, addiction, and intrusions into privacy. The hearing will also explore needed improvements to our laws to protect children and teenagers online. 

 

WITNESSES: 

  • Jennifer Stout, Vice President of Global Public Policy, Snap Inc.
  • Michael Beckerman, Vice President and Head of Public Policy, Americas, TikTok
  • Leslie Miller, Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google

  

DETAILS:

 

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security

10:00 a.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 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.

###

 

 

Sen. Cantwell Statement on FCC, NTIA Nominations

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released the following statement regarding President Biden’s intention to nominate Jessica Rosenworcel to be Commissioner and Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Gigi Sohn to be Commissioner of the FCC; and Alan Davidson to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): 

 “Today’s announcement by the White House of its slate of nominees for the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration comes at just the right time, with more work to do to improve our broadband deployment, spectrum management, and consumer protections. I am glad to see Jessica Rosenworcel nominated to be the Chair of the FCC, and I look forward to swiftly considering these nominations before the end of the year.”

Committee Investigation Suggests Leading Technology Company Violated Huawei-related Rule

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released a report following a committee investigation that finds Seagate Technology likely in violation of the Foreign Direct Product Rule implemented by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) at the Department of Commerce, which restricts Huawei’s access to sensitive technology. The investigation found that Seagate flouted the regulation designed to protect U.S. 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. 

“My investigation highlights the need for stronger monitoring and enforcement efforts at BIS,” said Wicker. “Our national security interests are being threatened by Communist China, and companies need to take this situation seriously by following the law. I hope the administration will work to make BIS more vigilant in its actions, particularly when it comes to protecting critical supply chain components like semiconductors and hard disk drives.”

Earlier this year, minority staff on the committee began investigating industry compliance with the regulation and enforcement by the BIS. Any shipment of prohibited products after September 14, 2020, likely including hard disk drives with semiconductors as component parts, violated this rule. In a reflection of industry consensus, Seagate’s top competitors in the hard disk drive market, as well as most of its semiconductor suppliers, ceased unlicensed shipments to Huawei as soon as the rule became effective. 

In August, Wicker sent a letter to BIS inquiring about the implementation of the rule. Wicker subsequently sent multiple letters to the BIS to determine whether enforcement actions have been taken against Seagate. The response from the BIS failed to demonstrate that the agency is fulfilling its enforcement duties. These letters are part of Wicker’s ongoing oversight focused on probing compliance with the rule from leading hard disk drive suppliers and its enforcement by the Department of Commerce.

Click here to read the report. 

Cantwell Underscores Urgency to Pass NASA Authorization Bill

Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:00am

VIDEO

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing in the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell underscored the urgent need for Congress to pass long-lasting, bipartisan NASA authorization legislation. NASA was last authorized by Congress in 2017. The Senate passed an updated authorization as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June 2021. 

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill,” Sen. Cantwell stated. “I believe in NASA's innovation and technology. I want them to apply the same spirit they had in fixing the problems on the Apollo project to fixing and getting this authorization done. We're not going to continue to have this game where you just get appropriations. It is not going to serve the Artemis program or NASA well. [I]t's frustrating to me to see the spirit of NASA turned into you know, the cheering of billionaires or competition with each other. Because I'm pretty sure that that's not what our mission of Artemis is about.”

“Look, we've seen where the same mistake was made by the FAA and deferring too much to aviation manufacturers when it came to the oversight,” she continued. “I want a very strong NASA oversight of these companies. Very strong. I'm not supportive of NASA stepping away and turning it over to the commercial side. …I think it's just imperative that we get an authorization bill…”

The subcommittee heard from former NASA leaders and experts who echoed the senator’s urgency for Congress to speak with one voice and set clear objectives.

“Because without that, it's very difficult to even be able to begin to do oversight, because you [don’t] know what objectives you're trying to meet,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at Axiom Space.

Mike Gold, the former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships argued that an “authorization bill is vital to send messages to our partners and rival nations for the unity purpose of Congress.”

“But for NASA to have continuity of purpose over time, requires an apolitical bipartisan consensus on how we're moving forward,” added former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And if we can put that in an authorization bill, it sends a signal to everybody globally that we have resolved to accomplish these objectives.”

Click here for full transcript.

 

###

International Collaboration and Competition in Space: Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, will convene a subcommittee hearing titled “International Collaboration and Competition in Space:  Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs” at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday, October 21, 2021. The United States has long been the global leader in space exploration and has benefitted from robust, peaceful international collaboration. This hearing will examine required actions, particularly at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to promote U.S. civil and commercial space sector competitiveness, attract and maintain strong global partnerships, and preserve U.S. space leadership in the wake of rising international competition. Topics such as International Space Station extension, commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) development, and requirements to execute NASA’s Artemis program, to include needed updates to authorizing legislation, will be considered.

 

Witnesses:

  • Hon. Jim Bridenstine, Former NASA Administrator
  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, Axiom Space
  • Mike Gold, Executive Vice President for Civil Space and External Affairs, Redwire Space
  • Dr. Patricia Sanders, Chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

 

 

DETAILS:

 

Subcommittee on Space and Science

10:00 a.m.

Thursday, October 21, 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.

###

Executive Session and Nominations Hearing

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 to consider the presidential nominations of Victoria Marie Wassmer, to be the Chief Financial Officer, DOT; Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, DOT; Amitabha Bose, to be the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, DOT; Meera Joshi to be the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Mary Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, to be Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

Immediately following the executive session, the Committee will hold a hearing to consider the presidential nominations of Max Vekich to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission; Christopher Coes to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, DOT; and Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, DOC.

 

DETAILS

Commerce Committee Executive Session

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

Executive Session Agenda: 

  • Victoria Marie Wassmer,?to be the Chief Financial Officer, DOT
  • Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, DOT
  • Amitabha Bose, to be the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration
  • Meera Joshi, to be the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, DOT
  • Mary Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, to be Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
  • Coast Guard Promotions (PN1144)
  • Coast Guard Promotion (PN1073)

 

 

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

Nominees: 

  • Max Vekich, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission 
  • Christopher Coes, to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, DOT
  • Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, DOC

 

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.

###

Commerce Committee Approves Biden Transportation Nominations

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved five Biden Administration nominations and 70 Coast Guard officer promotions during today’s Executive Session.  All are subject to approval by the full Senate.

 

The Committee approved the following nominations:

 

  • Amit Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (PN435)
  • Meera Joshi to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (PN362)
  • Victoria Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transportation (PN264)
  • Mohsin Syed to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the Department of Transportation (PN263)
  • Rear Admiral Nancy Hann to be Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, and Director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (PN896)

 

The Committee approved the following Coast Guard officer promotions:

 

  • Rear Admiral James Kelly to be Director of the Coast Guard Reserve (PN1073)
  • Coast Guard Officers to earn the rank of Captain (PN1144): 
  1. Aleksak, Jason C.
  2. Aries, Melissa J.
  3. Behera, Jessica B.
  4. Behnke, Andrew J.
  5. Bender, Andrew R.
  6. Berry II, Robert J.
  7. Bertsch IV, Fred S.
  8. Breguet, Brian P.
  9. Brick, Chad R.
  10. Butwid, Jerry D.
  11. Casey, Paul R.
  12. Casper, Eric M.
  13. Chien, Michael P.C.
  14. Chong, Randall T.
  15. Dietrich, Joyce M.
  16. Dooris, Matthew D.
  17. Douglas, Christopher
  18. Ford, Zachary R.
  19. Garrity, Elisa M.
  20. Glass, Zachary N.
  21. Gomez, Robert H.
  22. Hall, Jeremy M.
  23. Helgen, Eric A.
  24. Hernaez, Dorothy J.
  25. Ingram, Jason D.
  26. Johnson, Eric D.
  27. Keene, Christopher M.
  28. Kirksey, Aja L.
  29. Lay, Mark L.
  30. Lewis, Rachel L.
  31. Lugo, Scott E.
  32. Matson, Ryan P.
  33. Matthies, Eric J.
  34. McCarter, Harold L.
  35. McNally, Brad M.
  36. McTamney IV, John M.P.
  37. Moon, Youngmee
  38. Neeland, Mark R.
  39. Noggle, Justin W.
  40. Obrien, Loan T.
  41. Oconnell, Anne E.
  42. O'Mara IV, James M.
  43. Omenhiser Jr., Roger E.
  44. Ortenzio, Aaron J.
  45. Parker, Joseph B.
  46. Payne, Jeffrey L.
  47. Pershing, James H.
  48. Pirone, Robert M.
  49. Pototschnik, Mark B.
  50. Rice, Lisa M.
  51. Rodriguez, Nicole D.
  52. Saunders, Kevin B.
  53. Schallip, Michele L.
  54. Sharp, Michael D.
  55. Smith, Jason S.
  56. Snaith, Joan
  57. Styron, Jessica R.
  58. Suffern, James B.
  59. Terkanian Jr., Donald M.
  60. Tharp, Emily L.
  61. Thorkilson, Kelly A.
  62. Townsend, Devin L.
  63. Trusz, Jared S.
  64. Tucker, Robert C.
  65. Vaughan, Nicolette A.
  66. Walker, William R.
  67. Winburn, William B.
  68. Wirth, Tracy L.
  69. Wright, Christopher L.

Committee Leaders Call on State Department to Reinstate Hand Carry Program

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sens. Jacky Rosen, D- Nev., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting that the operational capacity of the Department of State’s (DOS) passport Hand Carry Program be brought back to pre-pandemic levels.

“A demand surge of at least ten million additional passport applications is anticipated this year,” the Senators wrote.

“The United States has faced many challenges throughout the pandemic, and now is the time for DOS to employ best practices and policies aimed at resuming safe and efficient international travel.” 

The Hand Carry Program allows for private companies to expedite the application process for new and/or renewed passports. The DOS has slowly begun to resume operations for the program after it was forced to stop services during the pandemic, however these levels of operation are significantly lower than they were before. The Hand Carry Program is currently operating at 24% of its pre-pandemic levels of service.  

During the recent Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion subcommittee hearing, Wicker asked Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang about the impacts of delayed passport applications on the travel and tourism industry. In her testimony, it was noted that the reduction in service for the Hand Carry Program has exacerbated the pandemic related disruptions.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

COVID-19 has devastated the travel industry more than any other sector of the economy; 40% of all jobs lost nationwide are attributable to declines in leisure and hospitality employment. The $500 billion loss in travel spending has cost the U.S. $1.1 trillion in economic output. International travel and business travel suffered the sharpest declines. International travel spending fell 76% (compared to 34% for domestic travel) while business travel spending fell 70% (compared to 27% for leisure travel). If nothing is done to lift international travel bans and bring back demand, a coalition of travel and tourism stakeholders estimates that a total of 1.1 million American jobs will not be restored and $262 billion in export spending will be lost by the end of 2021.

The pandemic has proven the fragility of the tourism industry, Americans are once again traveling and   re-energizing the economy. Although travel restrictions have begun to loosen in some destinations, airlines are operating over 80% below of their 2019 international schedules. Since the shutdown of passport services by the DOS in March 2020, the traveling public has experienced a tripling in wait times for a U.S. passport. A process that took between 4-6 weeks in 2018 is now taking up to 18 weeks in many cases. Due to the unprecedented delays, our constituents are losing thousands of dollars as they are forced to cancel international vacations for lack of passports.  

Prior to the pandemic DOS recognized that some urgently departing citizens may want to further expedite their application process by using a courier service in conjunction with paying the department’s expedite fee. This recognition was manifested via DOS’ Hand Carry Program. The Hand Carry Program allows for the transportation of executed passport applications that are submitted to a passport agency for expedited processing, and the retrieval of newly-issued, expedited passports for delivery directly or indirectly to the passport holder, based on a privilege extended by a regional passport agency to a company to conduct business. The Hand Carry Program served as an equalizer of access for all Americans citizens in need of urgent passports by allowing couriers to deliver applications in person instead of that individual having to make an extra costly trip. 

Despite the value and flexibility the Hand Carry Program offers the traveling public, it has been shuttered for eighteen months. Only recently has DOS begun to accept applications via the Hand Carry Program. Unfortunately, the resumption is below pre-pandemic levels. This is even after DOS passport services were resumed last summer and the department’s recent announcement of 100% staffing at passport offices.  

A demand surge of at least ten million additional passport applications is anticipated this year. This is based on historical application data and the shortfall of applications received in 2020 due to the global COVID shutdown and travel restrictions. The Hand Carry Program is an efficient and COVID safe option for receipt and processing of these passport applications. Without the Hand Carry Program for urgent expediting of passports, options for receiving an emergency passport are limited to face-to-face applications at one of the DOS Passport Processing Offices located across the country. This option greatly favors citizens in proximity the larger cities where these offices are located. The remainder of our constituents are burdened with the unnecessary and excessive cost/time of traveling to one of these cities to apply in person.

The United States has faced many challenges throughout the pandemic, and now is the time for DOS to employ best practices and policies aimed at resuming safe and efficient international travel. As such, we call on you to quickly reinstate the Hand Carry Program to pre-pandemic levels of service. It might take years to restore travel and tourism to pre-pandemic levels. However, we are hopeful that resumption of programs like Hand Carry to pre-pandemic operation levels will help this sector heal and prosper once again.

 

Committee Members Raise Concerns About TSA’s Rushed Cybersecurity Rules

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

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., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) raising concerns about the agency’s plans to issue additional cybersecurity mandates using its emergency authority for Security Directives, which will obviate important feedback from experts on the impacts of such mandates.

These directives will apply to the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries. The new requirements may undercut existing cybersecurity arrangements that are functioning well. The required reporting of cybersecurity incidents to the government may also prove unworkable. Rail and aviation stakeholders have expressed concerns that the definition of cybersecurity incident is so broad that the transportation sector may waste time and limited resources, reporting insignificant incidents without sufficient time to assess severity.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Administrator Pekoske:

We write to express concern about the recent announcement that the TSA intends to impose new prescriptive cybersecurity requirements on the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries through Security Directives. We encourage you to reconsider whether using emergency authority is appropriate absent an immediate threat. With the benefit of public notice and comment through the rulemaking process, TSA may avoid any unintended consequences that disrupt existing effective cybersecurity practices or transportation operations.

We recognize that circumstances sometimes demand that TSA act quickly using emergency authority. Nevertheless, the very importance of effective cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, such as the rail, rail transit, and aviation systems, counsels against acting rashly in the absence of a genuine emergency. Prescriptive requirements may be out of step with current practices and limit the affected industries’ ability to respond to evolving threats, thereby lessening security. Further, prescriptive requirements may have unintended consequences, such as imposing unnecessary operational delays at a time of unprecedented congestion in the nation’s supply chain. Additionally, allowing outside experts to comment will lead to more effective and sustainable cybersecurity actions and measures. A more deliberate approach will reduce the risks and increase the benefits.

The timeline of cybersecurity actions undertaken by the Biden Administration since May belies the notion that emergency action is necessary for the rail and aviation industries. The White House released the “National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems” at the end of July, envisioning and urging a collaborative process between industry and government. Rather than engaging the experts in rail, rail transit, and aviation sectors, however, TSA is now embarking on a unilateral approach that excludes input under the confusing guise of an emergency threat to disparate modes of transportation, even though five months have elapsed since the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

TSA should adopt a more collaborative approach that can reliably enhance cybersecurity in the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries. Rather than prescriptive requirements that may not enhance capabilities to address future threats, TSA should consider performance standards that set goals for cybersecurity while enabling businesses to meet those goals. If a determination is made to proceed with specific mandates, the notice and comment process would at least allow for thoughtful consideration of industry practices and concerns. Whatever the path forward, TSA must be responsive to inquiries and mindful of potential harms and adverse effects on practices that are working well.

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

Commerce Committee Announces Subcommittee Hearing on Coast Guard Oversight on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 11:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing , will convene a hearing titled  “Coast Guard Oversight” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. This hearing will examine the Coast Guard’s role to safeguard our nation’s maritime interests to include budget oversight, oil spill response, marine safety, handling of sexual assault and harassment in the service, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

 Witnesses:

  • Admiral Karl Schultz Commandant United States Coast Guard
  • Master Chief Jason Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Coast Guard

 Details: 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

2:30 p.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing 

Commerce 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.

 

 

###

 

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 12:00am

 

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Cantwell: “How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years?”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which oversees federal maritime agencies sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Lucinda Lessley demanding answers regarding allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) as well as the response from leaders at MARAD. Senator Cantwell sent a copy of the letter to the Coast Guard, which has primary jurisdiction for investigating these incidents on the high seas.

 

Many of the alleged incidents occurred during the midshipmen’s “Sea Year.” Sea Year is a required part of the USMMA’s undergraduate training, where sophomore and junior midshipmen spend part of their academic year at sea working on primarily private merchant marine vessels learning firsthand the skills of a merchant mariner.

 

“Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (MLAA), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website,” Senator Cantwell wrote to Lessley.

 

“The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable,” Cantwell continued. “Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.”

 

In the letter, Senator Cantwell demanded that Acting Administrator Lessley provide a detailed account of the steps taken to investigate and respond to the allegations, and called on the Acting Administrator to provide a full report on the number of reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years.

 

More information about Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy is available HERE.

 

The blog post by Acting Administrator Lessley and DOT Deputy Secretary Trottenburg is available HERE.

 

The full text of Senator Cantwell’s letter is available HERE and below.

 

October 12, 2021

 

Lucinda Lessley

Acting Administrator, Maritime Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Acting Administrator Lessley:

I write to express my grave concern over the allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (“USMMA”) and the response by you and others at the Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (“MLAA”), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website. You and Deputy Secretary Trottenberg sent an open letter to the King’s Point community and posted it on the USMMA website on Saturday, October 2, 2021 acknowledging these allegations and expressing your unwavering support for the individual who shared her story on September 27. The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable. Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.

In light of the seriousness of these allegations, I ask that you provide the committee with a description of the steps that have been taken by Maritime Administration (“MARAD”), the DOT, and the USMMA to investigate the allegations made on the MLAA’s website, and actions taken in response to findings in those investigations. Additionally, I request the following information:

1. How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years? Please provide a breakdown of these reports that includes whether the incidents occurred on campus, off campus, or at sea during Sea Year, the party that conducted the investigation(s), and the outcome of that investigation.

2. In the event that a midshipman is removed from a vessel following a sexual assault or harassment report(s), does USMMA remove all midshipmen onboard the vessel for their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

3. If a vessel or its parent company is the subject of a sexual assault or sexual harassment complaint, does the USMMA assign midshipmen to those vessels in the future? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

4. In the event that a midshipman makes an informal or formal complaint of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination, may they request to be assigned to a different vessel for the duration of their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

5. What actions can be and have been taken by the Coast Guard to withdraw or suspend credentials of mariners with a history of allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Sea Year midshipmen?

The maritime industry and United States Merchant Marine are a vital part of our national security and our nation’s economy. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other offenses are unacceptable, and the USMMA must immediately take action to stop this behavior and protect the men and women of the USMMA both at the Academy, and at sea. To that end, I request responses to these questions no later than October 26, 2021. For any questions, you may contact majority staff lead on maritime policy, Nicole Teutschel at 202-224-0510 and majority chief investigative counsel, Caitlin Warner at 202-224-0290.

 

Sincerely,

 

MARIA CANTWELL

Chair

 

CC: Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, United States Coast Guard

###

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 12:00am

For Immediate Release    
Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Contact:

[email protected]

 

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

 

Senator vows to strengthen federal oversight and enforcement to protect consumers from digital harms

 

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to preserve all documents, data, and electronic information related to testimony that the company misled the public about the harmful impact of its platforms on teenagers and children, and in spreading hate and divisive content.

 

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely,” Sen. Cantwell wrote in a letter to the CEO. “Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously.  This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.”

 

During a hearing before a Commerce subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that the company’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, “eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts,” noted Sen. Cantwell. “The testimony… raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.”

 

The Senator underscored the dangerous consequences of unchecked spreading of divisive, violent content on Facebook’s platforms, pointing to its role in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya in 2018.  She described many attempts made by a constituent and her own staff to warn the company to take action.  

 

“She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts,” Sen. Cantwell wrote regarding efforts by the constituent who asked the Senator’s office for help. “[M]y staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division… and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action. Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue.”

 

She added: “Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.” 

 

Sen. Cantwell requested that Facebook Inc. preserve and retain the following documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

 

A copy of the letter is below and here (link)

October 12, 2021

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Facebook, Inc.

1601 Willow Road

Menlo Park, CA  94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony last week from Ms. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, who testified about concerning practices at Facebook.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony followed Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis’ testimony at our September 30 hearing regarding the impact of Instagram and Facebook’s other platforms on users’ privacy interests and safety.  Ms. Haugen provided information regarding internal Facebook research, documents, and deliberations, and testified that Facebook’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts.  Ms. Haugen asserted that Facebook has misled the public about the impact of its platforms, and the degree to which Facebook’s decisions encourage and exploit divisive content to drive higher profits.  The testimony at these two hearings raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.

The potential danger that social media platforms pose for spreading divisive content was demonstrated, with horrifying consequences, by the role the Facebook platform played in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya.  See Reuters, Hatebook:  Inside Facebook’s Myanmar Operation (2018).  Thousands of Burmese refugees currently live in Washington state.  In April 2018, one of my constituents contacted me about her ongoing efforts over several years to alert Facebook to the widespread use of its platform to post hate speech and grisly images that were instigating violence, destabilizing the political environment in Myanmar, and driving ethnic violence on a broad scale.  She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts. Over the course of her efforts, Facebook remained unresponsive to her and failed to take action in response to her communications.

Working with that same constituent, my staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division on June 11, 2018 and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action.  I raised these concerns when I met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, on May 17, 2019, and she assured me that Facebook had subsequently instituted a number of safeguards to limit the proliferation of divisive content on its platforms. 

Despite these assurances, my constituent continues to alert Facebook that individuals who had been posting divisive content during the worst of the violence against the Rohingya, such as a Myanmar military lieutenant, are still posting such content on Facebook.  Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue. 

The role of Facebook’s platform in the Rohingya tragedy illustrates the horrible consequences that failing to effectively limit the spread of divisive content on social media platforms can have in inflicting public harm.  Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.  More specifically, Ms. Haugen testified that Facebook made algorithmic changes in 2018 to maximize “meaningful social interactions” on its platforms, and its research showed that those changes actually accelerate and expand the spread of angry and divisive content on its platforms.  Ms. Haugen further testified that, in the face of that research, Facebook declined to make the necessary adjustments, which would have reduced profitability, to fix this problem.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony, if true, raises serious concerns about the motivations that drive Facebook’s decisions, policies and use of its internal research, and their widespread impacts on Facebook users worldwide.

Ms. Haugen also shared information regarding internal Facebook practices, including a practice of silencing employees who ask the “wrong” questions by deleting data and dismissing employees. This is deeply troubling and, if true, raises serious concerns that further erode the public’s trust in Facebook.

Ms. Davis testified that Facebook wants to be more transparent and is considering how it can allow external researchers to have more access to Facebook’s data.  To that end, I request that Facebook, Inc. preserve and retain documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information relating to the issues raised at the September 30 and October 5 hearings, including: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely.  Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously. This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.

 

###

State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 10:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), the Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, will convene a hearing titled “State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2021. The hearing will examine the importance of access to telehealth services, the utilization and changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical role of access to broadband in the public health response, and how to structure future deployment and policy to address the needs of underserved communities. 

 

 Witnesses:

  • Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP, President, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Sanjeev Arora, MD, MACP, FACG, Founder, Project ECHO; Distinguished Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico
  • Deanna Larson, President, Avel eCARE
  • The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

 

 Details: 

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband

Commerce 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.

 

 

###

Copyright

© 2018 Women Construction Owners & Executives USA
WCOE grows your contacts, contracts & bottom line