The U.S. Senate this afternoon confirmed Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation.
Earlier today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Mineta committed to an "inclusive, bipartisan" approach to solving the nation's transportation challenges.
Noting airlines, airports and air traffic control are all struggling to keep up with demand, Mineta stated that each of the parties placing blame on the other is not a solution to the problem and committed the Transportation Department to taking the lead in solving the air traffic element of airline delays. Mineta acknowledged there is not a short-term solution to ATC delays, short of an economic recession, and warned flight delays could be similar or worse in 2001.
Secretary Mineta expressed frustration with the fact that leaps in technology and technology management have not been put to work in air traffic control. He personally committed himself to finding top quality people to fill important positions in the FAA's new air traffic control organization. Secretary Mineta cautioned the pace of growth, demand, and new technology require a degree of "nimbleness" with which traditional federal entities cannot keep up. Noting the FAA's new air traffic control organization is a hybrid of traditional government with the attributes of the private sector, Mineta cautioned that the transition would neither be smooth nor would the success of the approach be guaranteed.
Questions from individual senators to Secretary Mineta ranged from skepticism about President Clinton's creation of a performance-based organization for air traffic control to various proposals to make it easier to build runways in congested areas.