In his opening statement at today’s full Senate Commerce Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Mike Whitaker to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed the importance of having a deeply qualified and experienced leader at the FAA and outlined the serious challenges that the next FAA Administrator will face.
Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairwoman Cantwell. And welcome to Mr. Whitaker, a San Antonio native.
“Every day, some three million passengers board commercial flights in and out of U.S. airports with the confidence that they will safely arrive at their destinations. This public trust is the result of a nearly eight-decade collaboration between the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA manages 29 million square miles of airspace. It ensures that aircraft and pilots meet the highest safety standards. And it is the FAA that will ensure the safe integration of drones, air taxis, and—one day—commercial spaceflight. When it comes to aviation safety, the buck stops with the FAA.
“We are here today to consider the nomination of Michael Whitaker for FAA administrator. This is a crucially important role. The next administrator will face serious challenges in rebuilding the FAA after 18 months without a Senate-confirmed leader: staffing critical air traffic control facilities; modernizing antiquated air traffic systems; and bringing FAA employees back in person after three years of telework.
“Mr. Whitaker is President Biden’s second nominee to be FAA administrator. The first was rejected by both Republicans and Democrats on this committee for his lack of relevant experience, and was ironically praised as an “outsider.”
“I am glad that the Administration has finally heeded my advice and nominated a person with experience in aviation, Michael Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker previously served as the second in command at the FAA and has roughly three decades of aviation experience. As I have said since we received Mr. Whitaker’s nomination, I am willing to keep an open mind and give him fair consideration.
“I want to hear how he is going to address the challenges facing the FAA and the aviation industry, should he be confirmed. I also want to ensure that Mr. Whitaker will focus on FAA’s primary responsibility—ensuring the safety of our national aerospace system—while having the fortitude and clarity of mind to question assumptions and push back against special interests. Congress gives the administrator a five-year term because the FAA is not a political organization. We must keep politics out of the FAA.
“Today, Mr. Whitaker has the opportunity to explain to members of this Committee his vision for a stagnant agency, one that is in desperate need of independent leadership willing to challenge the status quo. Mr. Whitaker, I look forward to hearing why you believe you are that independent leader, and how you will meet the serious challenges faced by the FAA and the aviation industry.”