Senate Confirms Cliff, Coes; Biden Appoints New Port/Supply Envoy

Senate Confirms Cliff, Coes; Biden Appoints New Port/Supply Envoy

May 27, 2022  | Jeff Davis

The Senate this week cleared two more pending nominees by President Biden to senior positions in the Department of Transportation:

  • Steven Cliff was confirmed to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Christopher Coes was confirmed to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Transportation Policy.

This brings the number of pending DOT nominees confirmed by the Senate in the last two months to seven, which has pretty much cleared the backlog. The remainder of the unfilled posts are on the White House, not the Senate.

Total Positions W.H. Has Nominated Senate Has Confirmed
Office of the Secretary 10 8 8
Modal Administration Heads 8 5 4

The unfilled positions are:

  1. Assistant Secretary for Multimodal Freight – this job did not exist until the bipartisan infrastructure bill created it on November 15, 2021. There is no nominee yet, but their office has $28 million in dedicated IIJA takedown money waiting for them.
  2. Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – the President’s nominee does not appear to have the votes to get out of committee in the Senate and is in permanent limbo.
  3. FAA Administrator – this position did not become open until the previous incumbent resigned on March 26, 2022. There is no nominee yet.
  4. FHWA Administrator – we are all out of speculation as to why the President has never nominated anyone to this job, which has been open since January 20, 2021.
  5. FMCSA Administrator – there was a nominee last year, but after her hearing she left to go be Deputy Mayor of New York City, resulting in a new nominee, whose nomination was sent to the Senate on April 7, 2022. She should get a hearing soon.
  6. PHMSA Administrator – as with FHWA, the Administration has not seemed interested in nominating anyone to run this agency, which has been without a Senate-confirmed head since January 2021.

In addition, the White House announced today that John Porcari, the king of the difficult and thankless mission, has stepped down as the President’s envoy on port and supply chain issues and been replaced by retired (4-star) Army General Stephen R. Lyons.

General Lyons’ 36-year Army career ended last fall after serving nearly four years as head of the U.S. Transportation Command. His service record is full of logistics-related posts (head of logistical support for the 82nd Airborne, head of logistics and sustainment for the Army in the Pacific Theater, head of the quartermaster and logistics training command, and as head of logistics for the Joint Chiefs). He has a masters degree in logistics management and a second masters degree (from the Eisenhower School) in “national resource strategy.”

Lyons said in a statement, “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and continuing to engage industry, labor, and port stakeholders to improve the fluidity of our supply chains, cut down on shipping costs, and ultimately save money for the American people.”

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