The Trump administration formally nominated Heidi King to head the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). King, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, has served as interim chief since September 2017.
King previously worked in the private sector before coming to the NHTSA. She worked as global director of environmental health and safety risk at GE Capital before serving as chief economist for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce from 2011 to 2013. She also served as a regulatory policy analyst in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidential administrations.
The National Safety Council supported King’s nomination.
“King’s leadership experience and commitment to safety are much needed at a time when motor vehicle crashes are killing more than 100 people per day in the U.S.,” the group said in a statement. “[She] understands the importance of proven prevention strategies combined with forward-thinking innovation as we take aim at this everyday killer. We look forward to working closely with her to eliminate preventable deaths and make our roads safer.”
Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives questioned the NHTSA’s regulatory effectiveness during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in February 2018.
“There are legit concerns that NHTSA is not prepared and is not keeping up with the quickly changing automotive industry,” U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said. “It’s troubling that NHTSA doesn’t have the resources, people or expertise it needs to fulfill its mandate. It’s also concerning that the administration clearly does not see this agency as a priority as we have yet to hear about a possible nomination for the role of NHTSA administrator.”
Pallone said recent NHTSA investigations showed the agency to be ill-prepared for the current state of the auto industry.
“During this committee’s investigation of sudden intended acceleration, we learned that NHTSA did not have expertise in emerging technologies, with little to no electrical or software engineers on staff,” Pallone said. “Then during the ignition switch investigation, we found that NHTSA did not understand the link between the power-mode status and the air bag system.”
President Donald Trump included $914.7 million for the NHTSA in his proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, an increase from its current $905.2 million allotment.
King defended the administration’s commitment to automotive safety.
“As the automotive transportation landscape is changing at a rapid pace, NHTSA is adapting our mission execution to assure safety while remaining in step with changing technology, addressing new and emerging risks, and encouraging industry innovation,” King said. “Safety is, safety remains the Department of Transportation’s top priority.”
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