Military, Public Service

What Will Trump Cabinet Mean for Military, Transportation?

By Staff Writer | November 23, 2016
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LaGuardia

Trump has vowed to fix “Third World” transportation infrastructure like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
Photo courtesy of Wikicommons/Patrick Handrigan

Washington’s political, think-tank and media “elite” remain as confounded to explain the consequences of Nov. 8’s U.S. presidential elections as they were to explain its results.

Some pressing questions on consequences for the rotorcraft world concern funding of more equipment for the U.S. military and the leadership and practices of aviation regulation.

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While the policy details of the incoming presidential administration remain sketchy, the elites are focused – as they are wont to be – one handicapping the new horserace of whom the president-elect will choose to fill the top offices and upper rungs of his Cabinet.

Pollsters and pundits alike were stumped by Donald Trump’s victory, since they had predicted – to varying degrees – a win by Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. (One exception was the collaboration of Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which consistently projected a Trump win as Election Day neared.) Their abysmal performance hasn’t seemed to humble anyone inside the Beltway, who freely spotlight “front-runners” for Cabinet posts.

A common observation of policy wonks since the Election is that Trump faces challenges in filling Defense Dept. and intelligence posts given the very public and adamant split between the then-Republican Party candidate and scores of veteran national-security establishment leaders from that party.

Last August, 50 such veterans signed and published a letter saying Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” and “is not qualified to be president and commander-in-chief.” Trump in turn repeatedly blasted national-security leaders of the last 20 years in campaign stops for the rise of the Islamic State, chaos in the Middle East, Russian adventurism and Chinese saber-rattling.

Trump is demonstrating a pragmatic streak in working with former critics as he transformed from candidate to commander-in-chief and may win over key national-security players. A more substantial question may be how his administration fulfills a campaign vow to expand and strengthen U.S. military forces.

“Does that means we buy more of the current gear to add to the arsenal quickly?” one Washington think tank analyst said. “We know the current equipment has operational and technological shortcomings and generally have programs to develop better replacements, but that will take years. You could procure more of today’s gear fast, but the U.S. doesn’t need more Black Hawks and Abrams tanks.”

Regarding aviation, Trump has vowed to invest heavily in U.S. transportation infrastructure, and to cut back on federal regulations.

“Americans deserve a reliable and efficient transportation network and the Trump Administration seeks to invest $550 billion to ensure we can export our goods and move our people faster and safer,” the president-elect’s website, https://www.greatagain.gov, says. “Our roads, bridges, airports, transit systems and ports will be the envy of the world and enhance the lives of all Americans.”

Trump also has vowed a temporary moratorium on all new regulation and a policy of eliminating two existing regulations for every new one proposed.

What that means for issues like improved helicopter instrument flight and weather-reporting infrastructure (identified as a priority by the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team) and initiatives to improve protection of helicopter occupants in crashes and post-crash fires (a priority of Congress and the FAA itself) could be determined as much by who the president-elect picks as Transportation secretary as by Trump himself. Another key issue is the possible privatization of America’s air traffic control system.

The election victor has a host of candidates from which to choose, according to the punditry. They include Rep. Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is a prime advocate of ATC privatization.

Other privatization proponents said to be under consideration are a former analyst for the Reason Foundation think tank, Shirley Ybarra (who is said to be tasked with finding a Transportation secretary for the Trump transition team), and John Mica, the cantankerous Florida congressman who lost his re-election bid Nov. 8. Mica, who held his House seat for 24 years, is a former House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair.

Contenders also are said to include Mark Rosenker, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and Republican appointee to the National Transportation Safety Board, and a former Tennessee congressman, Democrat Harold Ford Jr., who is said to be close to Trump’s adult children.

The Trump transition team also confirmed that the president-elect has met to discuss transportation and other issues with Elaine Chao, who served as Labor secretary under President George W. Bush and deputy Transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush. Chao is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader in the Senate.

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