Search for New NHTSA Chief

The Obama Administration is currently searching for someone to fill the position of chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has been accused recently of a string of failures. David Friedman served as acting chief this year, and is not expected to be nominated to be permanent chief of the agency.

Most recently, the NHTSA has been accused of slow response despite numerous reported deaths and crashes related to an ignition flaw in General Motors vehicles and poor handling of the recall of millions of vehicles with outfitted with possibly defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corp. of Japan.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that a nominee for the position would be named soon, and did not say if that person would be Friedman, according to the Detroit News.

Last Monday, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Representative Fred Upton called for new leadership and higher standards at the NHTSA. He said, “This can begin with the naming of a new NHTSA chief—a critically important safety post that remains vacant to this day.”

Upton spoke a few hours after the agency had briefed the House committee regarding how it is handling the Takata air bag problem. The Senate subcommittee, which is charged with product safety oversight, received a similar briefing.

Meetings are expected to begin soon between the House panel staff and auto manufacturers dealing with the Takata recalls. Additionally, the Transportation Department will conduct an internal review of the NHTSA.

Josh Earnest, White House spokesman, said that the NHTSA “has been aggressive in responding to the situation related to defective air bags.” He also said that the investigation will improve the future operations of the agency.

David Friedman took the place of David Strickland and became acting head of the NHTSA last December. He has a twelve year history of work at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and began work at the NHTSA in May 2013.

In September, the House issued a report stating that the agency had the information and the power to take action regarding faulty GM switches, but was hindered by a “lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the evolution of vehicle safety systems they regulate.”

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