Transportation Department

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) establishes overall transportation policy for the United States. Under the DOT umbrella are 11 administrations whose jurisdictions include highway planning, development, and construction; urban mass transit; railroads; aviation; and the safety of ports, highways, and oil and gas pipelines. Decisions made by the department in conjunction with appropriate state and local officials can significantly affect other programs such as land planning, energy conservation, scarce resource utilization, and technological change.

The DOT was established by Congress in 1966 (49 U.S.C.A. § 102) "to assure the coordinated, effective administration of the transportation programs of the Federal Government" and to develop "national transportation policies and programs conducive to the provision of fast, safe, efficient, and convenient transportation at the lowest cost consistent therewith." The department became operational in April 1967 with elements transferred from eight other major departments and agencies. As of 2003, it consists of the office of the secretary and 11 operating administrations whose heads report directly to the secretary and have highly decentralized authority.

Office of the Secretary of Transportation

The DOT is administered by the secretary of transportation, who is the principal adviser to the president in all matters relating to federal transportation programs. The secretary administers the department with the assistance of a deputy secretary of transportation, an associate deputy secretary, the assistant secretaries, a general counsel, the inspector general, and several directors and chairpersons.

Federal Aviation Administration

The FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA), formerly the Federal Aviation Agency, was established by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (49 U.S.C.A. § 106) and became a component of the DOT in 1967. The FAA is charged with regulating air commerce in ways that best promote its development and safety and fulfill the requirements of national defense; controlling the use of the navigable airspace of the United States by regulating both civil and military operations in that airspace in the interest of safety and efficiency; promoting, encouraging, and developing civil AERONAUTICS; and consolidating research and development with respect to air navigation facilities.

The FAA is responsible for installing and operating air navigation facilities; developing and operating a common system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft; and developing and implementing programs and regulations to control aircraft noise, sonic booms, and other environmental effects of civil aviation.

In addition, the FAA operates a network of airport traffic control towers, air route traffic control centers, and flight service stations. It develops air traffic rules and regulations and allocates the use of the airspace. It also provides for the security control of air traffic to meet national defense requirements.

The FAA is responsible for the location, construction or installation, maintenance, operation, and quality assurance of federal visual and electronic aids to air navigation. The agency operates and maintains voice/data communications equipment, radar facilities, computer systems, and visual display equipment at flight service stations, airport traffic control towers, and air route traffic control centers.

The agency maintains a national plan of airport requirements, administers a grant program for the development of public use airports to assure and improve safety and to meet current and future airport capacity needs, evaluates the environmental impacts of airport development, and administers an airport noise compatibility program with the goal of reducing noncompatible uses around airports. It also develops standards and technical guidance on airport planning, design, safety, and operations and provides grants to assist public agencies in airport system and master planning and airport development and improvement.

The FAA provides a system for registering aircraft and recording documents that affect title or interest in the aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers, appliances, and spare parts.

Under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 and the International Aviation Facilities Act (49 U.S.C.A. § 1151), the agency promotes aviation safety and civil aviation abroad by exchanging

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aeronautical information with foreign aviation authorities; certifying foreign repair stations, air personnel, and mechanics; negotiating bilateral airworthiness agreements to facilitate the import...

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