Elaine Chao is a pioneer and a trailblazer: inspiring, compassionate and results oriented. Her tenure as U.S. Secretary of Transportation is her second cabinet position. History already knows her as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, the first woman of Asian American & Pacific Islander heritage to be appointed to the President’s cabinet in American history. As Secretary of Transportation, she is a strong advocate for safety, and the importance of innovation and infrastructure in our nation’s economic competitiveness, vitality, and quality of life. She also served as the Co-Chair to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) where she continued to advocate on behalf of the AAPI community.
During her tenure, the Department has taken historic steps to engage with new transportation technologies to build the transportation system of the future while addressing legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy. By providing certainty through guidance, pilot programs and regulatory updates, she boosted private sector confidence and investment in the safe exploration of new and emerging technologies – such as unmanned aerial systems (including drones), automated driving systems, commercial space exploration and hyperloop systems. In particular, she helped ensure that America would remain first in commercial space by launching a complete overhaul of the outdated commercial space office and licensing regulations.
Secretary Chao’s official Department of Transportation portrait.
To prepare for the transportation system of the future, the Department needs to engage with emerging new technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and innovation without hampering innovation.
U. S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao
As emerging new technologies require the regulatory oversight of more than one mode of transportation, Secretary Chao created the NETT (New Emerging Transportation Technology) Council to swiftly resolve regulatory challenges presented by innovative cross-modal technologies.
She initiated unprecedented levels of cooperation through the Drone Integration Pilot Program, fast-forwarding the development of safe, enabling rules. Her approach to automated vehicles provided a clear regulatory path for the safe development and integration of these revolutionary safety technologies. And, she oversaw the world’s first-ever guidance actions providing regulatory certainty around the development of hyperloop technology.
Under her leadership, Secretary Chao accelerated the delivery of much-needed critical infrastructure. Through the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) Initiative and increased geographic diversity in grant programs, she helped ensure that rural America received its fair share of federal resources to improve safety, quality of life and economic growth. Secretary Chao’s experience in crisis management ensured the Department’s swift and comprehensive response to emergency situations and natural disasters like rebuilding the I-85 bridge in Atlanta which served commuter traffic to seven surrounding counties, after its collapse, under budget and ahead of schedule. During COVID-19, her leadership was instrumental in keeping our nation’s transportation system safe, open and moving. See the many other accomplishments at the Department.
Secretary Chao arrived at the U.S. Department of Transportation with extensive experience in the transportation sector. Early in her career, she was a transportation banker in the private sector. She began her career in public service working on transportation issues at the White House. She then served as Deputy Maritime Administrator, U. S. Department of Transportation; Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission; and, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.