Elaine Chao

The former Secretary of Labor served for eight years from 2001-2009 in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet — the only Cabinet secretary to serve throughout the entirety of that administration. Chao, a Republican, was the first Asian-American woman to serve as a Cabinet secretary. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. She served in 1989 as the deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation. Her career in Washington is a long one. A former White House fellow in the 1980s, she served as the deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration under Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole, and was appointed chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. She served as director of the Peace Corps from 1991-1992. Chao was confirmed by the Senate on January 31, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Transportation nominee, Ms. Elaine Chao.

Why is this department important to the science community?

The Department of Transportation supports research and development that is focused on strengthening our nation’s infrastructure, and making transportation safer and more efficient, whether by automobile, railcar, or airplane. With a burgeoning commercial space flight sector and the potential growth of selfdriving cars and airborne drones, evidence-based transportation policies that support innovation while ensuring safety and accountability have the potential to unleash rapid economic growth and improved quality of life for the nation. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes.