Trump Picks Elaine Chao to Head Department of Transportation

General aviation leaders express approval of the president-elect’s selection.

Elaine Chao Donald Trump
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao to head the U.S. Department of Transportation.U.S. Department of Labor

President-elect Donald Trump this week named Elaine Chao as his choice to head the Department of Transportation.

"Secretary Chao's extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner," Trump said in a statement.

Throughout his campaign, Trump proposed to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure redevelopment and has said the initiative would be a priority in his first 100 days in office. While it’s too soon to predict the initiative’s direct impact on general aviation, industry leaders hope to see improvements to airports and air traffic control.

“We know that investment in infrastructure, including for aviation, is a priority for the incoming Trump administration, and the DOT secretary will be key in making this priority a reality,” NBAA CEO and president Ed Bolen said in a statement. “We congratulate Elaine Chao on her nomination to the position, and we look forward to working with her to continue promoting general aviation and building on the progress being made toward a Next Generation aviation system that serves and protects all stakeholders and communities.”

A Washington insider with an extensive resume in public service, Chao served on both Bush administrations, sits on numerous corporate boards of directors, and has held leadership roles in United Way of America, the Peace Corps and the conservative Heritage Fund.

Chao spent eight years as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush — the only official in his administration to serve both terms. She was named deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration then chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission. Years prior, Chao was named deputy secretary for transportation under President George H. W. Bush. She’s also married to Mitch McConnell, Republican senator of Kentucky and majority leader of the Senate.

National Air Transportation Association (NATA) president Martin H. Miller expressed approval of the president-elect’s choice following Tuesday’s announcement:

“Secretary Chao’s familiarity with the Department — and the bigger picture that drives debates about transportation policy — will be critical to moving our nation forward. Aviation businesses are excited to work with Secretary Chao and her team, and we thank President-elect Trump for his excellent choice.”