The Honorable Norman Mineta
Mr. Norman Y. Mineta became the 14th U.S. Secretary of Transportation on January 25, 2001. In nominating him, President Bush said, "Norm made a reputation in the halls of Congress as someone who understands that a sound infrastructure in America will lead to economic opportunity for all Americans."
As Secretary of Transportation, Mr. Mineta oversees an agency with 60,000 employees and a $56.3 billion budget. Created in 1967, the U.S. Department of Transportation brought under one umbrella air, maritime and surface transportation missions. "Transportation is key to generating and enabling economic growth, determining the patterns of that growth, and determining the competitiveness of our businesses in the world economy," said Secretary Mineta. "Transportation is thus key to both our economic success and to our quality of life."
As a result of September 11, 2001, President Bush signed into law on November 19, 2001, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which among other things established the Transportation Security Administration within the Department of Transportation. During 2002, under Secretary Mineta's direction, the department undertook the earth-moving efforts to transform, in the course of only a year, the Transportation Security Administration from a piece of paper into a fully operational agency with extensively trained new federal employees and the numerous congressional deadlines met. On March 1, 2003, the Transportation Security Agency was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security as a fully-operational agency.
The U.S. transportation system includes 3.9 million miles of public roads and 2 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines. There are networks consisting of 120,000 miles of major railroads, more than 25,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways and more than 5,000 public-use airports. The transportation system also includes more than 500 major urban public transit operators and more than 300 ports on the coasts, Great Lakes and inland waterways.
Prior to joining President Bush’s administration as Secretary of Transportation, Mr. Mineta served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, becoming the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the cabinet. He is the first Secretary of Transportation to have previously served in a cabinet position. Prior to joining the Commerce Department, he was a vice president at Lockheed Martin Corporation.
From 1975 to 1995 he served as a member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. As a member of Congress, Mr. Mineta was known for his dedication to the people of his district, for consensus building among his colleagues and for forging public-private partnerships. Mr. Mineta's legislative and policy agenda was wide and varied, including major projects in the areas of economic development, science and technology policy, trade, transportation, the environment, intelligence, the budget and civil rights. He co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as its first chair.
Mr. Mineta served as chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee between 1992 and 1994. He chaired the committee’s aviation subcommittee between 1981 and 1988, and chaired its Surface Transportation Subcommittee from 1989 to 1991. During his career in Congress he championed increases in investment for transportation infrastructure, and was a key author of the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 which shifted decisions on highway and mass transit planning to state and local governments. ISTEA led to major upsurges in mass transit ridership and more environmentally friendly transportation projects, such as bicycle paths. He also pressed for more funding for the department’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Later in Congress he also served on the House Intelligence Committee.
After leaving the Congress, Mr. Mineta chaired the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, which in 1997 issued recommendations on reducing traffic congestion and reducing the aviation accident rate. Many of the commission’s recommendations were adopted by the Clinton administration, including reform of the FAA to enable it to perform more like a business.
Secretary Mineta and his family were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes and into internment camps during World War II. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Mr. Mineta joined the Army in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea. He joined his father in the Mineta Insurance Agency before entering politics in San Jose, serving as a member of its City Council from 1967 to 1971 and mayor from 1971 to 1974, becoming the first Asian Pacific American mayor of a major U.S. city. As mayor, he favored greater control of transportation decisions by local government, a position he later championed in ISTEA.
While in Congress, Mr. Mineta was the driving force behind passage of H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for and redressed the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during the War. In 1995, George Washington University awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Medal to Mr. Mineta for his contributions to the field of civil rights.