Bush fills vacancies on Safety Board

 - January 14, 2008, 4:54 AM

President Bush last month nominated two new members to the NTSB and designated long-time board member John Hammerschmidt as the agency’s new vice chairman.

Retired Coast Guard Capt. Richard Healing will fill the remainder of a term expiring on Dec. 31, 2006, and Gen. Mark Rosenker will serve a term expiring on Dec. 31, 2005. Because the NTSB does not currently have a chairman, Hammerschmidt will serve as the acting chairman.

Healing, who is director of Transportation Safety and Security for Battelle Memorial Institute in Washington, D.C., served in the Coast Guard reserve for 29 years and was in the Coast Guard liaison office to the Navy secretary. Later as civilian director of safety and survivability for the Navy department, he was credited with playing a major role in Naval aviation safety. Healing will replace George Black Jr., who has continued to serve on the NTSB after his term expired at the end of 2001.

Rosenker is a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve who currently serves as deputy assistant to President Bush and is director of the White House military office. He will fill a vacancy on the Safety Board created when former NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey left last summer to become FAA Administrator.

In past years, it has not been unusual for the Board to operate with vacancies or ask members to remain until their replacements are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Both Healing and Rosenker will need Senate confirmation.
Before Bush named Hammerschmidt vice chairman, the board faced the prospect of having no authorized leader. As the former vice chairman, Carol Carmody had been acting chairman following Blakey’s departure. But her term as vice chairman ended January 18, although she remains on the board as a member.

Only the chairman or an acting chairman has the power to distribute work, spend money and appoint and supervise NTSB staff. A private pilot, Hammerschmidt has been a board member since 1991; before that he was special assistant to a former member.