Washington Nomination To FAA Delayed Further, Civilian Status Challenged


The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) says the Biden administration’s pick for FAA Administrator either has to formally resign from the Army and lose his retired status or get a waiver from Congress to qualify for the job. In an Op-Ed column in The Hill, Graves said the law is clear that FAA administrators must be “a civilian in the strictest sense of the word” and that means Washington can’t be on “the active or retired list of any regular component of the armed services.” Graves said those stipulations were made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he created the FAA in 1958 to ensure it was at arm’s length from the military. Graves alleges the current administration is trying to circumvent that requirement by using a “dictionary definition” of the word civilian in advancing Washington’s nomination.

The fracas over Washington’s eligibility might be behind the Senate Commerce Committee’s decision Wednesday to delay further debate on his nomination. If Washington’s eligibility was clear cut, then only the Senate would have to consider his nomination and the Democrats could use their slim majority to push him through. But if it’s determined that Washington is still technically in the military and he wants to hang onto that status then both the House and Senate would have to vote in favor of a waiver. The Republican-controlled House would almost certainly defeat the waiver motion. Graves said he doesn’t think Washington is qualified for the job.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington announced the delay but didn’t offer much explanation on Wednesday. “We are moving that to a future date, pending information that members have been seeking,” she said. She did not detail that information nor did she set a time for future consideration of his appointment.

Sen. Ted Cruz, the ranking member on the committee, has repeatedly said Washington doesn’t have the votes needed to gain the confirmation and has been pushing the Democrats to withdraw Washington’s nomination and replace him with Acting Administrator Billy Nolen, citing Washington’s thin experience in aviation compared to Nolen’s 30-year career as an airline pilot and safety expert. “Both Mr. Washington and Mr. Nolen are African American. The difference is Mr. Nolen has the experience we should require in that position,” Cruz said.

Cantwell dismissed the notion while getting in a plug for Washington. “We will have this debate in the future. Mr. Washington is qualified,” Cantwell said. “He has the support of other former heads of the FAA who also were not pilots. And they did very good jobs and were respected.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Let’s see now … you want to go on a cruise during a time when you know the weather is going to be a major issue. You have your choice of two ships … one where the captain is a seasoned and experience sailor and another where the captain stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and once drove a motorboat around San Francisco. Which do you choose?

    OK … how’s about you need a surgery and only two doctors are available. One who has performed hundreds of similar operations and the other a GPwho once ran the logistics department at a hospital. Which do you choose? And — OBTW — do you think doctors will bad mouth the unqualified one? Not on your life.

    If the Republicans were TRYING to nominate Washington vs the Democrats wanting Nolen, they’d throw up the same damned argument in reverse. There’s no satisfying those people AND there’s no logic whatever to nominating an unqualified person just “cuz.”

    And for the record … I NEVER respected the Olympics guy … he was just a spokesperson and little else. Under HIS watch, the FAA blew off five years of work by the FAR Part 23 ARC rewrite committee. All we got out of it was NORSEE. BIG DEAL !! I can’t think of one thing he did either for me OR for aviation in general. In fact, they sat on the medical updates and it was ONLY because of Sen Inhofe that BasicMed was signed into law.

    I am all for breaking the FAA out of the DOT again … once and forever. What’s going on here is crimminal.

  2. This will be just another in a LONG line of Diversity appointment FAILURES by this, (I cringe at even using the word Administration), which would imply they are actually involved in the process or activity of running a business, organization, or government. This guy is the most unqualified for this position.

  3. I don’t get it. Once you are collecting retirement pay you are retired from the military. The only exception are five star generals. They never retire. That’s why Eisenhower had to get a waiver to become president. After he finished his presidency Congress reinstated his five star status.

  4. Using “Diversity” as a criterion for appointment to a crucially important federal office is bad enough, and arguably unconstitutional. Using it as the only criterion is even worse. And somehow finding appointees who are “Diverse,” and also entirely without any background, experience or qualification for the office they are appointed to is insane, incredibly dangerous, and should be criminal. From the Washington guy to Secretary Pete to Energy Secretary Granholm to Vice President Giggles, this “Administration” goes out of its way to find people who are utterly incompetent and unqualified and puts them in charge.

    The recent confirmation hearing for Magistrate S. Cato Crews to a lifetime appointment as a federal judge featured Senator Kennedy asking him how he would analyze a Brady violation. He replied, “”How I analyze a Brady motion? Senator, in my four and a half years on the bench, I don’t believe I’ve had the occasion to address a Brady motion in my career.” I’m not a lawyer, but like any educated person I know that the Brady rule — the prosecution must reveal exculpatory evidence to the defense — is a fundamental tenet of our criminal justice system. First year law students must know that. But this is just as the DOJ is revealed to have violated the Brady rule in prosecuting January 6 defendants. Hmmmmm…

  5. The civilian status argument is a false flag and should be dropped. As a black man with absolutely no experience in any facet of aviation, and with a long track record of suspicious financial misdeeds in several government jobs Mr. Washington clearly meets all of the requirements of the Democrat Party for appointment to a high office. So what’s the problem?

  6. As the owner of a Flight school and FBO in St Louis Mo. for the past 48 years, I have to agree with the majority of the comments as to the fact that Mr. Washington is NOT qualified to be the administrator of the FAA, and as we have seen in many of the other current administrations cabinet selections hiring someone to such a prestigious position just to show a sign of diversity is not acceptable and should not be confirmed by our representatives. I love the tongue in cheek comment of Cliff C

  7. Hi all,
    Lets get on with this! Get Mr. Billy Nolen the perm. admin spot!
    Mr Washington, well i watched his hearning, it was the most dismal performance ive
    ever seen.