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Transportation secretary, 5 top FAA officials resign

January 8, 2021

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has announced that she would step down in reaction to the January 6 assault on the Capitol by some supporters of President Donald Trump, and her decision was followed by the resignations of five top FAA officials, all Trump appointees.

Department of Transportation and high-ranking FAA officials have announced their resignation following the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Top left to right: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; FAA Assistant Administrator of Policy, International Affairs, and Environment Bailey Edwards; and FAA Assistant Administrator of Communications Brianna Manzelli. Bottom left to right: FAA Chief Counsel Arjun Garg, FAA Associate Administrator of Airports Kirk Shaffer, and FAA Acting Administrator for Legislative Affairs Andrew Giacini. Images courtesy of FAA and Twitter.

Chao announced her decision in a January 7 letter to Department of Transportation employees. She said her resignation would take effect January 11 and noted that the violence at the Capitol “troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

The five executives also announcing departures effective January 11 were the FAA’s highest-level “non-career staff members,” according to news reports.

“Like all of us, they are outraged by the brazen and violent attack on one of the sacred institutions of American democracy,” FAA Chief of Staff Angela Stubblefield wrote, according to The Washington Post.

In addition to Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the departing officials include:

  • Acting Deputy Administrator Arjun Garg, who had been in the post since November 2020 after serving as the FAA’s chief counsel since February 2019, and a former trial attorney in the Department of Justice Civil Division.
  • Assistant Administrator for Communications Brianna Manzelli, the FAA’s top spokesperson, who joined the agency in November 2019.
  • Bailey Edwards, assistant administrator for policy, international affairs, and environment, whose role included “assisting with FAA’s reauthorization efforts, improving the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System, and advancing innovation-friendly policies related to the safe integration of new entrants, including commercial space and unmanned aircraft users,” according to his official biography.
  • Kirk Shaffer, associate administrator for airports.
  • Andrew Giacini, acting administrator for legislative affairs.

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