Scope of the Position:

The chief responsibility of the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is to oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. transportation systems and infrastructure. In practice, this position supervises the daily operations of 10 modal administrations totaling 55,000 employees around the world. DOT is known to provide funding for many state and local efforts to improve transportation as well. In order to ensure passenger safety throughout the transportation system, the Deputy Secretary allocates a budget of approximately $55.1 billion each year. The Department's mission to further develop and maintain U.S. infrastructure is very complex, as DOT is heavily intertwined with numerous industries across all 50 states.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

According to the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General, in November 2015 there were three "crosscutting areas" that the Department was instructed to address: challenges in the realm of safety, the continued oversight and maintenance of DOT's disparate investments, and bolstering the Department's information technology and its corresponding security infrastructure.1 To date, the IG still has concerns about all three. One area of contention concerns Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS), e.g. civilian drones entering the airspace that surrounds airports or other sensitive areas. The DOT can also do more to reduce risk in its billion-dollar efforts to modernize the nation's aviation system and to develop and sustain a high-performing workforce. Lastly, there is the issue of technological security. The Department continues to struggle to secure the 450-plus information systems it uses to conduct business and operate critical transportation systems, ensure continuity of operations, and safeguard systems from insider threats.

Concerning the Department's personnel, there are questions as to whether its robust telework program is actually worth it. The GAO released a report highlighting that the six agencies selected using the practice (DOT being one of the six) "had little data to support the benefits or costs associated with their telework programs."2 Because OMB currently assists those agencies with telework programs, the question emerges as to whether the Department of Transportation is really receiving any benefit from the resources it is pouring into its program. The Deputy Secretary will have to address all of these concerns in the near future.


     1Top Management Challenges Facing the Department of Transportation;; March 15, 2016.

     2Better Guidance Could Help Agencies Calculate Benefits and Costs;; July 15, 2016.

Deputy Secretaries of Energy:

Deputy Secretaries of Transportation typically come from a strong background in federal, state, or local transportation organizations, including the Federal Highway Administration. 

Current Incumbent:

Victor Mendez (Acting) (2013--Present): Mendez previously served as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Prior to that, he served as Director of Arizona's Department of Transportation for 20 years.  

Previous Deputy Secretaries:

John Porcari (2009-2013): Porcari is currently the President of U.S. Advisory Services at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. Porcari's previous positions include Vice President for Administrative Affairs at the University of Maryland and two separate stints as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Thomas J. Barrett (2007-2009): He previously served as Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Vice President and COO of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served in a variety of positions over the course of 35 years. He received his JD with honors from George Washington University.

Mortimer L. Downey (1993-2001): Downey is currently serving as the President of Mort Downey Consulting LLC. His previous positions have consisted of serving as a Senior Advisor with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Chairman of PB Consult, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the State of New York, andAssistant Secretary of Budget and Programs for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was the first Transportation Analyst for the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Additional Resources: