Air Transport World

Considering Secretary Dole. (Elizabeth Dole)

Considering Secretary Dole

Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole's oft-predicted departure can't come too soon. Dole has served four-and-a-half years as head of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the longest tenure for any secretary in the department's 20-year history. She has more than outlived her welcome.

Dole's predecessor, Drew Lewis, did not make things easy for her. He demonstrated little fear of politically charged and unpopular decisions. In the aviation field he fired striking air traffic controllers. In the highway field he pushed a fuel tax increase past his ardent anti-tax boss, President Ronald Reagan. He didn't consider it beneath his dignity--or beyond his ability to cope--to sit in on congressional mark-up sessions and lobby for his views. His business experience meant he was comfortable talking to business people on a business level.

Lewis made major decisions of public policy and earned respect from all sides in doing so. In other words, he managed, a necessary talent in President Reagan's Cabinet style of government where the top departmental officer acts like a chief executive officer in the private sector.

Administration goals

Dole suffers by comparison. In several matters under her control she fell short of administration goals. The two Washington airports were leased, rather than sold as originally desired, and it took millions in airport grants to pacify opponents to get that far. Dole at first wanted to sell Conrail to a single company, but after some delay had to settle for sale to the public because she was outmaneuvered by Conrail's chairman. Most significantly for aviation, Dole has been incapable of creating a ?? plan to cope with the aftermath of he controllers' strike in the face of air ravel growth.

Lewis fired the controllers in mid-recession when harm to air service was minimal. That's why airline CEOs backed him at the time.) For that decision to pay off however, there had to be a rebuilding of the work force to cope with the post-decession return of traffic, proper management of controllers who did stay on the job and tight control over the modernization that is supposed to ease manpower problems in the future. …

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