Proposed RSPA restructuring may bring political influence
Dec 24, 2003 12:00 PM
A proposal to restructure the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) may bring political interference to the agency, says Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers.
He referred to a move by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider changing RSPA responsibilities that would include transferring its regulatory and operational responsibilities to other areas of DOT. The proposal also would limit RSPA duties to promoting and developing transportation and safety-related research and technologies.
"One of the fundamental strengths of the hazmat regulatory program is that it has been free of political influence," Harvison says. "I'm very concerned that by moving that regulatory element into the Office of the Secretary, which is political by design, could compromise the basic strength of the program.
The DOT proposal would include renaming RSPA the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). If the proposal is put into effect, the agency would be responsible for the research and development functions currently y performed by RSPA, and for the systematic and consistent coordination among all of the department’s research facilities, providing the department for the first time with reviews and analyses of its research and development progress and product development.
According to the Truckload Carriers Association, RITA would integrate into its operations the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, currently within the Federal Highway Administration, and all of the statistical and research functions of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In addition, several operational divisions currently within RSPA would shift to other areas. The Office of Emergency Transportation and the Crisis Management Center would shift to the department’s Office of Intelligence and Security to create a central office dedicated solely to security, intelligence and emergency response needs. The intermodal regulation of transportation of hazardous materials would be moved from RSPA’s Office of Hazardous Materials to the department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy to create a single, intermodal hazmat standard setting agency for all modes within the department.