* FAA's Huerta to shepherd major shift in air traffic
* Clyburn reappointed as FCC considers broadband-access
* New FTC appointee had questioned merits of Google probes
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, Jan 2 The Senate late on Tuesday
approved a number of key White House nominations to regulatory
agencies, including the president's choice for the top job at
Federal Aviation Administration that had been vacant for over a
Michael Huerta was confirmed as FAA administrator for a
five-year term after acting in that role since December 2011,
when his predecessor resigned after being arrested and charged
with drunk driving.
Also confirmed were Joshua Wright to a seven-year term at
the Federal Trade Commission and Mignon Clyburn to a second term
as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
The approvals had been expected, although Wright, a law
professor at George Mason University, had an acrimonious
confirmation hearing in early December in the Senate Commerce,
Science and Transportation Committee.
The committee did not vote on Wright's nomination but
instead sent it, along with Clyburn's, directly to the Senate,
which on Tuesday voted on a flurry of pending presidential
Wright, a Republican, has served as director of research at
the International Center for Law and Economics, which has
received funding from Google, the Internet search giant that is
the subject of a long-running FTC antitrust case.
In academic papers, Wright has questioned the merits of
bringing the case against Google. In his confirmation hearing,
he pledged to recuse himself from any Google case for two years,
should he be confirmed.
He will join the FTC for a seven-year term.
Clyburn, a Democrat and the daughter of South Carolina
Representative Jim Clyburn, joined the FCC, which regulates U.S.
telecommunications, in 2009 for a partial term.
Her new appointment will run for five years, retroactive to
July 1, 2012.
In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Clyburn
"has been a strong advocate in seeking to extend the benefits of
broadband to all Americans."
The FCC faces a full plate of policy initiatives in the next
few years, including broadband access and the transition to
all-IP (Internet Protocol) telecom networks.
"This year will also see implementation of key policy
initiatives such as incentive auctions," said Cathy Sloan, vice
president of the Computer and Communications Industry
Association. "Internet users and businesses that depend on the
mobile Internet will be counting on the FCC to hold the line on
BROAD PRAISE FOR NEW FAA CHIEF
Huerta had been deputy administrator of the FAA since 2010
and acting administrator, overseeing a budget of about $16
billion and over 47,000 employees, since December 2011.
Randy Babbitt, the former FAA head, was arrested several
miles from his home in Virginia, and charged with drunk driving
on Dec. 4, 2011. He resigned from the agency days later. The
charge was later dismissed.
Huerta's appointment was hailed by industry groups,
including airline operators, manufacturers, and pilots.
"Michael Huerta's proven leadership and clear grasp of the
imperatives of NextGen make him the right choice to continue
leading the FAA," Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for
America (A4A), said in a statement.
NextGen is the term used for the ongoing transformation of
the U.S. National Airspace System, in which ground-based air
traffic control will shift to a satellite-based system of
Huerta has overseen that multibillion-dollar effort, which
is designed to allow more aircraft to fly closer together,
reduce flight delays and lower fuel consumption.