Chairman Thune, ranking member Nelson, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I also want to thank my home state senators from the great commonwealth of Kentucky for their kind introductions.
I'm very honored to have the support of Senator Rand Paul, and I'll be working to lock in the majority leader's support tonight over dinner. I'm especially delighted to introduce my father, Dr. James S. Chao who along with my mother Ruth Mulan Chao is the foundation of everything that my sisters and I have been able to achieve.
Like so many others as you've heard, my father left everything familiar behind to come to this country and build a better life for our family. My mother, two sisters and I endured three long years of separation before we were able to join him traveling from Asia to America via a cargo ship on an ocean journey that lasted 37 days. There were many challenges during those early days. Living in an apartment in Queens, New York, learning English and adapting to a completely foreign culture. But my parents' love, optimism, faith, and diligence kept us together. If I can ask my father to stand up, I would really appreciate it. Stand up.
Thank you so much. I'm also very pleased to introduce one of my sisters, Mae Chao and her twin daughters Miranda and Jessica from New York City. Mae is the daughters whose name symbolizes America. My mother was seven months pregnant with Mae when my father left for America and he did not see his third daughter, Mae, until she was 3 years old. And Mae, if I can ask you and the girls to stand up. And my brother-in-law Gordon is here and that's it for the family.
My executive career in government began at the U.S. Department of Transportation during my career, I've will the extensive privilege of leading large, complex organizations. In the public and the private sectors as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Director of the Peace Corps, President and CEO of United Way of America, and the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
In each of these positions, my goal has always been to help others access opportunities in mainstream America and build better lives for themselves and their families by supporting policies that foster job creation and workforce competitiveness.
Our country's transportation infrastructure is the underpinning of a world class economy. One of the most productive flexible and dynamic in the world. It is a key factor in productivity growth which has provided millions of hard working Americans with a standard of living that is the envy of the world. And it has provided us with unprecedented mobility, safety, and security.
And yet, today, these gains are jeopardized by aging infrastructure, growing congestion, increased fatalities on our highways and a failure to keep pace with emerging technologies. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a rare opportunity to shape the transformation of our critical infrastructure. And the chance to lead the department at this pivotal historic time is a great honor.
First and foremost safety will continue to be the primary objective. Regulatory decisions should be rooted in analysis derived from sound science and data with the risk-based analysis that prevents accidents before they occur. And considers can both the cost and the benefits of new rule makings. Railroads, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, pipeline operators, transit authorities and hazardous waste material shippers should be deploying comprehensive approaches to safety.
The department will also work with states to ensure that billions of dollars of federal funding are focused on improving transportation system performance and project delivery. Our rail and air traffic operational efficiency, which is so important to America's competitiveness, need to be continuously improved. And I look forward to working with this committee on FAA's transition to 21st century air traffic control technologies known as NEFGEN. Eight months remain before FAA reauthorization. So it's important to start the collaborative process soon to provide air travelers with a system second to none.
Another major challenge is to unleash the potential for private investment in our nation's infrastructure. As we work together to develop the details of the President-elect's infrastructure plan had, it's important to know the significant difference between traditional program funding and other innovative financing tools such as public/private partnerships.
In order to take full advantage of the estimated trillions in capital that equity firms, pension funds, and endowments can invest, these partnerships must be allowed to participate with a bold new vision. And again, we look forward to working with you to explore all options and to create a mix of practical solutions both public and private that provide the greatest cost benefit to the public because we all know that the government doesn't have the resources to do it all.
It's also important to recognize that the way we build and deliver projects is just as important as how much we invest. And we want to seek your advice in identifying and addressing unnecessary bottlenecks in the processes that govern project development and delivery as well as the manufacturing processes that we oversee.
And finally, we want to work with you to address the unique transportation needs in rural America as well as the challenges that major metropolitan areas face.
Looking to the future, we also have a unique opportunity to address the exciting new technologies transforming travel and commerce. The private sector is driving this innovation. They're working with cities and states to demonstrate improvements in the safety and efficiency of autonomous vehicles. Drones are poised to become a major commercial force.
And the federal role in these sectors is still very much in its infancy. We want to work with Congress to position the federal government as a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not as an implement -- and not as an impediment.
In summary, the department of transportation has a key role to play in modernizing our transportation systems. Strengthening our nation's competitiveness and improving our quality of life. And I look forward to working with you to rebuild, refurbish and revitalize America's infrastructure so our economy can continue to grow, create good paying jobs for America's working families and enhance our quality of life.