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Obama taps NTSB member for highway safety chief

President Obama is tapping National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Mark Rosekind to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), the White House announced on Tuesday. 

Rosekind, who has been a member of the NTSB since 2010, will be the highway safety agency’s first full time chief in nearly a year if he is confirmed by the Senate. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Tuesday that the president’s choice of Rosekind showed he was committed to improving the highway safety agency, which has come under fire in recent months for its handling of widespread auto recalls involving companies like General Motors and airbag manufacturer Takata. 

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"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially sets the automobile safety standard for the United States and has a well-earned reputation as the leading agency of its kind in the world,” Foxx said in a statement. 

“Mark has shown tremendous dedication to making our roads safer throughout his career and brings direct experience from the National Transportation Safety Board,” Foxx continued. “Mark is a leader ready-made for this critical responsibility and I expect him to hold not only the auto industry accountable, but I also expect him to help us raise the bar on safety ever higher within the U.S. Department of Transportation and among all of our stakeholders."

The NSTB has been operating with a full-time chief since its former Administrator David Strickland resigned at the beginning of the year. 

The announcement of Rosekind as Strickland's full-time replacement comes a day before lawmakers in the Senate are scheduled to hold a hearing about Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata’s airbag recall. 

The highway safety agency has come under fire for its oversight of widespread recalls at General Motors that involved defective ignition switches in more than two million cars. 

Lawmakers took the highway safety agency to task in the spring for its handling of GM’s recall, accusing officials there of failing to notice the trend of accidents involving GM's faulty ignition switch for several years before the recall was issued in February.  

Friedman praised Rosekind’s appointment to the full-time post as a stablizing factor for the highway safety agency on Tuesday. 

"Administrator-nominee Mark Rosekind is one of the nation's most respected safety watchdogs across all modes of transportation, and I welcome his keen eye and life-long commitment to safety, and I look forward to working with him,” Friedman said in a statement. 

Rosekind was appointed by Obama to the NTSB, which is also a Senate confirmable position, in 2010. He has participated in the agency’s investigation of several high-profile accidents in that time, including a collision between a FedEx truck and a school bus in California earlier this year. 

The likely new chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer kicks into reelection mode The Hill's Morning Report - Biden shifts on filibuster Biden allies eye two-step strategy on infrastructure MORE (R-S.D.), said Tuesday evening that he was looking forward to reviewing Rosekind’s qualifications for the highway safety post. 

Thune did not make any guarantee’s about supporting Rosekind’s nomination, however. 

“After months of calling on the president to nominate an administrator to oversee motor vehicle safety laws, I'm pleased to hear that he has finally nominated someone,” the top ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said in a statement. 

“The administration has fallen short on its responsibility to the American people by leaving NHTSA without a Senate-confirmed leader for nearly a year,” Thune continued. “There is much to be done at NHTSA, and I look forward to sitting down with Dr. Rosekind to hear more about his plans to address the rising number of motor vehicle safety recalls.”