The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday morning grounded all U.S. flights for the first time since the 9/11 attacks, in the latest example of transportation crises occurring on Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s watch.
Following unprecedented computer malfunctions, the FAA made the rare decision to prevent planes from departing from runways nationwide while the agency attempted to get systems back online. By early evening on Wednesday, more than 1,300 flights had been cancelled and more than 9,000 flights had been delayed as a result of the failures.
The problem was traced to the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which was known as “Notice to Airmen” prior to 2021 when Buttigieg changed the name to be more “inclusive of all aviators.” NOTAM gives pilots information on dangerous weather conditions, runway closures, and other obstacles that could cause mishap in an upcoming flight. Later reporting suggests that corrupted files present in both the primary and backup NOTAM systems caused this crucial information to be unavailable.
This FAA misadventure, however, was far from Secretary Buttigieg’s first failure in the realm of transportation.
In the second half of 2021, national supply chains were ravaged by a variety of logistical failures, resulting in a record number of cargo ships stranded at ports off the coast of California. Not only did Buttigieg fail to prepare for these backups, but once the country was in the midst of the supply chain crisis, the Secretary was nowhere to be found. Reporters later discovered that he had left for multiple months of previously unannounced paid paternity leave with his husband, Chasten.
As Politico put it in October 2021: “Pete Buttigieg has been MIA.”
More recently, as the United States sat on the verge of another looming supply chain crisis due to an impending national rail strike in 2022, Buttigieg again went MIA. As it turns out, the Secretary decided that this crisis was the perfect opportunity for another vacation, this time a weeklong retreat to Portuguese wine country.
This pattern is not new: Even during his tenure as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg was known for failures in transportation and infrastructure. The South Bend Tribune reported in 2018 that the number of potholes in the small city “might be [the] worst in recent memory.” A year later, still under the watch of then-Mayor Buttigieg, the Tribune reported that residents felt the city had the “worst pothole situation in the state.”
President Biden’s selection of Pete Buttigieg to lead the entire Department of Transportation with little experience has gained increasing criticism as his failures mount, with recent dissent coming even from Buttigieg’s left.
“What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President,” read a tweet from Nina Turner, a former Democrat Party state legislator and national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. “Secretary Buttigieg is a prime example of failing up.”
In addition to his substantive failures across transportation sectors, Buttigieg recently came under fire for alleged misuse of taxpayer funds on his own private jet travel, an infraction that in the past has led other Cabinet members to resign.