Message from Leadership

CMTS Chair

Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Transportation, Chair of the CMTS

Elaine L. Chao

Secretary of Transportation
Chair of the CMTS

Secretary Elaine L. Chao is currently the U. S. Secretary of Transportation. This is her second cabinet position. She served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-January 2009, and is the first Asian American woman to be appointed to the President's cabinet in American history.

Secretary Chao comes to the U.S. Department of Transportation with extensive experience in the transportation sector. Early in her career, she specialized in transportation financing in the private sector. She began her executive career in public service working on transportation and trade issues at the White House. She then served as Deputy Maritime Administrator, U. S. Department of Transportation; Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission; and, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Secretary Chao understands the critical role of the Department in ensuring the safety of our country’s transportation systems. She is also keenly aware of the key role infrastructure plays in our nation’s economic competitiveness, and in strengthening economic growth in both the urban and rural areas of our country.

Secretary Chao has a distinguished career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. An immigrant who arrived in America at the age of eight speaking no English, she received her citizenship at the age of 19. Her experience transitioning to a new country has motivated her to devote most of her professional life to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to build better lives for themselves and their families. As U.S. Secretary of Labor, she focused on increasing the competitiveness of America’s workforce in a global economy, promoted job creation, and achieved record results in workplace safety and health.

Prior to the Department of Labor, Secretary Chao was President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, where she restored public trust and confidence in one of America’s premier institutions of private charitable giving, after it had been tarnished by financial mismanagement and abuse. Secretary Chao also served as Director of the Peace Corps, where she established the first programs in the Baltic nations and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Secretary Chao earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College. Honored for her extensive record of accomplishments and public service, she is the recipient of 36 honorary doctorate degrees.

Secretary Chao is a resident of Jefferson County, Kentucky. Prior to her appointment as Secretary of Transportation, she was a Distinguished Fellow at Hudson Institute. She is the eldest of six daughters born to Dr. James S.C. Chao and the late Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao.

Coordinating Board Chair

Richard V. Timme

Richard V. Timme, Rear Admiral
U. S. Coast Guard

Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy (CG-5P)
CMTS Coordinating Board Chair

The 15th anniversary of the United States Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) is a milestone that reflects the interagency cooperation that is its hallmark. We celebrate and embrace that during United States Coast Guard's CMTS Chairmanship in 2020-2021. This year's goal is to Foster a Prosperous and Secure America. The goal aligns with the priorities set by the 2017-2022 CMTS National Strategy "Channeling the Maritime Advantage" while ensuring the development and implementation of national marine transportation system (MTS) policies consistent with national needs.

The CMTS will continue to work together to improve the overall awareness of the maritime domain, be responsible stewards of the marine environment, and promote a strong economy and a high quality of life for all Americans. The CMTS will also continue to support Executive Order 13840, Ocean Policy To Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States, to promote "the economic growth of coastal communities and ocean industries, which employ millions of Americans, advance ocean science and technology, feed the American people, transport American goods, expand recreational opportunities, and enhance America's energy security."

There are more demands on the MTS now than during any other time in history. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting economic effects and the MTS is proving more vital than ever to the United States as we work to reinvigorate the economy and emerge as a stronger and more vibrant nation. We will accomplish this together through the following shared priorities.

Each priority and goal aligns with both the National Ocean Policy as well as the approved 2017 CMTS National Strategy:

  • Leverage Emergent Technology Throughout the MTS
    As global economies recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States MTS will face new challenges, which will require innovative and targeted strategies. This pandemic has forced supply chains to become more agile in adopting and implementing automated and autonomous system technologies. As we look beyond the pandemic, the CMTS will support harnessing of automation and autonomous technologies and will address potential failures to ensure resiliency of the MTS.
  • Promote Improvements to MTS Infrastructure as a National Priority
    The CMTS will expand its goal of facilitating infrastructure investment consistent with national needs. To this end, the CMTS will make participation in NOAA's Decade of the Ocean integral to this year's work plan and ensure a coordinated effort to promote the importance of a safe and secure MTS to the United States.
  • Support of the Evolving Future of Offshore Industries
    Offshore industries require a reliable MTS in order to thrive. This will demand innovative governance to reduce conflicts among users throughout ocean and coastal waters. The CMTS will expand efforts in coordinated interagency communication for emergent port access route studies and modern maritime fairways as these offshore activities continue to grow.
  • Enhance Unity of Effort in the MTS
    The CMTS was created to formalize the partnership of Federal departments and agencies with responsibility for the MTS. We will leverage established relationships with one another to bring a balanced whole-of-government approach to safeguarding America's economic security. We will promote resiliency among all MTS stakeholders' to support and improve MTS efficiency.

These ambitious priorities will Foster a Prosperous and Secure America. The past fifteen years have established the CMTS as a valuable endeavor in Federal collaboration, which is now more important than ever. I anticipate another successful year as we work together to meet these goals.

Executive Director, Executive Secretariat

Helen Brohl, Exec Director, CMTS

Helen Brohl

Executive Director
U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System

On October 17, 2017, Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao signed the CMTS National Strategy for the Marine Transportation System (MTS): Channeling the Maritime Advantage. This new Strategy for 2017-2022 replaces the first national MTS strategy, which was completed in 2008. As we think back to the development of the first strategy, we recognize how far the interagency partnership has progressed in the past 10 years! The 2008 strategy made 34 recommendations — a "kitchen sink" of ideas that sought to include every thought proposed by the member agencies. While it proved challenging to address all 34 recommendations, the mere achievement of gathering 25+ Federal agencies for the first time to address the needs of the MTS was, in itself, a great success. The 2017-2022 National MTS Strategy puts to rest the first strategy with an appendix that includes a final report on the way in which the CMTS and agency members addressed 27 of the 34 actions identified in 2008.

We now move to implement a dynamic program related to 14 actions under 5 priority areas:

  • Optimize System Performance
  • Enhance Maritime Safety
  • Support Maritime Security
  • Advance Energy Innovation and Development
  • Facilitate Infrastructure Investment

The CMTS Research and Development team is already addressing all priority areas by engaging with freight transportation experts at the Department of Transportation to develop a high-fidelity, multi-modal freight flow model that includes the water-side data components. The CMTS will join with the Transportation Research Board to hold a research and development conference at the National Academy of Sciences, June 19-21, 2018, where particular emphasis will be placed on sharing methodologies and data to improving the efficacy of freight forecasting through data harmonization, management, convergence, and collaboration among freight and marine transportation system stakeholders and sectors. (For more information, visit the Transportation Research Board website)

The US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Army Corps of Engineers are leading our Future of Navigation Integrated Action Team (IAT) to enhance navigation safety and service through enhanced marine safety information (eMSI) and harmonization of standards related to navigable waters toward fully implementing eNavigation. Our MTS Data IAT had successfully implemented a maritime tab on and is now working to support the Bureau of Transportation requirements related to port freight performance statistics, as well as enhance interagency engagement and use of automatic identification system (AIS) data. Our ad hoc maritime security team is compiling a list of the myriad of interagency and advisory committees working with maritime security in order to advance security policy-related information sharing. The MTS Infrastructure Investment Team issued the third edition of the Federal Funding Handbook for Marine Transportation System Infrastructure. The most popular of the CMTS publications, this new edition organizes 85 funding programs by type and includes a new "User's Guide" and a FAQ section. The CMTS work plan also seeks to expand stakeholder outreach.

The CMTS is an extraordinary Federal interagency partnership of over 25 active members, including White House offices, and as the organization grows in membership, so does its value. We remain indebted to the many agency members who provide expertise and resources to the Executive Secretariat and CMTS activities.