Statement of Senator Boxer
Hearing on Nominations
December 17, 2013

Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee will consider a number of nominations.

The confirmation of qualified individuals to lead federal agencies is an important responsibility of the Senate. It is critical that we move forward with these nominations so that our federal agencies can fulfill their mission to serve the American people.

Jay Williams brings over twenty years of experience in both the private and public sectors, which will serve him well as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). He is currently the Executive Director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers at the Department of Labor. In this position, he has played a critical role helping states and cities rebuild their manufacturing potential, create job opportunities, and encourage economic development. Previously, he served as the Mayor of the City of Youngstown, Ohio, and has worked in the private sector.

If confirmed, he will be responsible for leading the EDA, an agency whose mission is to help economically-distressed communities create good jobs and build strong businesses.

Next, I would like to welcome Rhea Sun Suh, the nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior. Ms. Suh has a long career in working to conserve our nation's most precious natural resources, including serving as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of Interior for the past four years. If confirmed as Assistant Secretary, Ms. Suh would help to oversee the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the guardian of our nation's natural treasures and wildlife and helps support tourism and recreation that boosts local economies. In Fiscal Year 2011, national wildlife refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy and supported over 35,000 jobs.

In my home state of California, the Fish and Wildlife Service manages dozens of wildlife refuges, protects iconic species like the Bald Eagle and the California Condor, and helps to manage millions of birds that migrate through California every year.

The Committee is also considering the nomination of Dr. Thomas Burke to be Assistant Administrator for Research and Development at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which conducts research and provides expertise on science and technology issues to many EPA programs. Strong science is the foundation of EPA safeguards to protect public health and the environment, and Dr. Burke brings a wealth of experience on these issues.

Currently, he is a professor and Associate Dean of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland. He has over 35 years of experience in state and federal leadership positions in health and environmental issues, including as an official at the State of New Jersey's Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection. Dr. Burke has also chaired several studies by the National Academy of Sciences and has served on multiple EPA science advisory councils.

We will also consider the nomination of Ms. Victoria Beacher Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Wassmer has 17 years of experience working on budgeting, analysis, and management issues. She began her federal service at the Office of Management and Budget, and has worked in the private sector and local government. Currently, Ms. Wassmer serves as Assistant Administrator of the FAA's Office of Finance and Management.

If confirmed, Ms. Wassmer would help formulate and manage EPA's annual budget and performance plan and provide oversight for the Agency's financial operations.

As EPA's CFO, Ms. Wassmer would be expected to play an important role as EPA implements financial management and auditing reforms. One of Ms. Wassmer's responsibilities would be to ensure that there is no opportunity for a rogue employee to engage in fraud, as one EPA employee, John Beale, did when he falsely claimed he was a CIA agent while working at EPA. Mr. Beale, whose fraudulent activities spanned multiple Administrations, will be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty in federal court to theft of federal property. This Committee will continue to conduct oversight in this matter as the EPA IG completes its investigation.

Administrator McCarthy played a key role in shining a light on this issue and her actions helped uncover this crime. The Obama Administration's Department of Justice is also ensuring that the American taxpayers will be reimbursed. I look forward to working with the new Chief Financial Officer on all of these issues.

This hearing is a step forward in the Senate's confirmation process, and I look forward hearing from the nominees today.