Is cronyism making the NHTSA less effective?

There is a significant difference between networking and cronyism. When an individual is hired by a networking “connection,” there is generally nothing wrong with this scenario provided that the individual being hired is qualified for the position in question. If a friend, family member or associate is hired without proper qualifications for the position in question, this scenario may be described as cronyism.

There is some concern that cronyism is affecting the operation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This federal agency is essentially tasked with ensuring that travel on the nation’s highways is as safe as it can reasonably be. Highway travel safety issues tend to be complex and nuanced. When individuals are hired for placement within this important agency, it is critical that they are qualified to handle the nuanced and complex nature of the job at hand.

Earlier this year, USA Today published a piece suggesting that the NHTSA is too often staffed by individuals eager to land top jobs with automakers, auto industry consultants, the auto lobby and legal departments which advise these entities. It is difficult to imagine that these entities would be eager to hire individuals who have worked tirelessly to more strictly regulate their operations. As a result, it has been suggested that the agency is less effective than it might otherwise be because NHTSA staff want to remain attractive to the auto industry.

It is difficult to say with certainty that cronyism is affecting the effectiveness of the NHTSA. But if this claim is true to any significant extent, the safety of the American public demands that the NHTSA reform its revolving employment door.

Source: Source: USA Today, "Safety sacrificed in NHTSA revolving door: Column," Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang, Feb. 25, 2015

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