DOT Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns in Response to Unrest in D.C.

elaine chao
Official portrait courtesy DOT

Published Jan 7, 2021 5:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, one of the longest-serving members of the Trump administration's cabinet, announced Thursday that she will be stepping down from her post early in response to yesterday's disruption at the Capitol. 

Chao said that she will depart nine days in advance of the formal arrival of her successor, former mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been nominated to the position by President-elect Joe Biden. 

"Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside," Chao said in a letter to colleagues. "Today, I am announcing my resignation as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to take effect on Monday, January 11, 2020. We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department."

Chao thanked her staff for the accomplishments that the department has achieved over the past four years, and she encouraged them to carry on their mission.

Elaine Chao is well-known and respected in the maritime community for her longstanding support for American shipping. She is a recipient of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTUS) award from the United Seamen's Service, one of the industry's highest honors. Over the past four years, her understanding of the maritime sector's needs - and her willingness to advocate for resources to address them - has helped her department secure billions in funding for port infrastructure, U.S.-flag sealift capacity, and a new class of school ships for the state maritime academies, among other successes. 

"The maritime industry is an integral component of the nation’s broader transportation network, and plays an important role in an efficient, intermodal system. The nation’s economic prosperity and national defense relies on a fully-integrated intermodal transportation system, with each mode linked to and complementing the others," she told The Maritime Executive in a 2017 interview. "Maritime has historically played a major role in this country’s economic growth and military power, and its importance remains."