Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, the retired Naval officer and graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy who led the Maritime Administration during the Trump presidency, has resigned in the aftermath of the deadly Capitol Hill riot.
Buzby was appointed Marad Administrator by President Trump in 2017 and was expected to step down as part of the transition to the Biden administration. He joins several other top federal officials to leave early in protest over the violent attack on the Capitol, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is his boss.
“I no longer believe that I am able to serve as a member of the administration while remaining true to the values which have been the core of my service to the people of our nation.,” Buzby said.
Buzby’s resignation was effective Monday, Jan. 11, according to Kyle Bonini, director of communications and public affairs at DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. There is no mention of his departure on Marad’s website, which has removed Buzby’s name and lists Douglas Burnett as the Acting Administrator and Chief Counsel. Burnett was a maritime lawyer before joining the government.
The Marad administrator is a critical federal position for the maritime industry, serving as the industry’s highest level booster and supporter. The agency oversees policies and programs that affect all sectors of the industry, from inland to bluewater, overseeing policies and directing funding to state and federal maritime academies, running port and marine highway grant programs, working to boost the U.S. merchant marine and military sealift, and running numerous environmental and mariner education programs. It has an annual budget of about $780 million and employs 800 people.
Buzby was a well-liked and respected leader at Marad, where he focused much of his efforts at defending and supporting the Jones Act, mariner training and a strong merchant marine. His departure was met with regret from many in the industry.
The Master, Mates and Pilots union “salutes Admiral Buzby for his outstanding service to the American merchant marine, the U.S. Navy and our nation,” MM&P President Don Marcus said in a statement. “He is first and foremost a mariner: a true leader and meticulous professional who looks after his crew and accomplished his mission. He has done a fantastic job throughout his career, in the very highest traditions of the Navy and service to the American people.”
As president-elect Biden assembles his administration, it’s not yet known who he will pick to head Marad. If the past is any guide, the nominee will likely have experience in either the military (most likely the Navy) or in the merchant marine, or perhaps both. Many previous administrators like Buzby, have graduated from one of the nation’s maritime academies and worked in the industry. Buzby served in the Navy for 34 years and was commander of the Military Sealift Command.
The new Marad leader will likely play an important role in Biden’s green agenda, focusing on reducing ship engine emissions and investing in marine highways and waterway transportation as a way to shift more freight from roads.
The Senate must approve the nomination, which will involve vetting by that chamber and public hearings. This is a slow-moving process and could take months after the nomination is announced, which will put the staff in charge of maintaining continuity of programs and policies. Buzby had the fastest confirmation in recent history, waiting nearly nine months to take the reins at Marad, according to a survey by law firm K&L Gates.