The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration appears to be busier than ever. Beyond the federal agency's upcoming visit to Congress to explain its actions leading up to the Toyota recalls, it also needs to prepare for 2011 changes to its New Car Assessment Program Five-Star Safety Rating System.

The Detroit News is reporting that a spot of help may be on the way, as President Obama's 2011 budget includes a $4 million budget increase earmarked for 66 new NHTSA employees. Of the proposed 66 new employees, eight would reportedly work on auto recall and safety investigations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says another $12 million of the $800 million NHTSA budget would go towards beefing up the department's Five Star Rating program, which, oddly enough, goes into the effect for the 2011 model year.

In other, somewhat auto-related 2011 budget news, the proposed Energy Department budget jumps to $325 million, up from $312 million in 2010. The recommended hydrogen fuel cell budget will reportedly drop from $183 million to $137 million, and more of that money will be focused on plug-in electric and battery tech.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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