Obama administration eyeing new NHTSA boss after safety lapses

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't had much to celebrate this year. The botched handling of major recall campaigns from General Motors and for faulty Takata airbag inflators haven't put the agency in the best light. Also, its new VIN lookup for safety campaigns, which should have been a major step forward, crashed the first time it was really needed. Clearly, something must be done, and it appears that the government's solution might be an overhaul of the bureau, starting at the top.

According to insiders speaking to Reuters, acting NHTSA boss David Friedman (pictured above) is unlikely to be nominated to take the job long term. Furthermore, the feds are already searching for his replacement, and the new director is expected to be announced soon. The changes might go even deeper, though. According to Reuters, both Congress and the Department of Transportation, which oversees NHTSA, are conducting their own inquiries into the agency.

It's certainly not Friedman's first visit to Capitol Hill this year. He already testified in front of the Senate, and a report from the House Energy and Commerce committee claimed that NHTSA's incompetence allowed GM's problem with ignition switches to be undetected for so long. It hasn't been an easy tenure at the organization for Friedman. He only started working at the safety watchdog in May of 2013, and took over running things around the beginning of the year when David Strickland stepped down.

While it could be argued that NHTSA is doing an incompetent job this year, understaffing might also play a roll. The Office of Defects Investigation that actually researches and reports recalls has just 51 people who keep an eye on safety and only $10 million of NHTSA's budget. With over 544 recalls so far this year, it may keep them spread a bit too thin.

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