WASHINGTON -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon have some fresh faces in key recall positions as part of an agency reorganization intended to streamline its management structure.
According to sources here and job openings posted on the U.S Department of Transportation's website, the agency is preparing the reorganization to follow the retirement or departure of three key officials who have overseen recalls at the agency.
n Kevin Vincent, NHTSA's chief counsel, has been transferred to the DOT's office of general counsel.
n Daniel Smith, senior associate administrator for vehicle safety, plans to retire in June.
n Nancy Lewis, associate administrator for enforcement, retired this spring.
Selecting their replacements gives NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind an opportunity to continue to put his stamp on the agency in a way that could outlast his tenure as administrator. The three departing officials have played major roles in recent high-profile enforcement cases, including the defective General Motors ignition switch and defective Takata airbag recalls.
Vincent, for example, signed off on the subpoenas issued to 10 automakers and Takata last fall ordering them to provide documents and answer questions under oath about the defective airbags. Lewis led NHTSA's enforcement efforts while Smith was a key player in crafting the agency's consent agreement levying additional oversight on GM's safety operations, as well as NHTSA's Takata actions. Smith also led the NHTSA team that executed the government's cash-for-clunkers vehicle scrappage program in 2009.
Under the planned reorganization, NHTSA would replace what had been a layer of three senior associate administrator positions with a single official in a new executive director position -- the agency's equivalent of a COO.
Two of the three senior associate administrator positions have been vacant for some time, and NHTSA is expected to eliminate them from its management structure after Smith's retirement.
According to a job posting on the DOT's career page, the executive director will oversee the agency's seven associate administrators in charge of everything from enforcement to research, finance and agency rulemaking procedures. NHTSA also has posted job openings for a new CFO and a senior adviser to assist the agency's chief on strategy and policy.
A NHTSA spokesman declined to comment on the personnel moves and the planned reorganization.