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Meet the President of Aviation Strategies, Strong Port Strategies 

Joel Szabat left the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2022, after a distinguished career as a senior executive in aviation, maritime and rail. Since joining USDOT in 2002, Joel:

  • Led the Office of Aviation & International Affairs, starting in 2018, overseeing the Essential Air Service and Small Community Air Service Development Programs, collectively providing grants to over 200 small airports across the nation and the airlines supporting them 

  • Managed the USA’s Air Service Agreements with 140 other countries; negotiating new agreements with Argentina, Japan and the United Kingdom, while managing disputes with China, India, Russia and in the Middle East 

  • Served as the Acting Under Secretary for Transportation Policy, the third-highest position in the Department of Transportation, representing the DOT on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and working closely with aviation and maritime industry and labor leaders to ensure air service nationwide during the pandemic, while providing a post-pandemic ‘path forward’ for the airline and cruise line industries 

  • Was recognized by both President Obama and Secretary LaHood as the ‘designated federal official’ successfully managing the $48 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) distributed to state and local entities, eventually building over 15,000 transportation projects 

  • Was seen by labor and industry officials as a government leader who understands the transportation sectors, and the impact of government policies, and served each of the last six Secretaries of Transportation

  • LinkedIn

$1.8T in total economic activity 

While airport cargo passenger and traffic continues to grow, America’s aviation infrastructure is not keeping up with capacity demands. According to Airports Council International, U.S. airports require more than $128 billion in infrastructure upgrades, with more than 56 percent of the needs inside aging terminals across the country.

Experience and credentials

Acting Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT): Served on White House COVID Task Force, helped airports, airlines and cruise lines weather the pandemic.

Assistant Secretary for Aviation & International Affairs, USDOT: Negotiated new Air Service Agreements and resolved disputes with foreign nations; approved joint ventures involving US air carriers; oversaw the Essential Air Service and Small Community Air Service Development Programs; coordinated the Blue Ribbon commission of independent experts reviewing 737 Max safety protocols.


Executive Director, Maritime Administration, USDOT: Championed the expansion of the US Merchant Marine to meet strategic sealift needs for national security; helped give form to the marine highway program.  


Designated Federal Official for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act USDOT: led new discretionary grant programs and coordinated the administration of $48 billion in federal grants funding the construction of 15,000 transportation projects.  


Chief of Staff, Small Business Administration (SBA): Joined new Administrator to resolve, in three months, a year-long backlog of over 100,000 applications for Hurricane Katrina relief from the New Orleans area; established new loan-guarantee program for veterans and their families; published a first-ever scorecard publicly listing every federal agency’s compliance with small business contracting requirements.


Transportation Attaché, U.S. Embassy, Iraq (USDOT/State Department): Managed over $500 million in airport, port and rail reconstruction projects throughout Iraq.


USDOT Representative, Federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS): Reviewed every significant proposed foreign investment in U.S. transportation infrastructures.


Captain, United States Army: Led Armored Cavalry units patrolling the East/West German border during the Cold War; Head of Brigade Operations and Intelligence at the U.S. Army Military Intelligence School.


Amtrak Board Member since January 2024


Civilian lead of the federal interagency committee coordinating GPS and spectrum policies


Founded successful non-profit promoting the civic awareness, involvement and effectiveness of Asian Pacific American youth


Degree in Economics and Public Administration from Georgetown University


MBA from Harvard Business School

“Vice President Biden, Secretary LaHood, Lana Hurdle and Joel Szabat; thank you all for the extraordinary work that you are doing each and every day... You have never been more important than you are right now, and for that we are all grateful.”

President Barack Obama

Remarks at the Department of Transportation March 3, 2009

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