Secretary Buttigieg Was a No-Show During Supply Chain Crisis, Documents Show

Secretary Buttigieg Was a No-Show During Supply Chain Crisis, Documents Show

  • January 18, 2023
Though asserting he responded to emergencies during paternity leave, schedule shows no meetings on supply chain for nearly two months as crisis developed

Today, ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust highlighted Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s calendar barren of meetings on the supply chain as issues metastasized to crisis levels. Despite claims he was available when needed during his paternity leave, the Secretary’s calendars during the period do not provide evidence of any activity on his part regarding this emerging crisis for nearly two months.

Just as documents obtained through a PPT Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed Secretary Buttigieg rebuffed calls from both Democrats and Republicans during his leave, additional records obtained via FOIA by PPT show he neither attended nor scheduled any meetings on the supply chain crisis from mid-August until October 2021 as it raged through the nation. In fact, as the crisis escalated during August 2021, calendar records provided by DOT in response to our FOIA as well as those published on the DOT website are completely missing for 14 weekdays, indicating the Secretary participated in no meetings on those days.

From the time he began his paternity leave in mid-August until a meeting titled “Port Congestion Update” on October 6, 2021, while the American public faced grocery store shelves emptied of staples and as a “breathtaking backup of container ships” grew in our nation’s ports and as headlines of the crisis splashed across the nation’s media outlets, the Secretary’s calendar contained not a single entry related to the supply chain crisis. During this time his meetings schedule consisted primarily of recurring meetings regarding legislation supported by the administration, such as the American Jobs Plan/American Families Plan and Build Back Better, and COVID response.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Buttigieg made apparent false promises:

“[…] when you take a job like mine, you understand and accept that you’re going to have to be available 24/7, depending on what’s going on, and you’re going to have to engage.”

As the Secretary’s blank calendar shows, he was clearly not engaged at a time when the American public needed him the most. To further illustrate the absurdity of his absences during the crisis, August 23, the day CNN published an article on the supply chain crisis titled, “The shipping crisis is getting worse. Here’s what that means for holiday shopping” is the second of a five-day period in which the Secretary had no calendar at all. The pages simply do not exist in the records provided in response to our FOIA nor on the Secretary’s calendar that DOT has posted online.

The Transportation Secretary has also come under fire recently for taking a personal trip to Portugal during intense negotiations to avoid a potentially economy-crippling railway strike, his use of private jets (an activity that generated enormous controversy when engaged in by department secretaries in the Trump administration), thousands of flight cancellations during the holidays, and the crash of a key FAA system that temporarily grounded all flights last week.

“Secretary Buttigieg claims that, even while on paternity leave, he was on call in an emergency. But when it came to the supply chain crisis, one of the most pressing and consequential emergencies plaguing Americans at the time, he was nowhere to be found,” declared Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “While we were promised honesty and competence by the Biden Administration, this demonstration of deception and deceit is not only disheartening but further erodes the public’s already all-time low trust in government.”