Update: Federal officials cancel trip to CES amid government shutdown

Photo by BU News Service

(This story has been updated on Jan. 9.)

LAS VEGAS — Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao canceled her Jan. 9 keynote speech at CES due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs the annual trade show, told BU News Service.

Chao was to speak on a panel at the Las Vegas Convention Center about the future of drones and self-driving technology, the CES schedule, which had omitted her name from the panel, showed. She had also planned to have meetings with exhibitors on the show floor.

The transportation secretary, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was expected to announce a new rule that would allow drones to fly over people, Politico reported Jan. 8. Chao has supported the development of autonomous vehicles, such as through an October 2018 policy initiative that called for “the safe testing and integration of automated driving systems.”

The Department of Transportation did not return BU News Service’s requests for comment.

Chao joins ten other federal officials who have canceled their appearances at CES, CTA announced Jan. 5.

“We urge attendees who planned to hear US federal government speakers to check the sessions on the website to ensure those individuals are still speaking,” CTA said in a Jan. 5 press release.

CTA spokeswoman Sarah Brown wrote in an email that the officials who have canceled their trips prior to the start of the world’s biggest technology conference are as follows:

  1. Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
  2. Rohit Chopra, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission
  3. Rebecca Slaughter, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission
  4. Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
  5. Bakul Patel, Associate Director for Digital Health, Food and Drug Administration
  6. Barnes Johnson, Director, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  7. Brandon Bray, Physical Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency
  8. Arun Verdury, Director, Biometrics Technology Engine, Department of Homeland Security
  9. Andre Hentz, Undersecretary, Department of Homeland Security
  10. Daniel Kaniewski, Department Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

This year marks Pai’s second time canceling his appearance at CES. The FCC’s chairman traditionally participates in keynote sessions. He was scheduled to speak alongside FCC Commissioner Carr in a session moderated by CES President Gary Shapiro, Politico Pro reported. Pai canceled his trip to last year’s conference due to death threats following the FCC’s repealing of Obama-era net neutrality policies that prohibited internet service providers from favoring certain applications, sites or services.

On Day 19 of the shutdown, negotiations Congress and the White House are in an impasse as President Donald Trump insists a $5.7 billion funding for a border wall. The shutdown has stalled government operations, with 800,000 federal workers having to stay home or work without pay.

CES, where more than 4,400 companies showcase their products, started Jan. 7 and will end Jan. 11. The trade show draws more than 182,000 attendees and 100 speakers, according to the CES website.

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