An Unusual public disagreement broke out between two Carter appointees yesterday when Transportation Secretary Brock Adams took umbrage at some comments made by Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman Alfred E. Kahn.
At a morning breakfast with reporters, Kahn said he believed the State Department should continue to have the primary responsibility for negotiating international air agreements, not the Transportation Department as Adams has suggested. Earlier this month, Adams sent a memorandum to President Carter asking that he be assigned "leadership responsibility" for such bargaining.
Adams suggests that the current system does not work well because State focuses on foreign policy instead of transportation policy.
The outspoken Kah yesterday disagreed. He suggested that Transportation poeple tend to be "cartelists," while officials at State tend to have a "more liberal economic policy . . . I feel aviation is part of general commercial policy," he said.
Kahn added that international air talks "are more likely to get the full views and participation" of all federal agencies, including Transportation, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, the CAB and others.
State Department negotiators are "not perfect," and are "still pulling bonners," Kahn admitted, but he hinted that negotiations still would go better under their aegis. During the recent U.S.-British negotiations, Kahn noted. "There were times when DOT people were ready to fold, and we were unwilling to fold, and we won."
Kahn also twitted Adams for having "jumped the gun" a day early in announcing the breakdown of U.S.-Japanese air talks Monday because Adams was "so anxious to get to the press ahead of anyone else." Kahn added. "Just because he said it doesn't mean he was automatically wrong."
Adams apparently did not take the comments lightly. About Kahn's comments on the Japanese talks announcement, Adams responded that "this is another inaccurate statement from Chairman Kahn." He said the statement he issued was "in response to inquiries from the press, had been cleared by the State Department and was subsequent to the collapse of te Japanese negotiations." (Adams had used the statement to criticize State and make a pitch for moving the air talks to Transportation.
David Jewell, director of the office of public affairs of DOT, said Adams was "very upset that Kahn would make those allegations about him." Jewell also denid that DOT was ready to "fold" during the British negotiations.
Late yesterday, Kahn said he was "not interested in a continuing argument" and would make no further comment.
On the topics yesterday, Kahn:
Called an altered measure now pending before the House Aviation subcommittee a "fraud." The bill contains none of the "regulatory reform provisions" the subcommittee had been working on to move the industry from strict regulation to competition, but has a provision abolishing the CAB in seven years. "The industry must become convinced competition is going to come," Kahn said.
Said the agency staff might begin to monitor the availability of cut-rate fares to Europe by making "consumer" telephone calls to the airlines. Kahn said the agencies is concerned that the airlines may not put that many discount tickets on the market this summer even though they are being heavily advertised.