Prior to forming Donna McLean Associates—a consulting firm specializing in transportation policy—McLean was Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). She also served the DOT as the Assistant Administrator for Financial Services at the Federal Aviation Administration beginning in 1999. She was a professional staff member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and was involved in establishing the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).
McLean has also worked at the Office of Management and Budget on the president's budget and regulatory agenda. She is a preeminent authority on transportation trust funds and transportation funding issues. She earned a bachelor’s in political science and a master's in public affairs—both from Indiana University.