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Blog Entries from July 2009

NIST Releases Final Version of New Cybersecurity Recommendations for Government

NIST logo.

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its final version of a publication which represents a major step toward building a unified information security framework for the entire federal government. Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations was released in draft form for public review in June. “The aim is to provide greater protection for federal information systems against cyber attacks,” said Ron Ross, of NIST’s computer security division. (More)

Commerce Secretary Locke Statement on 2nd Quarter GDP Numbers

Photo of Secretary Locke.

File Photo

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released data on GDP in the second quarter along with comprehensive revisions to the historical GDP data. Real GDP declined 1.0 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, better than the private-sector expected drop of 1.5 percent. This decline is noticeably less than the larger decreases of 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009. (More)

Secretary Locke Testifies Before Senate Committee to Discuss National Climate Change Policy

Secretary Locke with Director Holdren in background. Click for larger image.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss the Department’s contributions to national climate policy. Joined by Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Locke testified at a full committee hearing on “Climate Services: Solutions from Commerce to Communities.” The Department of Commerce is a leader in climate change research and monitoring, providing critical data and services to all levels of government and the private sector and helping companies and communities understand and adapt to climate change.

Census Bureau: U.S. Business Employers Add 100,000 Establishments in 2007

U.S. Census Bureau seal.

United States businesses with employees added more than 100,000 establishments in 2007, bringing the total number to 7.7 million and adding more than 650,000 employees to their payrolls. Overall, employees of businesses in the United States earned more than $5 trillion in annual payroll in 2007, up from $4.8 trillion in 2006. These economic numbers come from County Business Patterns: 2007, an annual report that contains data covering establishments with paid employees at the national and state levels, and in more than 3,100 counties. (More)

NOAA Reports GOES-14 Spacecraft Shows First Image

The spacecraft is transported to the launch site on large truck beds. Click for larger image.

NASA Photo

NOAA’s newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) took its first full-disc visible image on July 27 at 2 p.m. EDT. GOES-14 joins three other operational NOAA GOES spacecraft that help the agency’s forecasters track life-threatening weather and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. The satellites continuously provide observations of 60 percent of the Earth including the continental U.S., providing weather monitoring and forecast operations as well as a continuous and reliable stream of environmental information and severe weather Warnings. (More Photos and NASA Video of Launch)

NIST: 'Microfluidic Palette' May Paint Clearer Picture of Biological Processes

Image of microfluidic palette. Click for larger image.

Researchers at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created an innovative device called the “microfluidic palette” to produce multiple, steady-state chemical gradients—gradual changes in concentration across an area—in a miniature chamber about the diameter of a pinhead. The tool can be used to study the complex biological mechanisms in cells responsible for cancer metastasis, wound healing, biofilm formation and other fluid-related processes. (More)

Under Secretary Blank Statement on June 2009 Residential Sales Numbers

Portrait of Under Secretary Blank.

U.S. Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank issued the following statement on the release of June 2009 U.S. residential sales by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales of new one-family houses rose 11.0 percent in June, well above the rise of 2.3 percent expected by private-sector analysts. “The evidence is clear that home buyers are taking advantage of Recovery Act tax incentives, declines in home prices and relatively low mortgage rates,” Under Secretary Blank said. (More) (June Residential Sales Release)

NOAA: Smaller Than Expected, But Severe, Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico

Image of mouth of Mississippi River showing nutrient run-off. Click for animated vizualization.

Commerce’s NOAA-supported scientists, led by Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D. from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, found the size of this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone to be smaller than forecasted, measuring 3,000 square miles. However, the dead zone, which is usually limited to water just above the sea floor, was severe where it did occur, extending closer to the water surface than in most years. Earlier this summer, NOAA-sponsored forecast models predicted a larger than normal dead zone area of between 7,450–8,456 square miles. (More) (Graphic of Dead Zone)(NOAA Visualization)

Secretary Locke Reminds Consumers to Apply for Converter Box Coupons Before July 31st Deadline

DTV Converter Box Coupon Program logo. Click to go to DTV Converter Box Coupon Program Website.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke today reminds Americans who are still not digital television-ready that they have one more week to request converter box coupons before the July 31st deadline. "If you have lost your television programming since the switch to digital, help is still available," Secretary Locke said. “Consumers who used to rely on over-the-air television have until July 31, just one week from today, to apply for a $40 converter box coupon so they can once again receive the news and emergency information they need." (More)

Secretary Locke Visits Philadelphia for Conversation on Future of Urban and Metropolitan America

Image of Mayor Nutter, Secretary Locke and reporter with microphone in store. Click for larger image.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Philadelphia today to kick off the Obama Administration’s National Conversation on Urban and Metropolitan America. This was the first stop in a nationwide tour that will help develop the President’s new urban agenda. Locke was joined by Adolfo Carrion, Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims for a town hall discussion with local experts about the development of Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Initiative and efforts to encourage supermarket development in urban areas.

Secretary Locke: 'Trade is Good for America, Good for the Global Marketplace'

Photo of Locke on podium.

File Photo

In remarks to the Washington International Trade Association, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke laid out his prescriptions for how the department can help increase and improve American trade and exports. “The trade priorities I’ve discussed tonight—visa reform, export controls review, intellectual property protection, intergovernmental cooperation and trade promotion—will help U.S. companies increase exports, while setting the country on a path to long-term, sustainable growth that creates jobs here at home.” (More)

Locke Statement on President Obama's Intent to Nominate Hightower as Commerce Deputy Secretary

Department of Commerce seal.

President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Dennis Hightower, an experienced management professional with more than 30 years of experience, as the new Deputy Secretary at the Department of Commerce. “Dennis is a proven leader with management skills honed through years of real world experience,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “I have tasked him to make this department a leader among cabinet agencies in efficiency and reform.” Secretary Locke recommended Hightower to the President after an intensive search process. (More) (White House press release)

Dr. Robert Groves Sworn In as New Census Director in Public Ceremony

Secretary Locke, Mrs. Groves and Groves at swearing in.

Robert M. Groves, Ph.D., was sworn in as the 23rd Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in a public ceremony at Census Bureau Headquarters. Groves, a highly respected expert in the field of survey methodology, takes the helm of the agency at a critical time as it makes final preparations for the 2010 Census. In his remarks, Locke said, "Directing the 2010 Census demanded someone with outstanding academic credentials and management skills. Bob Groves clearly fits the bill." Also present for the event were Dr. Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, and seven former Census Directors. (More) (Groves Bio)

Secretary Locke Co-Chairs U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum

Image of Locke and participants seated at table. Click for larger image.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman co-chaired the fourth U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum. Locke and Froman co-chaired the meeting with Brazilian Presidential Chief of Staff Minister Dilma Rousseff and Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Miguel Jorge. The Forum, made up of 20 CEOs from the two countries, meets twice a year to make recommendations on ways to strengthen the U.S.-Brazil economic relationship. Pictured here are Locke and participants in the morning session Tuesday.

NIST Awards $55.5 Million in Grants for New University Research Facilities

NIST logo.

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced that it was awarding a total of over $55 million in grants to four universities for the construction of new scientific research facilities. The grants, which were funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, are contributing to four major construction projects to build state-of-the-art laboratory facilities devoted to a broad range of research topics, including the study of improved construction techniques to reduce losses from hurricanes, improved technologies for aquaculture, better methods and information to help preserve and maintain marine ecosystems, and advanced physics research in areas such as biophysics and nanoengineering. (More)

Census Bureau: Voter Turnout Increases by 5 Million in 2008 Presidential Election

Census Bureau seal.

About 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004, according to a new table package released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase included about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained statistically unchanged. Additionally, voters 18 to 24 were the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in turnout, reaching 49 percent in 2008 compared with 47 percent in 2004. (More)

Secretary Locke Praises Showcase for American Companies in China

Secretary Locke is pictured with other officials with shovels at groundbreaking ceremony. Click for larger image.

Secretary Gary Locke joins Chinese and American counterterparts to break ground at the USA Pavilion, which will serve as a model showcase for American innovation at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. “The United States and China have many areas of friendship and cooperation, and I believe that our USA Pavilion will provide many insights into American life, culture and our people that will intrigue the millions of Chinese visitors expected at the Expo,” Locke said. (Remarks)

Statement From Undersecretary Blank on Housing Permits and Starts for June 2009

Department of Commerce seal.

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today reported that permits to build privately-owned new housing units rose 8.7 percent in June 2009, well above the expectation for a 1.9-percent rise. Housing starts rose 3.6 percent, better than the expectation of no change for the month. Today’s stronger numbers reflect an increasing confidence—the percent of households who recognize that this is a good time to buy a house has risen over the last year. While the economic environment remains challenging, continued Recovery Act investment into the economy should encourage growth in a range of industries including the housing sector. (Statement)

NOAA: Global Ocean Surface Temperature Warmest on Record for June

Image of Earth featuring oceans. Click for larger image.

The world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for June, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., a bureau of the Department of Commerce. Additionally, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was the second-warmest on record. The global records began in 1880. (More) (National Climatic Data Center)

NIST's LIDAR May Offer Peerless Precision in Remote Measurements

Image of Earth, Mars, the Moon and  and the sun. Click for video.

By combining the best of two different distance measurement approaches with a super-accurate technology called an optical frequency comb, researchers at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a laser ranging system that can pinpoint multiple objects with nanometer precision over distances up to 100 kilometers. The novel LIDAR (“light detection and ranging”) system could have applications from precision manufacturing lines on Earth to maintaining networks of satellites in perfect formation, creating a giant space-based platform to search for new planets. (More) (Video)

USPTO Opens Exhibit of Michael Jackson's Patent and Trademarks

Image of poster at exhibit showing figures in Jackson's shows leaning at an angle "defying gravity." Click for larger image.

Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum are presenting a special exhibit featuring material from Michael Jackson’s patent and trademark applications. Mr. Jackson is the co-inventor of a “system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface.” Included in the patent application is an original sample of Michael Joseph Jackson’s signature and drawings of his invention. (More)

Secretary Locke Meets with Chinese Leaders in Beijing

Pictured seated are Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and State Councilor Liu Yangdong at the Great Hall of the People. Click for larger picture.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with China’s Minister of Commerce Chen Deming in Beijing today. It was the second meeting between Minister Chen and Secretary Locke. They had a productive dialogue about shared priorities and issues of mutual concern, agreeing on the importance of building a positive and cooperative relationship that strengthens trade and creates jobs in the United States and China. Pictured here are Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and State Councilor Liu Yangdong at the Great Hall of the People. Locke also addressed the American Chamber of Commerce and U.S. China Business Council in Beijing. (More) (Remarks)

Locke Announces St. Louis Native to Lead MBDA

File photo of David Hinson smiling.

File Photo

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced the appointment of David Hinson, a St. Louis native with more than 20 years of business experience, as the new administrator of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). This agency is the only federal agency created specifically to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in the United States.“The success of minority-owned businesses is essential to our economic recovery, and I’m counting on David to maximize their opportunities,” Locke said. (More)

Obama Administration Announces CEOs for U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum

Commerce seal.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman today announced the U.S. private sector participants of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum. The fourth meeting of the Forum will be held in Washington, D.C., July 20-21, 2009. Locke and Froman will co-chair the meeting with Brazilian Presidential Chief of Staff Minister Dilma Rousseff, and Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Miguel Jorge.The Forum, made up of 20 CEOs from the United States and Brazil, meets twice a year to make recommendations to the two governments on ways to strengthen the U.S.-Brazil economic relationship. (More)

NOAA Scientists Find Tsunami "Shadow" Visible from Space

Ground track of satellite image, showing progress of tsunami at hourly intervals. Click for larger image.

For the first time, Scientists from Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have demonstrated that tsunamis in the open ocean can change sea surface texture in a way that can be measured by satellite-borne radars. The finding could one day help save lives through improved detection and forecasting of tsunami intensity and direction at the ocean surface.“We’ve found that roughness of the surface water provides a good measure of the true strength of the tsunami along its entire leading edge. This is the first time that we can see tsunami propagation in this way across the open ocean,” said lead author Oleg Godin. (More)

Blank Statement on June 2009 Retail Sales Numbers

Blank seen at confirmation table.

File Photo

U.S. Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank issued the following statement on the release of June 2009 U.S. retail and food services sales by the Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau. Today's report showed that retail sales rose 0.6 percent in June, somewhat more than the private sector expectation. (More)

Dr. Robert Groves Confirmed as Census Director

File photo of Robert Groves.

File Photo

The United States Senate confirmed Dr. Robert Groves as the new director of the U.S. Census Bureau, on a strong bipartisan voice vote. Groves, a highly respected expert in the field of survey methodology, takes the helm of the agency at a critical time as it makes final preparations for the 2010 Census. “The 2010 Census faces significant challenges and Dr. Groves will help us meet those challenges,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “He is a respected social scientist, highly regarded by the professional statisticians, geographers, mathematicians and demographers who work at the Census Bureau. He will run the agency with the integrity and independence demanded by the Constitution, and expected by the American people.” (More)

Secretaries Locke and Chu to Travel to China, Focus on Clean Energy Jobs, Business and Technology

Secretaries Locke and Chu at White House press conference.

File Photo

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will travel to China on Tuesday, July 14. During their four-day visit, the two secretaries will highlight the tremendous potential for mutually beneficial relationships in the clean energy sector. “Today, we are more interdependent with China than at any point in the last 30 years,” Locke said. “The relationship between our two countries is of critical importance, and while great progress has been made in our cooperation on economic, trade and global terrorism fronts, there's much more to do.”

Secretary Locke Statement on Trade Numbers

Photo of Secretary Locke.

File Photo

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued the following statement on the release of the May 2009 U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services report by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Today’s report showed that U.S. exports increased by 1.6 percent to $123.3 billion since April 2009. Imports decreased 0.6 percent to $149.3 billion. The goods and services trade deficit has fallen to the lowest level in this decade. Overall, the trade deficit declined by 9.8 percent during the month. (More) (Fact Sheet)

El Niño Arrives: Expected to Persist Through Winter 2009-2010

Image of sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Eastern Pacific, as of July 1. Click for larger image.

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the arrival of El Niño, a climate phenomenon with a significant influence on global weather, ocean conditions and marine fisheries. El Niño, the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters, occurs on average every two to five years and typically lasts about 12 months. NOAA expects this El Niño to continue developing during the next several months, with further strengthening possible. The event is expected to last through winter 2009-2010. (More) (Animation)

NOAA and University of California Sign Ground Lease for New Fisheries Center

Artist's rendering of campus and proposed buildings. Click for larger image.

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of California have signed a 55-year ground lease clearing the way for construction next year of a new federal laboratory and office center at the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus in La Jolla. “This is a key step as we prepare for construction of a world-class research facility where hundreds of federal and university scientists will investigate the entire ecosystem of fish and marine mammals off the California coast and beyond,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. (More)

Census Bureau Opens 2010 Census Data Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Ind.

Census logo. Click to go to Census 2010 Web site.

The Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau opened a data processing center in Jeffersonville, Ind., which will process 58 million 2010 Census forms completed by households in 10 states. The new facility will be at the Census Bureau’s National Processing Center (NPC) and will employ approximately 1,350 people. Census officials were joined by Jeffersonville Mayor Thomas Galligan and other dignitaries at the opening of the data processing center. (More) (Census 2010)

Secretary Locke Addresses Moscow U.S.-Russia Business Summit, Named Co-Chair of New Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group

President Obama, President Medvedev, Secretary Locke and Russian Minister Nabiullina seen on stage. Click for larger image.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks at a U.S.-Russia Business Summit in Moscow where CEOs and business leaders from both countries presented recommendations to expand bilateral commercial cooperation. The Secretary was joined by Russian Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina. Presidents Obama and Medvedev also addressed the summit. On Monday, the Presidents announced that Locke and Nabiullina would co-chair the Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group as part of the newly formed U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission between the two countries. (Remarks)

Physicists Find Way to Control Individual Bits in Quantum Computers

Optical lattices use lasers to separate rubidium atoms (red) for use as information “bits” in neutral-atom quantum processors -- prototype devices which designers are trying to develop into full-fledged quantum computers. NIST scientists have managed to isolate and control pairs of the rubidium atoms with polarized light, an advance that may bring quantum computing a step closer to reality. Click for larger image.

Physicists at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have overcome a hurdle in quantum computer development, having devised a viable way to manipulate a single “bit” in a quantum processor without disturbing the information stored in its neighbors. The approach, which makes novel use of polarized light to create “effective” magnetic fields, could bring the long-sought computers a step closer to reality. A great challenge in creating a working quantum computer is maintaining control over the carriers of information, the “switches” in a quantum processor while isolating them from the environment. (More)

The Fourth of July 2009: Census Bureau National Holiday Facts and Figures

Image of U.S. flag over main entrance of the Commerce Department. Click for larger image.

U.S. flag, Department of Commerce

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the nation. In 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. This year, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau estimate is 307 million. For fascinating figures on Fourth fireworks, flags, fanfares, firings (grills) and more, see the Bureau’s Facts for Features. (More Facts for Features) (U.S. Population Clock)

Secretary Locke Announces Efforts to Support Minority Business Access to Recovery Act Opportunities

MBDA lgo. Click to go to MBDA Web site.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced significant efforts by the department to support access for minority-owned businesses to Recovery Act opportunities. Locke, along with Commerce senior advisor Rick Wade, held a conference call with reporters today to discuss the department’s commitment to improving outreach and education. “President Obama is committed to ensuring that minority businesses are aware of and have access to federal contracts and funding opportunities,” Locke said. “The success of minority-owned businesses is vital to our economic recovery, and we’re working hard to make sure they have access to these important federal opportunities.” (More) ( (

Secretary Locke to Accompany President Obama to Russia

File photo portrait of Secretary Locke.

File Photo

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will travel to Moscow, July 6-8, in conjunction with the Presidential Summit Meeting between Presidents Obama and Medvedev. Locke will represent the administration at a private sector Business Summit where U.S. and Russian business leaders will present recommendations to expand bilateral commercial cooperation. This will be Locke’s first overseas trip as Secretary of Commerce. While in Moscow, he will meet with the Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina to discuss U.S.-Russian economic and commercial relations and Russia’s integration into the global economy. (More)

Secretary Locke, Vice President Biden Launch Initiative to Bring Broadband, Jobs to More Americans

Biden, Vilsack and Locke on stage with flags in background. Click for larger image.

White House Photo

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke joined Vice President Joe Biden to announce the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America. This is the first round of Recovery Act funding aimed at expanding broadband access to help bridge the technological divide and create jobs building out Internet infrastructure. Locke and Biden were joined today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper. (More) (Remarks) (Vice President’s Statement)

NTIA Unveils Program to Help States Map Internet Infrastructure

NTIA logo.

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced details of a grant program to fund collection of state-level broadband data, as well as state-wide broadband mapping and planning, which will assist NTIA in creating a national broadband map. This initiative will provide consumers with better information on the broadband services available to them and inform efforts to increase broadband availability nationwide. “This program satisfies Congress’ mandate that we collect comprehensive information on broadband in America,” said NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. (More)