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Blog Entries from June 2011

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

The Innovation Advisory Board held its first meeting today at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.  Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank led the meeting and Secretary Gary Locke welcomed and thanked the new board members for their service. The 15-member board will guide a study of U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation to help inform national policies at the heart of U.S. job creation and global competitiveness. 

In the State of the Union, President Obama launched a commitment to winning the future by out innovating the rest of the world. The board will build upon the early work and findings of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Startup America to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce as it produces a report by January 2012 assessing America's capacity for innovation and our global economic competitiveness. The study will analyze all facets of the economy impacted by national policy, including trade and exports, education, research and development, immigration, technology commercialization, intellectual property and tax policy.   

The Innovation Advisory Board was established by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January of this year. See list of board members. See a statement on today’s inaugural meeting from Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Blank.

Locke and Duncan Discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform with Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participated in a conference call today to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The pair made the case for why effective immigration reform is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and why the involvement of the business community is crucial to move this important priority forward. Approximately 175 people from at least 30 states joined the call, including 80 CEOs and representatives from businesses, local and state chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations. 

Locke discussed how comprehensive reform will help create jobs in the U.S. and stressed the need to build an immigration system that will attract the brightest, most highly-skilled people from around the world, so their skills, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit can help start new businesses, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.  Locke specifically highlighted two proposed approaches for reforming the current visa system: encouraging top foreign talents who receive a graduate degree in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to remain in the U.S. after they graduate by allowing them to acquire legal permanent residence; and issuing two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs whose start-up companies receive investment from a U.S. investor, and giving these entrepreneurs permanent residence if their companies create full-time jobs in the U.S. within those two years.  Locke urged members of the Chamber to help make the case in their communities that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative critical to America’s future economic competitiveness. 

Locke asked participants on the call to add their voice to the national conversation by visiting and hosting a conversation in their community about why we need to fix the broken immigration system. 

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Emphasizes Success of U.S.-Canada Trade

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Conversing with Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank is in Ottawa, Canada today and gave remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce.   She discussed U.S.–Canada commercial relations and how the free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both countries.  She also highlighted the benefits of creating jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border.

Increasing trade between the two countries will help reach President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports in 5 years.  To reach that goal, Blank emphasized that 2011 needs to be another banner year for U.S.-Canada trade.  In 2010, U.S. exports to Canada reached $248.8 billion.

In fact, the U.S.–Canada economic relationship is unparalleled in the world.  We are each others’ largest trading partners.

Secretary Locke Highlights Management, Performance Reforms at the Department of Commerce

Locke gesturing on podium

Reforms have helped save millions, streamlined the way in which the Department is run

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks today at an event hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, titled Performance Under Pressure: Getting the Most Out of Every Taxpayer Dollar. At the event, Locke catalogued aggressive, money-saving management reforms that have been initiated at the Commerce Department during his tenure. Joining Locke at the event was Jeff Zients, Deputy Director for Management and Chief Performance Officer for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Locke discussed the importance of smart management, and honing in on strategic priorities in a difficult budget environment. For Commerce, this has meant focusing on key priorities that will help American businesses become more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. To drive the priorities, Locke instituted a data-driven management approach, which helps ensure accountability and oversight. He pioneered the approach for the public sector as Washington State governor.

Commerce’s management reforms have helped identify more than $142 million in 2012 administrative savings alone, of which $39 million are slated to be reinvested by bureaus to strengthen critical programs.

By stressing the critical importance of smart management, especially during difficult budget times, Locke has helped Commerce better serve the American people and positioned Commerce employees for success. Smart and efficient management is essential to ensure that the U.S. successfully implements the Obama administration initiatives that will help the country out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build its economic competitors to win the future.

IT Reform at the U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Szykman

Guest blog by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Commerce

The IT community at the U.S. Department of Commerce has been hard at work implementing Federal IT Reform as outlined by U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra last December. After only six months, our list of accomplishments is impressive, but there is still much to be done to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. The plan represents not just a change in strategy, but a change in thinking among the technology leaders in the administration and at the Commerce Department. Moving toward a leaner, cloud-driven and collaborative approach is a significant shift in philosophy, and we are aggressively incorporating these ideas into our strategic IT planning process. To date, we have closed six Commerce data centers, with a total of nine scheduled to be closed by the end of the year. Consolidating data centers will significantly lower the agency’s carbon footprint, save us millions of dollars each year, and allow for more effective use of resources as we streamline our infrastructure to become more efficient. Every major change presents both challenges and opportunities, and we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to enhance the security of the department’s IT operations while also improving our performance. During the 2010 Census, cloud computing enabled us to handle a once-in-a-decade peak in demand (over five million hits per week) for Census information without having to add permanent capacity. By harnessing the power of the cloud, we were able to offer a compelling set of blogs, videos and interactive tools that encouraged participation in the Census. With several more projects in the pipeline, we continue to pursue the goal of thinking “Cloud First” when it comes to IT.