While in Boulder, Colorado, as part of her nationwide listening tour, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today met with employees from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Approximately 1,600 department staff and affiliates are located at the Boulder facility, and the Commerce Boulder Laboratories is the largest department facility outside Washington, DC.
Secretary Pritzker first held a town hall with approximately 350 employees from the three agencies as part of her commitment to engage with and hear directly from all Commerce employees about their work. The secretary emphasized how their work is crucial to creating a better quality of life for Americans and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. She also asked employees for their input in the department’s ongoing efforts to protect, promote and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.
While on a tour of NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), the secretary learned how its scientists are working to develop the best technologies that can be used in the creation of the first nationwide public safety broadband network, which will enable first responders to better communicate during emergencies and save lives. ITS is recognized as one of the world’s leading labs for telecommunication research. ITS provides technical input on spectrum management, analysis and resolution of telecommunications problems within federal agencies, and technical assistance to the private sector.
Secretary Pritzker also visited NIST Boulder, which focuses on measurements and research for innovation in nanotechnology, electronics, biosciences, aerospace, defense, energy and homeland security. She saw the NIST-F1 atomic clock, America’s official standard for time, which underpins billions of dollars in financial transactions each day. The secretary also learned about JILA, an institute that NIST Boulder and the University of Colorado jointly operate, which is a world leader in atomic, molecular, and precision measurement. JILA is also home to two NIST Nobel laureates, and the secretary had the opportunity to meet and congratulate Dr. David Wineland, a NIST researcher who shared last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for work that could lead to faster computers and more precise clocks.
The tour concluded at NOAA’s David Skaggs Research Center, where the secretary visited the one-of-a-kind Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). Scientists and space weather forecasters at SWPC monitor the sun 24/7, looking for sunspot groups that can spew forth huge explosions from the sun that can send radiation storms hurtling toward Earth. One type of solar storm can impact power grids, GPS signals, and satellites. The forecasters also work with emergency managers to ensure that businesses in key sectors of the U.S. economy, including energy, communications and navigation, are aware of potentially damaging solar storms and can take mitigation measures. NOAA scientists and National Weather Service forecasters also had the opportunity to show Secretary Pritzker how its research leads to a better understanding of Earth’s complex systems.