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Commerce Department Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank Named Acting Deputy Secretary

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The U.S. Commerce Department announced today that Rebecca Blank, currently the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, will become its Acting Deputy Secretary. In her new, temporary role, she will focus on matters of management and policy for the department’s 12 bureaus, functioning as Commerce’s chief operating officer.

Blank has served Commerce Secretary Gary Locke since June 2009 as his principal economic advisor and the head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), which oversees the two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Since being sworn in at ESA, Blank has played an important role overseeing a decennial Census operation that completed its work on time and under budget – netting $1.6 billion in 2010 savings. Within ESA, she has supervised a staff of economists and policy analysts who produce a wide variety of reports and forecasts that help develop and assess domestic and international policy.

“Rebecca Blank has been a tremendous asset to the Commerce Department in her role as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, and I look forward to working with her as she takes on new responsibilities as our Acting Deputy Secretary,” Locke said. “From her management experience at the University of Michigan to her service as a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, I have no doubt that she will help move the department forward in our efforts to create jobs and improve economic growth by helping American businesses become more innovative at home and more competitive abroad.”

Prior to arriving at Commerce, Blank was the Robert S. Kerr Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan (UM), where she implemented a major expansion of its faculty and programs. She also served as co-director of UM’s National Poverty Center. From 1997-1999, Blank was one of three members of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, participating in White House decision-making on a host of economic, social and regulatory policy issues. Before government service, she was a Professor of Economics at Northwestern University and Director of the Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.

Blank is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, and a Lifetime Associate at the National Academies of Science. She has served in a wide variety of advisory and professional roles, including service on the Boards of Directors of MDRC, the Economic Policy Institute and the Urban Institute. She was a long-time faculty affiliate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, vice president of the American Economic Association, and president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. In May, Blank was inducted as an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow by the American Academy of Political and Social Science in recognition of her distinguished scholarship in the social sciences.

A native of Missouri, Blank is a summa cum laude graduate in economics from the University of Minnesota and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dennis F. Hightower stepped down as Deputy Commerce Secretary in late August. The search for his successor is ongoing. Day-to-day management activities for the Economics and Statistics Administration will be taken over by Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Nancy Potok.