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Rebecca Blank, Remarks on Release of Department of Commerce Fiscal Year 2012 Budget

Monday, February 14, 2011

Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks on Release of Department of Commerce Fiscal Year 2012 Budget

Good afternoon, everyone; thank you for joining us. I’m Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary at the Department of Commerce.

I want to start by making a few global comments about this year’s proposed budget, and then I’ll get into some Commerce Department highlights before taking your questions.

The FY 2012 budget President Obama announced earlier this morning is a document filled with difficult choices. But those difficult choices – many of them cuts to programs that we might like to continue under normal economic conditions – allow us to make crucial investments that will help America out-educate, out-innovate and out-build our economic competitors.

It’s a budget that recognizes that the most important contest is not between Democrats and Republicans but between the U.S. and countries around the world that will be competing for the jobs and the industries of the future.

The president’s budget reduces non-security, discretionary spending to its lowest percentage of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was in office.

And while it’s true that both parties understand the necessity of cutting spending, the president’s budget also invests in what will make America stronger.

The difference between cuts that are responsible and ones that are reckless is the difference between a future where our children are in a strong position to compete for the jobs of the future and one where they are not.

The Commerce Department’s $8.8 billion FY 2012 discretionary budget reflects the two paramount priorities outlined by the President: reducing spending and making targeted investments that will help America win the future. It anticipates spending $242 million less than last year’s budget, while also making important investments in innovation that will spark private sector job growth and initiatives that will help connect U.S. companies with the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside our borders.

Before I get to the programs the budget funds, I want to walk through a few of the significant cuts we’re making this year.

In part, the effort to find savings required looking for areas where we could make government work more efficiently.  In the 2012 budget, that means eliminating the Economic Development Administration’s Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms program, which will save $15.8 million. Additionally, we are not requesting money in 2012 for Trade Adjustment Assistance for Communities.

That should not, however, be read as a retreat on this administration’s commitment to help workers, farmers, firms and communities impacted by trade. 

We’re instead ramping up the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which can get money out more quickly and with far lower overhead costs, meaning more help for the communities that need it.

We will increase Economic Adjustment Assistance in part by cutting EDA’s 21st Century Innovation Infrastructure program – resulting in a savings of $37.3 million. 

Now, I want to quickly walk through some additional areas of savings. We will cut:

  • $20 million by restructuring the International Trade Administration to focus on high-priority markets and industries. This means eliminating a number of foreign posts, among other cost savings;  
  • $43 million by eliminating the Emergency Steel Guaranteed Loan Program;
  • More than $2 million by reducing the reliance of the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program on federal funding and shifting it to a private sector footing, and;
  • $20 million by eliminating the Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction Program.

In addition to the program cuts mentioned above, we’re also reforming the way Commerce works – doing more, while spending less. That meant digging into how the department handles acquisitions and logistics, such as shipping, to find places where we can leverage buying power, tightening the filling of vacancies to the highest priority positions and better using information technologies. All told, the proposed 2012 budget finds more than $140 million in administrative savings.

At the same time the 2012 budget makes important cuts, it also reflects this administration’s commitment to investing in areas that will help create jobs and better position America in an increasingly competitive global economic environment.

Investments include:

  • $40 million for EDA’s Regional Innovation Program, which will support a nationwide competition to encourage 20 communities to develop and implement regional strategic plans.
  • $20 million for the Wireless Innovation Fund, which will allow EDA to help distressed communities expand or cultivate new innovation-based infrastructure that will improve regional competitiveness;
  • $78.5 million for National Export Initiative activities that will help more U.S. businesses sell their products and services in markets around the world; and,
  • Funding to support NOAA’s satellite program, which helps provide accurate weather forecasts to business and consumers, as well as providing crucial services such as hurricane tracking.


Additionally, the 2012 budget supports the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation by investing over $100 million above the FY 2010 enacted level in the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s core laboratories and science programs … keeping us on the path to doubling federal investments in basic research.

Priorities receiving a boost in the 2012 budget include NIST programs to expand the research and development of …

  • Nanotechnology;
  • 21st Century Manufacturing, and;
  • Interoperability standards of emerging technologies, among other priorities.

Three final items: The FY 2012 budget includes a $7 billion line item funded from the auction of spectrum, which will fund the creation of a nationwide, interoperable wireless public safety network – a goal of President Obama’s and a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. NTIA will administer this initiative.

And the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office continues to request full access to the fees they collect, which would result in $2.7 billion in additional fee-based funding.

Finally, the Commerce Department’s FY 2012 proposal includes a budget-neutral reorganization to establish a climate service in NOAA.

Ultimately, this budget is a roadmap. It balances the necessity of responsible cuts that rein in spending – putting America on a sustainable fiscal path – with crucial investments in foundational research and development on technologies that will lead to private sector job creation and help America compete in and win the future.

I’d now be happy to answer any questions, and as Kevin mentioned, I’m joined by Bill and David. . . .