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Blog Entries from March 2012

Building America’s Future: Smart Investments in Advanced Manufacturing

From the front row, Secretary Bryson watches President Obama at the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Manufacturing Plant

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary John Bryson

I had the opportunity today to join President Obama on a visit to the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe facility in Prince George’s County, Virginia. This facility manufactures components of some of the company’s most advanced airplane engines.  The company announced that it is planning to add 140 new jobs at Crosspointe and more than 100 additional jobs in Indiana manufacturing components for aircraft wings. 

As I have said and as the President said today, we are fully committed to helping U.S. businesses build things here and sell them everywhere.  The Crosspointe facility is an important example of how we are doing just that, and it was remarkable to have the opportunity to see these efforts in action.

Crosspointe received a $4 million investment from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help establish the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM).  Later this summer, the CCAM, an applied research center developed by eight companies, the state of Virginia, and three leading state universities, will open its doors.  This will help bridge the gap from research to product development while supporting the skills that workers need to get good jobs in advanced manufacturing.  In addition, CCAM will form linkages to local community colleges to promote workforce training and high-skilled employment.  The project is expected to create 128 jobs, while at the same time strengthening advanced manufacturing in the immediate area, and generating $22 million in private investment.

Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Highlights Administration’s Gender Equality Efforts on Trip to Switzerland

Blank speaking from podium

Guest blog post by Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

It is tradition in March to celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the changing role of women in society and their social, economic and political achievements. From the ballot box to the boardroom, today’s American women have paved the way for future generations by overcoming obstacles on their path to equality and empowerment.

It was with this message that President Obama commemorated March Women’s History Month last week, saying, “We cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.”

The Obama administration is dedicated to helping blaze this trail. This week, I had the opportunity to speak about the administration’s work to support women–and particularly the evolving economic role of women in American society–during a visit to Bern, Switzerland.

National Consumer Protection Week: Spotlight on Fighting Botnets

President Obama declared March 4-10, 2012 as National Consumer Protection Week, building on a coordinated effort that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. The Commerce Department is using this occasion to showcase the efforts of our Internet Policy Task Force, which is leveraging the expertise of several Commerce bureaus that are aimed at ensuring continued innovation in the Internet economy and preserving consumer trust in Internet commerce and online interactions. In particular, the Task Force continues to move forward in our work to promote new efforts that will lead to improved Internet privacy protection and better security for consumers online.

In September, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, released Request for Information (RFI) to focus on the growing concern around a specific Internet security risk related to "botnets."

While security risks on the Internet continue to exist in many areas, one increasingly exploited threat is the global rise of botnets. A botnet infection can lead to the monitoring of a consumer's personal information and communication, and exploitation of that consumer's computing power and Internet access. Researchers suggest an average of about 4 million new botnet infections occur every month.

Working Locally to Boost Exports Nationally

Under Secretary Sanchez at the Brookings Institute (Photo Credit: Paul Morigi)

Guest blog post by Francisco Sanchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

America is made up of different communities — each with its own character, challenges and opportunities.  Regional leaders have a unique view of these issues and bring to the table incredible insight into their respective regions.  That’s why the International Trade Administration (ITA) is firmly committed to working with these local leaders to utilize their insight, and ultimately help more American businesses expand into overseas markets.

This is important work because exporting supports American jobs, provides new opportunities for businesses, and makes significant contributions to the growth of the American economy. 

In recognition of these positive economic benefits, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010 with the goal of doubling U.S. exports.  On the eve of the NEI’s two-year anniversary — officially on March 12 — I’m proud to say that we are on track to meet this goal.  Last year, there were a record $2.1 trillion in exports.  Plus, exports comprised nearly 14% of U.S. GDP — another record.

Progress has been made, and we are determined to keep it going.  Key to this work is our partnerships with local and regional partners.  While ITA has a talented and dedicated staff doing great work in 108 offices throughout the nation, we recognize that we can have an even greater reach through partnership.

Case in point: Our work with the Brookings Institution.

Today, Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program released a report called “Export Nation 2012: How US Metropolitan Areas Are Driving National Growth.”  

Obama Administration Releases New $15 million Federal Funding Opportunity to Strengthen Rural Economies and Create Jobs

EDA Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Logo

The Obama Administration today announced a $15 million multi-agency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge to spur job creation and economic growth in distressed rural communities. This competition, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), was designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council.

The Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge is expected to give out approximately 20 awards, depending on the number of eligible applications. To be eligible for an award, projects must benefit rural communities, but the applicant is not required to be located in a rural area. Nonprofits, higher education institutions, tribes and state and local governments can collaborate to apply for funding. Although businesses are not eligible to apply directly, applicants can also partner with the private sector on implementation.

Prospective applicants should register for a webinar on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT. Read the guidelines for submissions and note the deadline for applications is May 9, 2012. The complete FFO is available on grants.gov.

In addition to the four funding partners the initiative is supported by nine other Federal agencies: Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership; Denali Commission; U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration; U.S. Department of Energy; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Small Business Administration.

Secretary Bryson Meets with Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee

Nanofabrication facility at NIST where manufacturers come to study new ways to make advanced computer chips, nanoscale batteries, and other high-tech products.  Photo credit:  Photo by Kristen Dill

Yesterday, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson delivered remarks at a meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee. At yesterday’s meeting, held at the White House, the Steering Committee discussed recommendations targeting issues in manufacturing, focusing on technology development, policy, education and workforce development, and shared facilities and infrastructure.

AMP is a collaboration between industry, academia and government leaders to accelerate the development of the U.S. advanced manufacturing sector and to shape the administration’s Advanced Manufacturing Strategy. AMP is guided by a Steering Committee, which is co-chaired by Andrew Liveris, President, Chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, and Susan Hockfield, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their final report will be reviewed by PCAST, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, in April. Though AMP is still at work on the recommendations, several were prioritized for early action and implementation by Secretary Bryson.

NOAA Issues Severe Weather Outlook Three Days Ahead of Tragic Tornado Outbreak

NOAA Infographic of Severe Storm and Tornado Watches and Warnings, March 2, 2012

Each year, the United States experiences approximately 1,300 tornadoes. No state is invulnerable to the twisting, destructive winds that emanate from dark thunderstorms–and last week, Nature’s fury was focused on the central and southern states. 

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has in place a multifaceted tornado early warning system that includes general area outlooks days in advance and that gives individual cities and towns an average of 14 minutes warning before the potentially deadly tornadoes strike. Through a tremendous investment in research, observing systems and forecasting technology, NOAA’s National Weather Service issues more than 1,000 watches and nearly 30,000 warnings for severe storms and tornadoes each year. 

On February 29, 2012 that investment resulted in an outlook issued by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center a full three days ahead of the deadly outbreak. This outlook advised forecasters and the emergency management community that conditions would become favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. 

Advances in research and technology have increased the average warning lead time from only five minutes in the early 1990s to 14 minutes in 2010, thereby giving people and communities more time to seek shelter and reducing loss of life. But technology can only do so much; individuals also need to be prepared for disaster. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more. NOAA Weather Radio webpage  The Weather Channel, "Tornado Outbreak: As It Happened"

A Cross-Country Tour of American Ingenuity

USPTO Director Kappos engages with an audience member at an American Invents Act roadshow

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

As I flew into the Windy City today, I couldn’t help but marvel once again at the ideas and innovations that continue to shape our lives in a myriad of ways we take for granted—from the thousands of components and systems in the airplane that brought me here to chips in my smartphone—patented and trademarked technologies that seek protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office are constantly shaping the way we conduct our daily lives.

So in order to best communicate historic changes to our nation’s patent system, I hit the road. And ever since kicking off our America Invents Act (AIA) roadshows in Alexandria, Virginia on February 17, Deputy Director Terry Rea and I have been privileged to meet with some of the inventors and entrepreneurs behind our nation’s greatness—remarkable men and women in exciting hotbeds of innovation as diverse as Sunnyvale, California; Salt Lake City; Dallas; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Boston; and Chicago, with a final hearing to be held in San Diego on Friday.

The goal of these roadshows and hearings has been twofold: first, to explain the thinking behind the proposed rules for various provisions under the AIA—including new systems to challenge and evaluate patents, like supplemental examination, inter partes review, and post grant review. And second, to conduct a spirited and productive dialogue with our user community, whose input is vital to our mission of building a 21st century patent system. These efforts not only help advance President Obama’s strategy for unleashing American innovation, but it also supports Secretary Bryson’s commitment to leveraging intellectual property to boost American manufacturing, American exports and American jobs.

National Consumer Protection Week: Spotlight on Trusted Identities

National Consumer Protection Week logo

On Monday, President Obama declared March 4-10, 2012 as National Consumer Protection Week, building on a coordinated effort that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. The Commerce Department is using this occasion to showcase the efforts of our Internet Policy Task Force, which is leveraging the expertise of several Commerce bureaus that are aimed at ensuring continued innovation in the Internet economy and preserving consumer trust in Internet commerce and online interactions. In particular, the Task Force continues to move forward in our work to promote new efforts that will lead to improved Internet privacy protection and better security for consumers online.

One of the biggest problems facing consumers online is the heavy reliance on usernames and passwords.  Most Internet users are asked to create so many logins and passwords that they have to create coping mechanisms to keep track of them all, from using the same one as often as possible to writing them all down, none of which lead to strong security practices.  In fact, exploiting the inherent weaknesses of passwords was the top method attackers used last year, according to the 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report produced by Verizon.  

General Counsel Kerry Amplifies President Obama’s Consumer Privacy Protection Message in Europe

Cam Kerry seated at conference table in Berlin

Guest blog post by Cameron F. Kerry, Department of Commerce General Counsel

As co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy, I am proud to have worked on the Obama administration’s comprehensive blueprint to improve consumer privacy protections, the “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy” (PDF).  As the president stated in the report, “we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value.  It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

This is the message I took to European lawmakers, officials, and businesses about the administration’s privacy policy framework. Central to the framework is the tenet that consumers who have confidence their privacy is respected are more likely to express themselves online, engage in commercial activity, and form social connections on the Internet. Consumer trust is essential for a strong digital economy, which in turn provides a platform for greater innovation and job creation.