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Blog Entries from March 2013

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

NOAA transforms scientific data about our complex and ever-changing Earth into environmental information that touches every American, protecting their lives and livelihoods against natural hazards, informing their personal and business decisions and supporting wise management of natural resources in our coastal and marine environments. We operate the nation’s weather satellites, and our National Weather Service is the source of all your weather forecasts. Other NOAA units produce the Nation’s nautical charts, manage our marine fisheries and operate America’s underwater national parks, known as National Marine Sanctuaries. As Acting Administrator, I oversee the agency’s work to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to provide timely, reliable ‘environmental intelligence’ to inform sound decision-making by citizens, businesses and public officials, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

I was lucky to grow up in Southern California at a time when an adventurous young girl could safely roam the open hills and valleys nearby, whetting her appetite for the grander expeditions she hoped to make someday. I was also inspired by the daring feats of America’s first astronauts and the exotic adventures of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, which filled our TV screens and magazines regularly and reinforced just how exciting a life of exploration could be. It never bothered me that everyone I was watching was male. My brother and I were raised with the view that every person has unique talents and interests and should pursue them as they see fit, regardless of what someone else thinks is ‘right’ for girls or boys. This attitude, plus my parents’ unwavering trust and support, inoculated me against the peer pressure I encountered at school and with my neighborhood friends and helped me steer my own course.

A Chance to Comment on Commerce’s Report on Cybersecurity Incentives

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

As part of the Executive Order  signed by President Obama last month directing agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s power, water, and other critical systems, the Commerce Department is preparing a report on ways to incentivize companies and organizations to improve their cybersecurity.  To better understand what stakeholders –  such as companies, trade associations, academics and others – believe would best serve as incentives, the Department has released a series of questions to gather  public comments in a Notice of Inquiry published today.

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the strength of our nation’s critical infrastructure. The cyber threat to critical infrastructure is growing, and represents one of the most serious national security challenges that the United States must confront. As the President stated in the Executive Order, “repeated cyber intrusions into America’s critical infrastructure demonstrate a need for improved cybersecurity.”

As a first step toward protecting critical infrastructure, the Executive Order tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify the systems that could be affected by a cybersecurity incident which could in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.  Second, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop a framework consisting of a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. This Cybersecurity Framework will provide a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach to improving cybersecurity, which will help owners and operators of critical infrastructure identify, assess and mange cyber risk. Third, DHS will work with sector-specific agencies to develop the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Program to promote voluntary adoption of the Framework.

Spotlight on Commerce: Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Serving as Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Commerce has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in my career. The people with whom I have worked over the last three years are outstanding. The issues I have dealt with are interesting, challenging, and critical to the Department’s work. Most important, being Deputy General Counsel has presented a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my lifelong commitment to service. 

As Deputy General Counsel, my job is to provide legal advice to the various parts of this Department. However, my role, and the role of all of the attorneys within the Office of the General Counsel, goes well beyond simply providing legal advice to our clients. We work to make sure that the people of the Department do not simply get a review of the legal sufficiency of their work, but also a partner in their mission. That partnership between OGC and the rest of the Department has been a point of emphasis for me during my time at Commerce and is vital to the execution of the President’s vision for creating an America Build to Last. The creativity and dynamic engagement of OGC attorneys helps Commerce agencies execute their plans to build a 21st century America that has the tools, infrastructure, and expertise to thrive.  

Encouraging partnership between OGC and its clients is critical to fostering a ethos of service within OGC, and service–particularly of public service–is something I value highly and was a central tenant of my upbringing.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Having been born and raised in Takoma Park, Maryland, it could perhaps seem unsurprising that I ended up working for the federal government.  In fact, I made a very deliberate choice 26 years ago to dedicate my career to serving my country and I do not regret that decision to this day. 

As Director of the Office of Executive Resources, I support the Secretary in managing executive and senior professional employment throughout the Department of Commerce. I’ve helped to ensure alignment and cascading of Departmental and organizational goals with performance goals of the executive and senior professional cadre in order to enhance organizational and individual performance, accountability, and results. One of the most enjoyable and satisfying responsibilities of my position is working with the Office of White House Liaison to coordinate bringing new political appointees on our rolls. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to get to know some truly brilliant and accomplished individuals who have served our president and our nation, helping execute the administration’s agenda and the programs that help America compete in the global economy. 

While government service always seemed appealing, the field of human resources was not always part of the plan. I have had a lifelong interest in science. In elementary school, when given the choice of an elective course to take, I chose geology, finding myself the only girl in a classroom full of boys. In high school, I was one of only a few female students in the Chemistry Club. And at the risk of dating myself, this trend continued into college, where I was regularly one of a just a small number of women in labs. I was on track to enter what we now call a “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career field.

Spotlight on Commerce: Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Saunders, Associate Director for Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

In my 26-year career at the Department of Commerce, I’ve found that the most interesting things in life generally happen at the intersections. It’s the connections between people, places, and things where true forward progress is often made.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and have lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. I guess given my beginnings, it’s not surprising that I chose to study politics, economics, and public policy. What’s more surprising is that I’ve ended up using that knowledge to support the nation’s scientific infrastructure.

Some background helps explain the links that led me to my current position as the Associate Director of Management Resources, one of three deputies to NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

Building on the Strength of U.S.-Brazil Economic Relationship

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO

Last week Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and other events aimed at strengthening the economic and commercial ties between the two nations.

The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum was created in 2007 to bring private sector leaders from both countries together to develop joint recommendations on how to deepen our commercial ties, and to present those recommendations to the U.S. and Brazilian governments. The Forum has identified five areas as priorities: tax and trade issues; education and innovation; infrastructure; energy; and aviation.

Deputy Secretary Blank served as the U.S. Government’s co-chair for the CEO Forum along with Michael Froman, the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs at the White House.  They were joined by their Brazilian co-chairs, Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel and Presidential Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffman.  

The meeting was led by about 20 CEOs from both countries, whose priorities for improving the economic and commercial relationship between Brazil and the U.S. set the agenda for the meeting.  As one of the U.S. Government’s co-chairs, Deputy Secretary Blank gave an update to the members of the CEO Forum on the progress that the two governments made to implement the recommendations that the CEOs made at their previous meeting last year.  The CEOs then led the main discussion and came up with several new recommendations that will be formally released in the coming weeks, including:

  • Calling upon the governments to take advantage of the momentum from the recently-approved Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) to take on additional tax issues that could eventually pave the way for a Bilateral Tax Treaty.
  • Continuing to make progress on Brazil’s participation in the Global Entry Program, making it easier for Brazilians traveling to the United States on business to get through immigration at U.S. airports.
  • Continuing efforts to increase cooperation in the area of infrastructure and take advantage of the U.S. infrastructure trade mission, scheduled for May, to create opportunities for U.S. and Brazilian companies to partner on infrastructure improvements.
  • Continuing to cooperate on education and workforce development issues by supporting programs like President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative and Brazil’s “Scientific Mobility Program.”
  • Building upon the work of the Strategic Energy Dialogue and involve the private sector in energy infrastructure and policy discussions.
  • Building on cooperation between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) to engage in more formal worksharing efforts to support innovation.
  • Continuing work begun under the Aviation Partnership Agreement to advance aviation cooperation and use the Aviation Partnership as a model for other sectors.

In Rio de Janeiro, Deputy Secretary Blank met with more business leaders and also delivered remarks at a Columbia University event focused on innovation and economic development which was part of the launch of the university’s new Global Center in that city.   She emphasized the importance of U.S.-Brazil collaboration in areas such as infrastructure development, clean energy, student exchanges, and more.  Finally, she announced that U.S.-Brazil partnerships would continue to grow in the near future due to a high-level, infrastructure-focused trade mission to Brazil – as well as Colombia and Panama – that will take place in mid-May. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

As Deputy Director in the Office of Business Liaison, my primary goal is to execute the Secretary's international trade missions. Our office executed an infrastructure trade mission to New Dehli, India last year, and we are currently planning a transportation and infrastructure trade mission to Colombia, Brazil, and Panama. The President wants to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and I am proud to play in role in meeting the President’s established export goal. During trade mission promotion and planning, much of my time is spent interfacing with US companies, small and medium sized businesses, U.S. embassies, and trade associations.  I have also served on several White House interagency and Commerce policy initiatives:  Summer Jobs +, Doing Business in Africa, the Affordable Care Act, Hurricane Sandy response and recovery and the expansion of Commerce’s patent and trademark field offices. These new field offices will speed up the patent process and help American businesses innovate, grow, and create jobs.

I grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. My grandmother migrated to New York City in the 1950’s and found work in the garment industry, which at the time, along with manufacturing, was a booming industry in NYC. My mom, was born in Puerto Rico and raised my brother and I on her own and worked in clerical jobs at Local 1199 SEIU and Bronx Lebanon Hospital until she retired last October.

NOAA Predicts Mixed Bag of Drought, Flooding and Warm Weather for Spring

Cherry blosssoms (Photo: National Park Service

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued the three-month U.S. Spring Outlook, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. Spring promises little drought relief for most of these areas, as well as Florida, with below- average spring precipitation favored there. Meanwhile, river flooding is likely to be worse than last year across the country, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.

"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather's impacts on lives and livelihoods. A Weather-Ready Nation hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst."

The U.S. Spring Outlook identifies the likelihood of spring flood risk and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought. The outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models. Full release

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Announces New Manufacturing Council Members

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the appointment of 26 members to the 2013 Manufacturing Council (Council). The Council, established in 2004 and directed by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, helps to ensure that there is regular communication between the U.S. government and the manufacturing sector.

The Council is comprised of up to 30 members that represent a diverse cross section of the manufacturing industry, including steel, textile, semiconductor, and medical manufacturers.  Their products support a wide range of industries such as the auto, apparel, aerospace, and energy efficiency sectors.

The Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturing and provides a forum for proposing solutions to industry-related problems. The Council also works to ensure that the United States remains the preeminent destination for investment in manufacturing throughout the world. The Secretaries of Labor, Energy, and Treasury serve as ex officio members of the Council to better collaborate on cross-cutting issues the Council will address. See the complete list of members of the 2013 Manufacturing Council.

Two Civil War Sailors from the Ironclad USS Monitor Interred at Arlington National Cemetery

USS Monitor with sailors standing on board

151st anniversary of Battle of Hampton Roads

The remains of two unknown USS Monitor sailors, recovered by NOAA and the U.S. Navy in 2002 from the ship’s gun turret, were buried today, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery. The USS Monitor sank in a New Year’s Eve storm just over 150 years ago, carrying 16 crew members to their deaths. 

“Just as the crew of the Monitor fought tirelessly to keep their ‘old-time knight in armor’ afloat, so have many worked tirelessly since her loss to keep their commitment to her, and to the 16 sailors who answered the call-to-arms of a young nation in peril, and paid the ultimate price,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Under Secretary of Commerce  for Oceans and Atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator, in remarks at the memorial service. “One major step toward that was taken some 40 years ago, when the nation designated the place where Monitor lies as America’s first National Marine Sanctuary, marking it forever as a place of special national significance. We are gathered here today to take another major step, laying two of her sailors to rest in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. As we do so, let us all reaffirm our own commitment to forever remember the work of the Monitor and insure her story is told to our children’s children.

“As keepers of the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA is committed to protecting the final resting site of this ‘little boat’ and her valiant crew, and to assuring that the memory and the legacy of the Monitor and her crew are preserved and passed on to future generations,” she added. Full release.