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Blog Entries from 2013

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces Patents for Humanity Winners

Deputy Secretary Blank Speaking during the Patents For Humanity Awards Event

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the winners of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patents for Humanity pilot program during an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Launched by the USPTO in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative promoting game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges, Patents for Humanity is a competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address global challenges in health and standards of living.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director Gayle Smith and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Teresa Stanek Rea delivered remarks at the awards ceremony.

“A strong patent system is crucial to supporting our continued economic growth, and its benefits don’t stop at our borders. Patented inventions are bringing longer, healthier, fuller lives to people across the globe,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “As part of the President’s global development agenda, the Patents for Humanity program is a great example of how American innovation is helping solve critical global challenges and creating prosperity in emerging economies.”

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Blank Announces Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request

Budget request cover

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today released the Department of Commerce’s fiscal year 2014 budget request, which supports President Obama’s plan for an economy built to last with crucial investments in advanced manufacturing, innovation, trade promotion and enforcement, and research and development. These investments are designed to help grow the economy, create jobs and strengthen the middle class. The $8.6 billion budget request is an increase of $1 billion over the fiscal year 2012 level. The Department also identified a total of $195 million in administrative savings.

“The Department of Commerce has a vital mission to help American businesses thrive so they can create jobs here at home and maintain a competitive edge abroad,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “The Department’s fiscal year 2014 budget reflects our commitment to our core priorities, including revitalizing American manufacturing, spurring innovation by investing in world-class research, science and technology, and driving export growth. Overall, this budget proposes targeted investments that will enable us to carry out our responsibility to help grow American businesses and the economy, while also spending federal dollars wisely.”

Read the key investments in the FY 2014 Department of Commerce budget.

ACE Tool Helps U.S. Businesses Fully Assess the Advantages of Manufacturing and Sourcing In America

Assess Costs Everywhere Logo

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs

I have the pleasure of meeting frequently with business owners from across the country.  They talk about where their challenges are in growing and sustaining their businesses, and they also talk about how locating production abroad hasn’t always turned out as well as they had hoped.  Not surprisingly, during our current economic recovery and expansion, news reports and private consultants have repeatedly echoed that thinking.  Increasingly we hear that U.S. companies that previously took their operations or supply chains overseas are now reshoring or insourcing─bringing operations and supply chains back home to America.

To help continue that momentum, the Department of Commerce today published a new tool to help inform manufacturing firms’ location decisions.  The Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE) tool outlines the wide range of costs and risks associated with offshore production, and provides links to important public and private resources, so that firms can more accurately assess the total cost of operating overseas.  ACE also shares case studies of firms that reversed their decisions to locate offshore once the full range of costs became clear.

ACE counts as its sponsor and most ardent champion, U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), who directed the Department of Commerce to build an online tool for businesses to use in assessing hidden costs to manufacturing offshore. Congressman Wolf saw ACE as a much-needed resource in the federal government’s efforts to help achieve our goals of boosting U.S. economic growth and ensuring that America remains competitive in manufacturing. 

ACE identifies and discusses 10 cost and risk factors that firms should weigh in their decision making, such as labor and shipping costs.   Although some of these factors may seem obvious, companies may not always take all of them into full account.  Over the coming weeks, the Commerce Department’s blog will examine each of the areas, and although I hate to be a spoiler, it does turn out that the United States tends to compare quite favorably.  Having said that, there are many areas in which the U.S. needs to make critical investments.  The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, a report  published by the Commerce Department’s Economic and Statistics Administration in January 2012, examined three key components of our nation’s competitiveness—research, education, and infrastructure.  The report concludes that in the manufacturing sector, the federal government has historically played an important role in providing a level playing field and must do so with renewed vigor to ensure that U.S. manufacturing continues to thrive.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Honors Four Organizations for Excellence in Performance and Innovation

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank presenting the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank presented four U.S. organizations with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation. The recipients of the award, which is commemorating its 25th anniversary, will share their best practices as part of a national effort to improve America’s performance and competitive standing in the world. 

Deputy Secretary Blank lauded the Baldrige Award winners for being leaders in their fields and committed to the value of performance and quality. Studies have shown that Baldrige winners grow their revenues, create jobs, maintain healthy finances, and produce superior results.

At the awards ceremony, President Obama also delivered a video message to the recipients, saying that the United States’ “free market is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known, and that engine is powered by our dreamers, our risk takers and our innovators.” Further, he said, “These honorees exhibit the kind of job creating innovation that’s always kept our economy growing and vibrant and prosperous.”

Honoring the Memory of Ron Brown

Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown

Cross post from the White House Blog

The following blog post was written by U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Jonathan Greenblatt.

Today, we honor the anniversary of the passing of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. Secretary Brown was a dedicated public servant whose untimely death during a trade mission to Croatia on April 3, 1996 ended his life far too soon. His vision continues to be important and today’s work at the Department of Commerce builds on his legacy. 

Secretary Brown served his country in Korea as a soldier in the U.S. Army and in the halls of Congress as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also broke down barriers – becoming the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Commerce. In this latter role, he made perhaps his largest impact.

During his tenure at Commerce, Secretary Brown pioneered a focus on exports that helped to boost the U.S. economy in the 1990s and contributed to one of the largest periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history. During a time when emerging markets in Asia and Latin America were opening up to trade, Secretary Brown led a concerted effort to support this advancement and to secure access for U.S. goods and services. He was a proponent of free trade, seeing business as a powerful force to create good jobs at home and to accelerate prosperity around the world. He also was an advocate of fair trade, seeking to ensure that U.S. workers would be helped and not harmed by new trading arrangements that would increase flows of capital and commerce.

2012 Peace Through Commerce Medal Award Recipients Announced

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez announced the nine individuals and organizations that are recipients of the International Trade Administration’s 2012 Peace through Commerce Medal Award.

The award recognizes an individual, group, or organization, either domestic or abroad, whose actions have significantly promoted and developed U.S. export initiatives, encouraged innovative approaches, and improved overall U.S. trade relations.

The Peace through Commerce Medal dates back to the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the medal in 1790. Jefferson gifted the medal, formerly known as the Diplomatic Medal, to foreign diplomats who aided the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. The medal is most renowned for its inscription, To Peace and Commerce, centered along the top. Read more about the entire list of award winners.

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.