Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: John Gray, Director of NOAA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

My father served in the U.S. military so as a child our family moved all over the world. I fondly remember my time in New Mexico, Texas, Washington state, and abroad in Panama and Japan. Even though I was a world traveler as a child, I found Texas to be home. I entered and graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas and graduate school in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. After college and graduate school I was recruited to work at the Congressional Research Service, a part of the Library of Congress that specifically responds to congressional inquiries.  I have held several jobs in Washington, in and out of government, but immediately before starting at NOAA I worked as the Public Outreach Director, Economics for AARP. Prior to that, I worked for almost 8 years at the Department of Commerce where I served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs among many other positions.

I feel very grateful to work in this administration to further the President’s goal of winning the future.  At NOAA we perform a variety of services that move the President’s agenda forward. In my role as Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs, we help communicate that vision to the Hill every day, ensuring that members of both parties understand how NOAA’s daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce support America’s economic growth and affect more than one-third of the gross domestic product. I’m particularly proud of NOAA’s effort to establish a climate service, which will provide available information about long term weather for public and private sector audiences and will be a significant innovation in the service that government can provide its citizens. Our work to build sustainable fishing waters will ensure that coastal communities can remain viable.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs

Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs.

As Director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I serve as a senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary on legislative matters before Congress and other federal departments. 

My journey to this point in my career began about 25 years ago when I was growing up in Benton County, Arkansas and had the good fortune one Saturday evening to hear Senator Dale Bumpers speak at the annual Little Flock Picnic.  I don’t recall everything Senator Bumpers said in his speech that night, but I do recall being star struck by an exceptionally gifted speaker and inspired by his pursuit of the common good through public service. 

That moment - combined with my growing awareness of the political process and its importance – inspired me to pursue an internship in Senator Bumpers’ Washington office while I was in college and later serve for 12 years in the office of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln.  Today, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue my public service in the Obama Administration at the Department of Commerce.   

Spotlight on Commerce: Suresh Kumar, Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service

Suresh Kumar cutting a ribbon opening the Commercial Service Pavillion

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Suresh Kumar is the Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Asian Pacific American Month gives you time to reflect on your origin, your country of birth and learning through and across cultures.  It is conveying these assets, experiences and skills that build a better community and a better country.   At the U.S. Commercial Service, improving opportunities for American businesses domestically and abroad is what drives me.  It is why I'm behind President Obama's plan to win the future. To do so, we must out-innovate, out-educate and connect U.S. businesses to the 95% of consumers who live outside the U.S.  This is my key responsibility:  connecting U.S. businesses to global opportunities.  This lays the foundation for a strong, sustainable economy in the United States and beyond.

I am privileged to lead a service with almost 1500 trade professionals who assist American enterprises everyday to connect to global partners and to new markets.  Of the U.S.'s 30 million companies, only 1% or 280,000 companies export and of those who do, 58% export to only one market.  We can and we must do better, and it is this challenge and opportunity that the US&FCS trade specialists and I focus on each day.   This country needs more exporters and potential entrepreneurs and exporters amongst you do not have to go it alone - you have the full support of the U.S. Government in connecting you to global partners and global markets.

Spotlight on Commerce: Anita Ramasastry, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

Anita Ramasastry, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Anita Ramasastry is the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

In my role as the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I develop and advance strategies to keep markets open for U.S. exporters. In the International Trade Administration, we do this by trying to reduce or eliminate trade barriers in other countries. Recently I was asked to establish a new initiative focused on preventing corruption in global trade. In addition, as part of the President’s National Export Initiative, I coordinate new strategies for increasing trade in six growing markets including Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. I also am a member of the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force – tasked with promoting the growth of the knowledge economy and supporting our Internet and technology companies overseas. In this role, I have focused on how restrictions on Internet data flows can be a trade barrier, hindering innovation and competition in many markets.

Before coming to the International Trade Administration, I was a tenured law professor at the University of Washington, School of Law in Seattle, where I taught and researched commercial and banking law. My research focused on the impact of corruption on economic development in countries with natural resources.

President Obama has spoken of the devastating cost of corruption. And the need for change: “In too many places, the culture of the bribe is a brake on development and prosperity.  It discourages entrepreneurship, destroys public trust, and undermines the rule of law while stifling economic growth. With a new commitment to strengthening and enforcing rules against corruption, economic opportunity and prosperity will be more broadly shared.”

Spotlight on Commerce: Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce

Secretary Locke Addresses the Committee of 100

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Gary Locke is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

As we continue to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, it is important for us to reflect on our past – the difficulties we had growing up in immigrant families, the accomplishments our community has achieved and the barriers we still need to knock down.

Being an Asian American now is certainly different from when I was growing up.  In the Ozzie and Harriet era in which I was born, I thought I had to choose between being Chinese and being American.  I remembered that most mornings, my grade school teacher would ask us what we had for breakfast.  If we had eaten anything that was considered “un-American” – in my case, it was the rice porridge with fish and vegetables that my mother gave me – my teacher would slap our hands with a ruler. 

When I was young, I constantly struggled between my desire to be more “American” and my parents’ attempt to make me more “Chinese”.  It took the civil rights movement to teach me that I could be both Chinese and American.  I could be Chinese-American.  I could be myself.  I could be loyal and patriotic to the Star-Spangled Banner and still eat with chopsticks. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Victoria Tung, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Victoria Tung, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Victoria Tung is the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs and Senior Advisor on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs.

In my role, I advise Secretary Locke and our Assistant Secretaries on legislative issues and congressional relations, as well as outreach to state and local government. I manage these efforts and the Department’s relationships with eight congressional committees of jurisdiction across my portfolio, which includes economic development, census/economic analysis, minority business development, innovation and entrepreneurship and recovery act implementation.  Additionally, I advise Secretary Locke on Asian American and Pacific Islander issues and am working closely with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to increase access to and participation in federal programs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Today, and throughout this entire month, we commemorate the courage and contributions of early Asian American and Pacific Islanders who journeyed to the United States, set up lives here against unbelievable odds and laid out roots for future generations.  I know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my great grandparents and grandparents who left China after the war in search of a better life for our family in America.  Their strength and perseverance continues to inspire me and is the story of many Asian American families in this country.  During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we honor the pioneers, the laborers, the veterans, the entrepreneurs, the trailblazers and the families – all who worked hard to open the doors of opportunity to a new generation.

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle O'Neill, Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade

Michelle O'Neill, Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Michelle O'Neill has been serving as Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade since November 2005.

I started my career in ITA as an intern in 1983 -- looking up tariff rates in Latin American countries for companies that called in.  Many of you are probably amazed that anyone could spend so many years in one organization, but during this course of time, I have moved around quite a bit across ITA – at least eight official jobs spanning our five business units.  These experiences have given me a deeper appreciation of what we can do as an organization to advance U.S. business interests globally.  Five Administrations, 11 Secretaries of Commerce, and 12 Under Secretaries of International Trade later, I am still as passionate for advancing fair and free trade today as when I first arrived in Washington.  (And I never imagined that I would be part of the organization’s leadership team!)

When I started my career in international trade, U.S. exports were $205 billion. Today, we export more than five times that amount, totaling more than $1 trillion worth in goods and services exports.  While we remain the number one exporter of goods and services, the volume of global trade has grown substantially over this period of time, and with that comes some challenges – and in many ways, the same challenges.  Back in the 1980s, the big concern was the $58 billion trade deficit and what we could do about it; today our trade deficit is nearly $380 billion – still a concern.  It’s been very interesting for me as a career civil servant, implementing and shaping trade policy across five Administrations. In many ways, I think the importance of international trade has stood the test of time with bipartisan support for increased trade liberalization, to varying degrees, across every Administration in my career. When I officially started ITA in 1987, the Uruguay Round had just begun; now we are in the midst of trying to bring a close to the Doha Round.  There was only one Free Trade Agreement in place with Israel. Now we have 17 FTAs in force – and hopefully three more in the horizon.  While the issues we debated have evolved -- reflecting changes in industry, new business models, and future technologies -- there has been general agreement that an open and competitive global marketplace is good for citizens, consumers, businesses, and governments.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary and Administrator for NOAA

Dr. Lubchenco Oversees Seafood Sampling After the Deepwater Horizon Spill

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At NOAA, science underpins all that we do. One reason that I am so proud to serve as the under secretary for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator is the track record of excellent science at our agency, our focus on delivering essential services based on that science, and the Obama Administration’s commitment to making policy and management decisions informed by the best science available.  

When I first met with then President-elect Obama in mid-December 2008, we discussed ways that NOAA could provide America the best climate change science, restore her ocean’s vitality, provide the best possible weather forecasts and disaster warnings, and help our nation transition to more sustainable ways of living. After asking some very perceptive questions, his comment was simply, “Let’s do it!” Now, how refreshing is that?

As NOAA administrator, my responsibilities include promoting and enabling the science of oceans and the atmosphere; using science to provide services to save lives and property and enable the creation of jobs; and using science in our mission to be good stewards of oceans, coasts, the atmosphere and the planet.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary and Undersecretary for Economic Affairs

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank speaks to Census 2010 crowd

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Dr. Rebecca Blank is the Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Undersecretary for Economic Affairs

As the Acting Deputy Secretary, I focus on matters of management and policy for the Commerce Department’s 12 bureaus, functioning as the department’s chief operating officer.  In this role, I oversee the central departments that coordinate DOC’s work on budgets, acquisitions, human resources, facilities, and other management issues.  I also retain my role as Undersecretary for Economic Affairs and head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), in which I oversee a talented staff of demographers, statisticians, and others at the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The statistical agencies within Commerce collect and analyze data that help to give us an accurate and complete picture of America and guide social and economic policy in the United States.

Since taking the role of Acting Deputy Secretary at the department, I feel even more responsible for helping America to “Win the Future.” This will require effective work by Commerce’s agencies to assist in growing U.S. exports, promoting domestic economic development, encouraging innovation, collecting and disseminating vital economic data, and advancing a sustainable environment in America’s oceans and atmosphere.  In the midst of tight budgets, we all recognize the need to make responsible choices about the services and programs that government provides.  But we also recognize that many of these services and programs are central to helping America’s businesses and consumers grow and stay competitive.

Spotlight on Commerce: April Boyd, Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

April Boyd, Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

April Boyd is the Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for U.S. Department of Commerce.

As Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commerce Department, I have the privilege to serve as Secretary Locke’s principal advisor on legislative issues, congressional relations and outreach to the nation’s governors and mayors.  I manage these efforts and the Department’s relationships with its 19 congressional committees of jurisdiction across the Department’s 12 bureaus.

During my tenure, the Department and Congress have collaborated on a range of measures, such as the bipartisan America COMPETES Act, which aims to boost the innovation on which our economic growth depends.  Lately, I’ve been focusing on two key administration legislative priorities:  comprehensive patent reform legislation, and Congressional implementation of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement.  

Given that Members of Congress come to Washington to be a direct voice for their states and districts, and understanding that the Commerce Department exists to be the voice for American businesses, my job gives me the perspective that, together, we can be a powerful force for helping America win the future.  That’s what drives me to connect with members of Congress and local governments on Secretary Locke’s goals and the Commerce Department’s resources for American businesses, including those owned and led by women.