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Blog Category: Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms

Challenging Mission, Strong Team

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

Our country – the public, businesses, NGOs, non-profits, academic institutions and governments at all levels – relies on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic & Statistics Administration (ESA) to provide timely, relevant, and high-quality data about our population and economy so they can make better decisions. This is no easy task given the sheer magnitude of our nation – we have over 7 million employer- businesses, 320 million people, a Gross Domestic Product of over $17 trillion, and trillions of dollars in international trade. It can make your head spin.  Additionally, keeping track of our economy and population is made all the more difficult because of the dynamism of our country: hundreds of thousands of new businesses start every year; tens of millions of people move; and new industries arise while others decline. On top of all of this, we are in the midst of a data revolution, with rapid advances in private-sector data availability, new data analysis tools, and ever more and changing ways to disseminate data. 

As the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I ensure our people, programs, and policies are properly aligned and resourced to successfully perform our mission in this rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment. ESA’s three operating units; Commerce’s Office of the Chief Economist, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and the Bureau of Census include a workforce of more than 10,000 dedicated professionals. In addition to our duties and challenges, ESA has been given another mission: to take the lead in achieving goals under the Data Pillar of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Plan, working across all bureaus in Commerce to fulfill the imperative to “maximize the positive impacts of Commerce data on society.”

To be successful in both my traditional job as ESA Under Secretary and as a leader of the Data Pillar, I need a capable, nimble, leadership team with a diverse set of skills.  None of us can be successful alone; instead we need to be members of strong teams committed to excellence. This post focuses on just one ESA team, that of my immediate office, which has been revamped in the past year. Team members were chosen and the positions created to meet a specific and diverse list of challenges, the most important being continuity, communication, coordination, and planning.

Join Commerce’s Data Revolution: Innovation Leaders Need Apply

Secretary Pritzker speaking at the Esri Conference July 2014

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Last summer, I outlined the wide variety of factors that make the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency” – and I announced a series of steps aimed at unlocking the full potential of our data resources.

Among those actions, launching a department-wide Data Advisory Council was a top priority and a key commitment. And today, I am pleased to say that we are making good on our promise: the council has been officially established and we are now accepting applications.

We are looking for the best and brightest data thought leaders in the private and public sectors to advise our efforts to revolutionize Commerce’s data – to foster innovation, create jobs, and drive better decision-making throughout our economy and society.  The application process extends through December 3, 2014.  If you think you have what it takes, I strongly urge you to apply.

As we build our Data Advisory Council, we are actively recruiting a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to drive the transformation of our data, and we are pleased to announce the hire of an outstanding Deputy CDO, Lynn Overmann, currently a senior advisor to White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.  Lynn will be responsible for coordinating and guiding the Department’s efforts to realize the value of our data and to put the vast volumes of our data to better use each and every day.

Commerce Data: Then & Now

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

In July, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced that our department will be hiring our first ever Chief Data Officer (CDO), building on her commitment to Commerce’s role as “America’s Data Agency.” She also announced the formation of a data advisory council comprising private sector leaders who will help the CDO navigate new and dynamic data challenges. This is the latest chapter in Commerce’s long history of adapting to serve the needs of an ever-changing American economy.

The United States Department of Commerce has been a trusted provider of data and statistics for centuries. The first decennial census took place in 1790 and the first patent was issued that same year.  Today, because of advances in technology, we are able to provide Americans with more data, faster and more accurately than ever before. This transformation can be seen in the evolution of the Census Bureau.

Article 1 Section 3 of the US Constitution states that the U.S. government shall enumerate the population of the United States every 10 years. Beginning with the 1790 Decennial Census and once every decade since then, the federal government has provided this invaluable information, making the United States the first country to produce a regular count of its citizens.   

By the early 1800s it became clear that in addition to the important demographic information flowing from the decennial census, there was also an imperative for regular collection of business information. In response to that need, in 1810, the U.S. Census Bureau established a census of businesses, also known as the economic census.  The initial focal points were manufacturing, lumber yards and butcher shops. In 1902, Congress authorized the establishment of the U.S. Census Bureau and directed that the census of manufacturers be taken every five years (a “quinquennial” census).  As the economy grew, the Census Bureau responded accordingly and by 1930 it had expanded the economic census to include services.  The breadth of the survey has since changed to keep pace with our nation’s growing economy.  The 2012 economic census data are currently being released.

Advocating the Transformative Power of Commerce Data at NYC STRATA + Hadoop World Conference

Jennifer van der Meer and Under Secretary Mark Doms at NYC STRATA + Hadoop World Conference

Cross posted from ESA.gov

Under Secretary Mark Doms participated in a high level data discussion this morning at the Strata+Hadoop World Conference in New York City. Before an audience of 500 leading technologists and data programmers, Under Secretary Doms talked with host Jennifer van der Meer, Adjunct Professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program and CEO of Reason Street, to explore the Department of Commerce's strategic data plan and Doms' efforts to move the federal statistical system into the era of big data.
 
Doms noted that the US Department of Commerce has long been a powerhouse for government data, trailblazing the use of government statistics and analysis to help everyone make more informed decisions. Now, in the era of big data, with large volumes of data collected and analyzed by the private sector, by citizens themselves, the agency, with Doms leadership, is working to position itself as a leader in the federal data space. Jennifer van der Meer asked the Under Secretary about Commerce's plans to hire its first Chief Data Officer, stand up a Data Advisory Council populated with private sector and academic data leaders, and ways the Department is looking to team with the private sector to better collect, disseminate, and analyze Commerce data.
 
Doms went on to highlight the fact that challenges facing companies and our society often do not fit neatly in the "buckets" represented by the various federal agencies. Commerce has data that, say, could be meshed with Department of Education data, to tackle our nation's skills gap or help students determine which majors have the best return on investment. Doms noted Commerce's involvement with the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy and their efforts to coordinate interagency discussion to share best practices and tackle cross-agency challenges. Doms pointed out this coordination is critical to unleashing the positive benefits of federal data, with the next step being to figure out how to incorporate private datasets and get greater corporate buy-in to the open data movement currently underway at the federal, state and local level.

Under Secretary Doms closed out the discussion by making the case that the federal government must remain a leader in data. Like our basic scientific research, the building and maintaining of our nation's highways and water treatment facilities, and rural postal delivery, providing comprehensive data on our people, economy and the planet will continue to be a core federal mission. This information is critical to decision making by every business, government, and citizen, and the private sector simply does not have the financial incentive to fill this role. Doms thanked Jennifer and the audience for a lively discussion, one that further informed his efforts, under Secretary Pritzker's leadership, to revolutionize data at the Department of Commerce.

Data Innovation Summit: Taking Advantage of Boston’s Big Data Movement

Under Secretary Mark Doms Speaks at the Big Data Innovation Summit in Boston, MA

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

Cross-posted from ESA.gov.

I was honored to deliver the keynote address this morning to over 800 of today’s data leaders.  In preparation I had one goal: to tell the story of data -- how far the Department of Commerce has come and it’s potential for the future. These are exciting times. Over the past decade, jobs in data fields have grown at a rate 6 times faster than the economy as a whole, and these jobs pay 73% more than the typical American job.

The federal government provides fundamental statistical building blocks about our population, our economy, and our climate. This information is so pervasive that people often are unaware they are using government data. For instance, one survey found 301 billion weather forecasts are consumed per year -- information that is delivered by an array of sources, but begins with the National Weather Service, part of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Indeed, many of the companies attending the Big Data Innovation Summit today in Boston rely heavily upon government data.  

Since 1790, when the first Census occurred, our government has taken the time to collect information that tells the demographic and economic story of our nation. We take this commitment very seriously at the Department of Commerce and we welcome user input.  

1776 Roundtable: Businesses Growing Out of Data

Under Secretary Mark Doms Addresses Entrepreneurs at 1776

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

This morning, I visited start-up hub 1776, to discuss the Department of Commerce’s efforts to make government data more accessible and informative – to build businesses, grow the economy and help governments and individuals make more informed decisions.

One of my roles as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs is to connect with our data users, (our customers), to discuss our strategic initiatives in the data space, and gather feedback from interested businesses, government officials, and the public.

At 1776, we met with key stakeholders from innovative start-ups like ID.me, Haystack, Narrative Science, Brigade, Ride Scout (just purchased by Daimler), and firms like Yelp, which has graduated from the start-up phase to employ thousands with offices around the world.

All are users of federal, state and local data, and all are making a contribution to our economy, through employment and the deployment of new technologies that spur innovation and improve peoples’ lives. It was a great conversation, and we gathered some excellent ideas to explore, such as the possibility of using private sector developed APIs for public sector data dissemination.

As a convener and facilitator of world class talent, 1776 sets the model for start-up hubs across the country. Thanks to our hosts and participants for a great event!

Using Data to Connect Workers & Employers at Career Building Data Jam

Using Data to Connect Workers with Employers at the 21st Century Career Counseling Data Jam

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

On Friday, I was part of the team from the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Office of the Vice President, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) who joined up with Baltimore’s Morgan State University (MSU) to "data jam" on how to get America’s youth connected to jobs and on the path to rewarding careers.

Labor force participation for America’s youth is at historic lows. Only about 1 in 2 people in their teens and early 20s are working or looking for work. While it is easy to point to increasing college enrollment as a reasonable explanation, the workplace offers the opportunity to gain skills to complement academic, career and technical training. The cost of young people staying out of the labor market is all too real. Failure to join the labor market means reduced financial self-sufficiency, lost opportunities to apply academic skills or gain occupation-specific experience, and acquire more general workplace skills such as teamwork, time management, and problem solving.

The Data Jam brought together entrepreneurs, technology leaders, and policy experts to explore ideas for tools, services, and apps for young job seekers to explore career options, training opportunities, and new industries. Technology can help young people find connections to the labor market; assess academic, career, and technical training information; and, simply learn more about the world of work. The proliferation of labor market and career information from federal and state governments and the private sectors can provide great content and inspiration for new tools and apps. So, it was fitting that MSU, with competitive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coursework and state of the art facilities, opened its doors to national technology experts, and regional and federal government leaders to connect young workers with the training and resources they need to identify and seize upon employment opportunities.

New Commerce Department report explores huge benefits, low cost of government data

Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Today we are pleased to roll out an important new Commerce Department report on government data. “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data,” arrives as our society increasingly focuses on how the intelligent use of data can make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens better informed. 

And when it comes to data, as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I have a special appreciation for the Commerce Department’s two preeminent statistical agencies, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These agencies inform us on how our $17 trillion economy is evolving and how our population (318 million and counting) is changing, data critical to our country. Although “Big Data” is all the rage these days, the government has been in this  business for a long time: the first Decennial Census was in 1790, gathering information on close to four million people, a huge dataset for its day, and not too shabby by today’s standards as well. 

Just how valuable is the data we provide? Our report seeks to answer this question by exploring the range of federal statistics and how they are applied in decision-making. Examples of our data include gross domestic product, employment, consumer prices, corporate profits, retail sales, agricultural supply and demand, population, international trade and much more.

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

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

“Better Data for Better Decisions” is my mantra as I crisscross the country talking to people about making the data we collect easier to find, understand and use.  Making government data more accessible or “open” to improve government, business and community decisions is a major initiative in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  The open data initiative has the potential to fuel new businesses, create new jobs and help us make better policy decisions. 

One of our best data sources is the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).  The ACS is truly a unique, national treasure, producing a wealth of data on which our country relies to make important decisions.  The ACS is used to inform disbursement of over $400 billion a year in Federal funds.  State and local decision makers rely on the ACS information to guide tough choices about competing funding priorities, such as locating hospitals, funding programs for children, building roads and transportation systems, targeting first responders, supporting veterans, locating schools, and promoting economic development. In short, our community leaders use ACS data to analyze how the needs of our neighborhoods are evolving.  And, our business users rely on ACS data to make key marketing, location and financial decisions to serve customers and create jobs. 

The value of the ACS is immense. It makes our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed. 

This value comes from the fact that the ACS captures so much information so comprehensively.  But, this also means that the value of the ACS depends critically on the people responding to the survey, known as the respondents.  I met recently with members of the ACS Data Users Group, an organization dedicated to sharing innovations and best practices for ACS data use, to discuss how to get the best quality data with the least amount of respondent burden. This is of paramount importance.  A survey seen as too lengthy, burdensome and intrusive will produce lower response rates and could undermine both the quality of the data and value of the survey. But reducing the length of the survey could reduce the amount of information available for decision-making. 

Assess Costs Everywhere – Now Even Better!

Under Secretary Doms (far right), leads a panel discussion with Chief Economist Sue Helper (from left to right), Hal Sirkin, Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group, and Katy George, Director, McKinsey & Co.

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

Where to locate your business or a new facility for your business is a complicated decision. Many variables are involved, and if you are considering a location outside of the U.S., there are many factors that may not be obvious. At Commerce, we have been focused on making this decision and all of its moving parts easier to digest, and a major part of that is Commerce’s ACE Tool.

First released in April 2013, 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.

Today we have updated the data and deepened the analysis, but the original conclusions remain as fresh as ever. Multiple costs and risks--some visible and some hidden--accompany firms' decisions about where to set up a factory and the supply chain.

I have had 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.

The ACE Tool is intended to help businesses think through this complicated decision, and provide easy access to innovative research and thinking on issues related to site selection and supply chains. The ACE Tool is grounded in the forward-thinking work of Harry Moser of ReshoreNow.org and Rep. Frank Wolf, who called on Commerce to bring this effort to fruition. The Department of Commerce developed ACE in response to Rep. Wolf's call to help achieve our shared goals of boosting U.S. economic growth and ensuring that America remains competitive in manufacturing.

ACE explores 10 costs and risks: