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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Chatting with Citizens in Cincinnati about President Obama’s Job Plan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank enjoys Graeter's Ice Cream while on a tour with CEO Rich Graeter. Also enjoying the ice cream is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

First thing this morning, I’ll be on a plane to Cincinnati to join Mayor Mark Mallory for a visit to Graeter’s Ice Cream, a locally and family owned ice cream company founded in 1870. At Graeter’s, I'll explain the details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, specifically how it will spur economic growth and accelerate job creation. 

After my tour (and hopefully a sample or two of that ice cream), I will host a White House Business Council roundtable discussion with local business leaders to discuss the jobs plan in further detail, challenges facing America’s business community, ways to improve U.S. economic competitiveness and the help that is available to businesses from agencies across the federal government. 

Before the end of the day, I’ll be sitting down with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer to answer all their questions about President Obama’s jobs plan.

The American Jobs Act is a set of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats AND Republicans that needs to be passed right away. This plan will put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of working Americans. As the folks in Cincinnati will attest, Americans are working hard each and every day to meet their responsibilities. The only question now is whether Washington will meet its responsibilities. The time for obstruction and gridlock is over. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act.

UPDATE: Read Acting Secretary Blank's remarks

Commerce Emphasizing Innovation and Efficiency in IT Security Operations

Simon Szyman at pdoium

Guest blog post by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Commerce

You missed it! The Department of Commerce's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) hosted its inaugural Innovating Security Conference to increase knowledge and awareness of various initiatives, exchange information and ideas, and engage in discussions on ways to further protect and strengthen the security posture of the department’s information systems. Facing security threats that are evolving and growing in sophistication, while at the same time anticipating a constrained outlook for the future due to budget pressures, it is imperative for organizations across the department to pursue improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness by examining operations, collaborating on common objectives, improving information sharing, and identifying opportunities to leverage one another’s independent activities.

The two-day conference is one means of moving toward a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness by emphasizing internal collaborations and open dialogue. The conference included participation and invited speakers from Commerce, as well as from other federal agencies and the private sector, in order to leverage their best practices, lessons learned and knowledge in areas related to information system security. In addition to keynote and panel sessions, service offerings of Commerce internal service providers as well as industry vendors were highlighted during the event.

Largest-ever EDA Grant Helps To Revitalize Downtown Cedar Rapids & Create Jobs Following Iowa Floods

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Other Officials Break Ground on the Cedar Rapids Convention Center

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Mayor Ron Corbett and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this week to see how federal funds are making a difference following historic floods that ravaged the city and its economy in 2008.

With the help of a $35 million grant–the largest Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has ever awarded –the city is building a new $75.6 million Convention Complex that will serve as a major catalyst for further economic development and investment in the city–creating hundreds of jobs and leveraging millions in private investment. The 435,000 sq. ft. complex will be the second-largest convention and events center in the state upon its completion in the spring of 2013.

Iowa continues to recover from the economic impact of the floods, which interrupted major manufacturing operations, devastated downtown commercial districts, and damaged or destroyed public infrastructure. The Obama administration continues to invest in rebuilding efforts to strengthen local economies across Iowa. More than $1 billion in federal assistance has been awarded to the state to support flood recovery efforts.

Prior to a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, Blank and Fernandez visited Ovation Networks, a local wireless technology company that was displaced by the flooding in downtown Cedar Rapids. There they announced a new $2.9 million grant to the East Central Iowa Council of Governments to provide additional business assistance and gap financing to companies still recovering from the floods. Three years ago, the Council received $1.5 million from EDA, which they used to assist local businesses like Ovation Networks to rebuild and return to the downtown area.  |  Release  |  Convention Center remarks  |  Ovation Networks remarks 

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Urges Hurricane Preparedness

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Irene (NOAA photo, Aug. 26)

As you know, Hurricane Irene is making its way up the East Coast of the United States. Make no mistake: This is a large and destructive storm and needs to be taken seriously, especially by the millions of people who live, work or travel in Irene’s projected path. 

Time is quickly running out for people to make emergency preparations and move out of harm’s way.

According to our meteorologists at Commerce/NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, Irene will approach the coast of North Carolina tonight, then move north and affect the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Irene is a large storm and its high winds and heavy rain will affect a large area. Hurricanes like Irene are capable of causing other serious and life-threatening hazards, such as coastal surges, inland flooding and tornadoes. 

We strongly urge all affected Commerce employees and their families to finalize their preparations, so that they can meet their basic needs for a minimum of 72 hours. Visit FEMA’s preparedness sites www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for tips on how you can make an emergency kit and put an emergency plan in place.

To follow the latest on Hurricane Irene, please visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on the Web at www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic. Monitor local media or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments and check your local National Weather Service forecast at www.weather.gov.  We also encourage you to consult our Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide.

Moreover, please heed the direction of your local officials, and be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given. 

Should you need to seek higher ground or take cover, shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the East Coast. You can find more information about open Red Cross shelters at www.redcross.org

We’re ready. Please be ready, too.

Commerce and NOAA have been actively mobilizing: Our National Hurricane Center meteorologists have been issuing forecasts, watches and warnings to the media, emergency managers and the public. At the same time, we’re also preparing to respond if necessary to Irene’s aftermath when National Weather Service local forecast offices will issue a variety of severe weather alerts for inland high winds, flooding and severe weather, including tornadoes. 

The larger federal government family is aggressively preparing for two phases of this operation–response and recovery–and has teams and assets moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. We are continuing to do everything we can to support the governors and their teams.

On a final note, I want to thank all the NOAA staff who have been working hard this week to ensure that Americans have the most accurate and timely storm updates, watches and warnings—as well as those who will be working through the weekend and coming days to see this storm through and assist in the response phase. Your service to Commerce and the nation is deeply appreciated.

Department of Commerce Headquarters to Open On Schedule Wednesday, August 24

Image of HCHB headquarters ith view of Washington Monument

All structural checks indicate that the Department of Commerce headquarters building (HCHB) is safe and we expect all employees to report to work Wednesday, August 24th, at their regularly scheduled time.  Federal employees should check with www.opm.gov for further updates and leave guidelines, which will be posted by 4:00 AM Wednesday.  The DOC Status Line (202-482-7400) will be updated accordingly.

Secretary Locke Resigns, Becomes Next Ambassador to China; Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Assumes Role of Acting Secretary

Secretary Clinton applauds Gary Locke as his wife and children look on

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke formally resigned today and was sworn-in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the next U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Rebecca M. Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Commerce Department, will serve as Acting Commerce Secretary. Blank has served as Acting Deputy Secretary since November 2010.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime serving as Commerce Secretary for President Obama.  I’m proud of the men and women with whom I had the privilege to work and the tremendous accomplishments we’ve made together in the last 28 months,” Ambassador Locke said.

“From increasing U.S. exports and reducing patent application wait times, to creating the foundation for a national smart grid and taking an important first step to reform the export control system, we have helped create jobs, lay the foundation for future economic growth and made American companies more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. And we did all of this while making the Commerce Department more efficient and responsive to its stakeholders," Locke noted, citing the 2010 Census in particular.

Under Locke’s leadership, the Commerce Department also reduced the average time needed to award a competitive economic development grant from 140 days to 20 days; streamlined Department business services through the Commerce Connect one-stop shop initiative; efficiently distributed nearly $5 billion in Recovery Act funds for broadband development in under 18 months, which helped create more than 120,000 miles of broadband infrastructure; and, oversaw a significant first step in the President’s export control reform effort, which strengthens our national security, while making U.S. companies more competitive by easing their licensing burden for exports to partners and allies.

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Meets with Business Leaders in Michigan, Stresses Value of Science and Innovation to Job Creation

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and the BathyBoat

This week Commerce’s Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and meet with area business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series. Engaging with local leaders, Blank discussed the region’s economic assets, challenges, and what can be done on local, state and national levels to boost economic growth and job creation throughout Michigan.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country to keep in touch with Main Street and hear from those who are doing the innovating and hiring that support our nation’s economy.

At the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Blank addressed a Science Advisory Board meeting focused on Great Lakes research being conducted at two NOAA facilities. She highlighted the department’s recent release of a report profiling U.S. employment in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – and stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs and the broad scope of work that organizations like NOAA do that are critically important to U.S. social and economic welfare.

The President has made a substantial commitment to furthering innovation and education in the STEM fields by setting a goal of investing 3 percent of our GDP in research and development and moving American students to the top of the pack internationally.  The President’s 2012 budget included a $206 million commitment toward STEM training and related programs – an investment that will pay off not just for students but for the country.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jon Wright, Legislative Assistant in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Photo of Jon Wright

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.

Jon Wright is a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

My boss describes me as the office’s “utility infielder,” because I help the Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs manage Department-wide special projects as a legislative assistant in the Secretary’s Congressional and state government liaison office

During my time at Commerce, I have had a wide variety of responsibilities and experiences from responding to Congressional oversight inquiries to staffing a Congressional delegation led by Secretary Locke to South Korea to build support for the U.S.–Korea Trade Agreement. The experience in government that impacted me most, however, was serving as a liaison to the Coast Guard Florida Incident Commander during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill where I advised him on handling the concerns of federal, state, and local elected officials.  It was my job to help ensure that the people who represent Floridians and Florida business owners were being heard. The response team and the administration were committed to addressing the economic and personal impacts of the spill, and I was proud to play a part in that.

Spotlight on Commerce: Anne Rung, Senior Director of Administration at U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Anne Rung

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.

Anne Rung is the Senior Director of Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A year ago I moved from Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised, to Washington, D.C., to join the Department of Commerce as Senior Director of Administration.  Prior to my move to Washington, I  worked for Governor Edward Rendell in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Under Governor Rendell, I served as Deputy Secretary for Procurement and Administration for the state’s largest operating agency, the Department of General Services (DGS).  Because of significant budget challenges in Pennsylvania, our team at DGS focused on reform efforts to drive down costs and improve efficiencies.

I joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Administration and CFO to assist with similar reform efforts underway at the Department of Commerce, including acquisition reform – a top priority of Secretary Locke.  Under his leadership, we’ve embarked on an Acquisition Improvement program to deliver greater results, greater savings and greater acquisition efficiencies.  Our efforts include a new approach to defining requirements, better identifying and managing high-risk projects, smarter buying, and performance metrics to ensure accountability.

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.