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Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

The Innovation Advisory Board held its first meeting today at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.  Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank led the meeting and Secretary Gary Locke welcomed and thanked the new board members for their service. The 15-member board will guide a study of U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation to help inform national policies at the heart of U.S. job creation and global competitiveness. 

In the State of the Union, President Obama launched a commitment to winning the future by out innovating the rest of the world. The board will build upon the early work and findings of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Startup America to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce as it produces a report by January 2012 assessing America's capacity for innovation and our global economic competitiveness. The study will analyze all facets of the economy impacted by national policy, including trade and exports, education, research and development, immigration, technology commercialization, intellectual property and tax policy.   

The Innovation Advisory Board was established by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January of this year. See list of board members. See a statement on today’s inaugural meeting from Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Blank.

Locke and Duncan Discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform with Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participated in a conference call today to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The pair made the case for why effective immigration reform is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and why the involvement of the business community is crucial to move this important priority forward. Approximately 175 people from at least 30 states joined the call, including 80 CEOs and representatives from businesses, local and state chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations. 

Locke discussed how comprehensive reform will help create jobs in the U.S. and stressed the need to build an immigration system that will attract the brightest, most highly-skilled people from around the world, so their skills, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit can help start new businesses, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.  Locke specifically highlighted two proposed approaches for reforming the current visa system: encouraging top foreign talents who receive a graduate degree in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to remain in the U.S. after they graduate by allowing them to acquire legal permanent residence; and issuing two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs whose start-up companies receive investment from a U.S. investor, and giving these entrepreneurs permanent residence if their companies create full-time jobs in the U.S. within those two years.  Locke urged members of the Chamber to help make the case in their communities that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative critical to America’s future economic competitiveness. 

Locke asked participants on the call to add their voice to the national conversation by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction and hosting a conversation in their community about why we need to fix the broken immigration system. 

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Emphasizes Success of U.S.-Canada Trade

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Conversing with Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank is in Ottawa, Canada today and gave remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce.   She discussed U.S.–Canada commercial relations and how the free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both countries.  She also highlighted the benefits of creating jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border.

Increasing trade between the two countries will help reach President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports in 5 years.  To reach that goal, Blank emphasized that 2011 needs to be another banner year for U.S.-Canada trade.  In 2010, U.S. exports to Canada reached $248.8 billion.

In fact, the U.S.–Canada economic relationship is unparalleled in the world.  We are each others’ largest trading partners.

Secretary Locke Highlights Management, Performance Reforms at the Department of Commerce

Locke gesturing on podium

Reforms have helped save millions, streamlined the way in which the Department is run

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks today at an event hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, titled Performance Under Pressure: Getting the Most Out of Every Taxpayer Dollar. At the event, Locke catalogued aggressive, money-saving management reforms that have been initiated at the Commerce Department during his tenure. Joining Locke at the event was Jeff Zients, Deputy Director for Management and Chief Performance Officer for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Locke discussed the importance of smart management, and honing in on strategic priorities in a difficult budget environment. For Commerce, this has meant focusing on key priorities that will help American businesses become more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. To drive the priorities, Locke instituted a data-driven management approach, which helps ensure accountability and oversight. He pioneered the approach for the public sector as Washington State governor.

Commerce’s management reforms have helped identify more than $142 million in 2012 administrative savings alone, of which $39 million are slated to be reinvested by bureaus to strengthen critical programs.

By stressing the critical importance of smart management, especially during difficult budget times, Locke has helped Commerce better serve the American people and positioned Commerce employees for success. Smart and efficient management is essential to ensure that the U.S. successfully implements the Obama administration initiatives that will help the country out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build its economic competitors to win the future.

IT Reform at the U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Szykman

Guest blog by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Commerce

The IT community at the U.S. Department of Commerce has been hard at work implementing Federal IT Reform as outlined by U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra last December. After only six months, our list of accomplishments is impressive, but there is still much to be done to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. The plan represents not just a change in strategy, but a change in thinking among the technology leaders in the administration and at the Commerce Department. Moving toward a leaner, cloud-driven and collaborative approach is a significant shift in philosophy, and we are aggressively incorporating these ideas into our strategic IT planning process. To date, we have closed six Commerce data centers, with a total of nine scheduled to be closed by the end of the year. Consolidating data centers will significantly lower the agency’s carbon footprint, save us millions of dollars each year, and allow for more effective use of resources as we streamline our infrastructure to become more efficient. Every major change presents both challenges and opportunities, and we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to enhance the security of the department’s IT operations while also improving our performance. During the 2010 Census, cloud computing enabled us to handle a once-in-a-decade peak in demand (over five million hits per week) for Census information without having to add permanent capacity. By harnessing the power of the cloud, we were able to offer a compelling set of blogs, videos and interactive tools that encouraged participation in the Census. With several more projects in the pipeline, we continue to pursue the goal of thinking “Cloud First” when it comes to IT.

Secretary Locke Outlines Administration’s Views on Patent Reform

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers outlining the views of the Obama administration on patent reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The America Invents Act increases the certainty of patent rights by implementing a first-inventor-to-file system for patent approval, which reduces the need for cost-prohibitive litigation that often ties up new ideas in court, stifling innovation and holding back job creation. It will also allow the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to set and retain the fees it collects from its users. The USPTO is entirely fee-funded, and this fee-setting authority will ensure high-quality, timely patent review and address the backlog of patent applications that is currently preventing new innovations from reaching the marketplace.

Since the beginning of Locke’s tenure as Commerce Secretary, reforming the U.S. patent system to support the acceleration of American innovation and competitiveness and drive job creation and economic growth has been one of his top priorities. In meetings with CEOs and U.S. business leaders from companies of all sizes, the shortcomings of the U.S. patent system and the need for reform has almost always been a topic of conversation.

During the last two years, Locke has worked with bipartisan Congressional leaders as they have crafted legislation that is widely supported by industry experts, universities, independent inventors, and the business community, because it will make it easier for America’s innovators to produce new technologies that drive economic growth and create jobs.

Partnership with NTIA Bolsters Libraries' Leading Role in Digital Literacy, Workforce Development

Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office

Guest blog post by Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office

Research confirms that digital opportunity depends not only on access to computers and broadband, but the competencies necessary to successfully navigate the online world and be more competitive in the 21st century. America’s libraries are on the forefront of connecting learners of all ages with formal and informal digital literacy skills training, as well as access to a wide range of technology resources.

For these reasons, the American Library Association is pleased to collaborate with the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support DigitalLiteracy.gov. This new portal is an important first step in collecting and sharing class materials, research, and online learning tools. We look forward to greatly expanding the content available as librarians, educators and other practitioners engage with the website.

From their inception, libraries of all kinds have had the development, promotion, and advancement of literacy at the core of their mission.  Now libraries combine trained staff, technology infrastructure and robust electronic collections to meet diverse needs that continue to change and grow. School librarians teach the skills necessary to find and evaluate web resources, and they support use of online collaborative tools that help ensure our students leave school ready for higher education and the 21st century workforce. Information literacy is now considered by several accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.

2010 Census Shows Nation’s Hispanic Population Grew Four Times Faster than the Total U.S. Population, While Overall Population is Aging

Official census taker pushing a doorbell

The U.S. Census Bureau today released two 2010 Census briefs summarizing important demographic trends on the Hispanic population and Age and Sex Composition in the United States over the past decade.

The Hispanic Population: 2010 looks at an important part of our nation’s changing ethnic diversity with a particular focus on groups of Hispanic origin, including Mexican, Dominican and Cuban. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent – four times the 9.7-percent growth of the total U.S. population. The increase was a difference of 15.2 million people and accounted for more than half of the total population increase of 27.3 million people.

Age and Sex Composition: 2010 reports on our nation’s changing age and sex composition and shows that while Americans have gotten older, the male population has grown faster than the female population over the last decade. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people, or 50.8 percent, were female and 151.8 million, or 49.2 percent, were male. 

For more information on today’s 2010 Census releases, visit www.2010.census.gov/news.

Commerce’s Commitment to Eliminating Regulatory Burdens in Support of Growth, Competitiveness and National Security

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

In January, President Obama issued an executive order outlining his plan to create a 21st century regulatory system that encourages job creation, economic growth and U.S. competitiveness. The idea was to make it simpler, smarter and more efficient, while still protecting the health and safety of the American people.  As a key part of that plan, he called upon government agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of the rules and regulations currently on the books and to remove those that are outdated, unnecessary or excessively burdensome.  

This review has led agencies, including the Department of Commerce, to identify initiatives that have the potential to eliminate tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens and billions of dollars in regulatory costs. Today, the results of each agency’s review is being made public and posted on Whitehouse.gov. 

Here at the Commerce Department, we focused our plan on those bureaus with the greatest regulatory activity: the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the International Trade Administration (ITA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

NIST: New Software Tool Helps Evaluate Natural Cooling Options for Buildings

Image of Climate Suitability Tool graphic

A new, free software tool from Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could prove to be a breath of fresh air for architects and designers of ventilation systems for "green" commercial buildings.

With the Climate Suitability Tool, building design teams can evaluate whether the local climate is suitable for cooling a prospective building with natural ventilation or requires a hybrid system that supplies supplemental cooling capacity. The tool is based on a model of the heat-related characteristics of a building configured to take full advantage of ambient climate conditions and natural air movement. It incorporates an algorithm—or problem-solving procedure—that crunches hourly weather data (downloaded from annual datasets for U.S. localities) and uses standardized criteria for rating the comfort of building occupants.

"We think this tool will be useful during the early stages of design, when decisions on the form of a building and its components are being made," explains NIST mechanical engineer Steven Emmerich. "It provides estimates of ventilation rates for preliminary design calculations. You can approximate how many air changes per hour will be necessary to offset heat gains due to the occupants, equipment and lighting so that comfortable conditions are maintained."

The effects of direct natural ventilation and a nighttime cooling procedure are assessed using a method devised by James Axley, Yale University professor of architecture and engineering. When the outdoor temperature is below an accepted threshold, direct ventilation through open windows and by other means can deliver the cooling to maintain the comfort zone. When the outdoor temperature exceeds the threshold during the day but drops below it after sunset, the cooler nightime air can dilute heat gained during the day and build a reserve of cooling potential for the day to come.  Read NIST's Tech Beat story