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Manufacturing is Vibrant and Vital in America

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (center) announces the appointment of 24 members of the Manufacturing Council

Guest blog by Jennifer Pilat, Deputy Director for the Office of Advisory Committees within the International Trade Administration. She oversees the Manufacturing Council as well as a number of other private-sector advisory committees.

Superconductors and streetcars. Photovoltaic cells, cars and steel. Cardboard boxes, pharmaceuticals, linens. A vibrant manufacturing sector isn't just critical for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on it, but is also absolutely central to driving the innovation that fuels the American economy. It is that belief that led U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to appoint the private sector members that comprise the 2010 – 2012 Manufacturing Council. 

The Manufacturing Council serves as the principal private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce on the United States manufacturing sector and advises the Secretary on matters relating to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, and government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturers.

Secretary Locke recently designated Joe Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of TAG Holdings, LLC as the Chair of the Manufacturing Council and Chandra Brown, President of United Streetcar and Vice-President of Business Development and Government Relations of Oregon Iron Works as the Council Vice-Chair. 

The next Council meeting will be held in Clackamas, Oregon at the United Streetcar facility, where members will discuss the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, ideas for energy policy to support manufacturing, and educating and training the workforce needed to fill today’s available manufacturing jobs and those that will drive the future of American manufacturing. You can read more about the past work of the Council, on their website: http://www.manufacturing.gov/council. 

Secretary Locke Meets with German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology

Locke and Rösler

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with the recently-appointed Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Dr. Philipp Rösler today and discussed ways to strengthen U.S.-Germany commercial relations.  Locke and Rösler had a productive conversation on a variety of topics, including U.S. commitment to the Transatlantic Economic Council and the upcoming re-launch of the U.S.-German Informal Commerce Exchange this fall, where issues related to regulatory and standards cooperation, renewable energy, e-mobility and market access will be discussed.  Locke also expressed the Commerce Department’s desire to work closely with the new leadership of the Ministry of Economics and Technology under Rösler. He is a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official delegation to the United States.

 

NIST Workshop Aims to Advance Usability in Electronic Health Records

Matt Quinn of NIST with large projection screen

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a workshop today on usability in electronic health records (EHR) at its campus in Gaithersburg, Md. "A Community-Building Workshop: Measuring, Evaluating and Improving the Usability of Electronic Health Records" brings together industry, government, academia and healthcare providers to identify models and methods for collaborating to improve the usability of EHR systems.

Usability refers to how easy EHR systems are to learn and operate, while maximizing efficiency. A health information technology (IT) industry task force identified usability as one of the major factors hindering widespread adoption of EHRs in clinical settings. The task force also noted that usability has a strong, often direct relationship with clinical productivity, user satisfaction, lower error rate and less user fatigue.

"Moving the science and practice of evaluating EHR usability forward has required an open and transparent community effort,” said NIST computer scientist Matt Quinn, one of the workshop's organizers. “We hope to build on our workshop from last year to encourage further collaboration among stakeholders, collect constructive feedback on methods for evaluating usability, and identify priority areas for future work."

The NIST health IT usability initiative focuses on providing guidance to the public and private sectors in the development of health IT usability standards and measures. NIST collaborates closely with industry, academia and other government agencies to share best practices on electronic health record usability and gather technical feedback on the development of EHR usability evaluation methods.

Workshop sessions include an overview of current programs for improving EHR usability, models for collaboration, efforts to support the needs of developers and care delivery organizations, and various breakout sessions, concluding with next steps on building a stronger community to improve health IT usability.   

For more information on today’s workshop, visit: http://www.nist.gov/healthcare/usability/usability-technical-workshop.cfm.

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.