The U.S. Department of Commerce was hard at work this year protecting American trade and security interests, reforming outdated government practices, planning the critical decennial census, providing crucial weather information to protect lives and property, stewarding the Nation’s marine resources, in addition to supporting minority and community economic development, among countless other vital activities.
“Under the guidance of President Trump, the Department of Commerce has delivered tangible wins for the American people, while the U.S. economy has reached unprecedented heights,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Looking forward to next year, we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to promote economic growth, protect national security, and ensure fair and reciprocal trade.”
Economic and National Security: Protecting Growth, Preventing Disaster
- The Department of Commerce took decisive action to protect national security and combat longstanding unfair foreign trade practices left unaddressed by previous Administrations. This year, the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposed a $1.7 billion civil penalty on ZTE – the largest BIS has ever imposed on a single company. After admitting to lying to the U.S. about sanctions violations, ZTE was forced to completely replace its board of directors and senior leadership, while accepting substantial oversight by an independent monitor that reports to BIS.
- Using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the President accepted the Secretary’s recommendations and levied tariffs on imported steel and aluminum – of 25 percent and 10 percent respectively – while ensuring that steel and aluminum products that are not made in America in sufficient quality and quantity remain available without tariffs to users by creating a robust exclusion process. The Department is presently completing two more Section 232 investigations, on imports of automobiles and auto parts, and on imports of uranium.
- Meanwhile, the International Trade Administration worked diligently on new antidumping and countervailing duty investigations, initiating 137 new trade cases during this Administration. These cases represent a more than 300 percent increase from the comparable period in the previous Administration.
- On the increasingly important cybersecurity front, two Department agencies – the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration – along with the Department of Homeland Security, released a report detailing the threat of botnets and similar cyberattacks on American companies and citizens. The botnet report represents the latest step as the Administration moves to confront and mitigate ever-changing 21st century threats.
Economic Revival: Growing the Private Sector, Reforming Regulations
- Throughout 2018, the Department of Commerce cut burdensome regulations strangling American businesses, especially in the rapidly growing area of space commerce. The Department’s Office of Space Commerce and Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office adopted significant regulatory reform and promoted industry efforts to ensure that the United States remains the flag of choice for commercial space companies.
- In addition, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has adopted major reforms, including aligning the standard used to adjudicate claims in America Invents Act administrative trial proceedings with the Phillips standard, which is used by district courts across the United States. This change provides certainty and uniformity for patent holders to allow parties to choose the most efficient means to address their claims.
- The Secretary and the International Trade Administration also led the Administration’s first trade mission to Africa as part of the Doing Business in Africa initiative. This trade mission is one of the many ways that the Department supports the Administration’s ongoing efforts to promote trade.
The 2020 Decennial Census: On Time, On Budget
- The Department and its Census Bureau steadily laid the groundwork for the 2020 Decennial Census by successfully completing the 2018 End-to-End Test in Providence, Rhode Island, and by recruiting partners to increase awareness of and response to the 2020 Census. In addition, the Bureau has already hired 200 partnership specialists to reach hard-to-count populations. At the height of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau expects to have more than 1,500 partnership specialists working across the country, nearly double the 849 working at the peak of the 2010 Census.
- The Secretary worked successfully with the Administration and Congress to obtain full funding for the decennial census, and the Department and Census Bureau are now on budget and on schedule to deliver a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census.
Preparedness and Recovery: Forecasting Storms, Rebuilding Communities
- One of the Department’s most critical tasks is delivering accurate storm forecasts, especially during hurricane season, and aiding in recovery efforts in the wake of natural disasters. In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecasts were upgraded by high resolution imagery from the new GOES-East satellite and the updated American Global Forecast System model. These new tools produced highly accurate forecasts of the landfall location and timing for hurricanes Florence and Michael, saving lives and property. In addition, NOAA provided highly accurate estimates of storm surges and rainfall events, with the result that numerous lives were saved by timely evacuations of areas that were flooded.
- While NOAA tracked storms, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) was appropriated $600 million in funding by Congress to rebuild local economies affected by disasters in 2017. By mid-November, EDA had already awarded $118 million of this disaster supplemental grant funding to impacted communities and is in the process of reviewing many more applications for recovery assistance.
- Along with EDA’s efforts, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) had another successful year by reaching a total of $4.6 billion in contracts in capital to minority business enterprises, with more than 19,000 jobs created and retained. In June, MBDA launched a Broad Agency Announcement and received nearly 700 applications in response. More than $13 million in grants were awarded that reflected critical priorities of the Department, including space commerce, aquaculture, disaster relief, and entrepreneurship, in addition to being targeted to meet 21st century marketplace needs while further expanding minority enterprises in the United States.
These are just a handful of highlights from a busy year when the Department of Commerce addressed countless issues in service to the American people, including fishery disaster declarations, work on the National Spectrum Strategy, the delivery of economic indicators such as gross domestic product, and an updated Cybersecurity Framework, along with many others.
As we move into 2019, the Department will continue its mission to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity.