Congratulations on winning a second term, Mr. President. I voted for you and I’m confident you will do a great job for the American people. I did want to make one suggestion for your second term and it concerns how to develop business and create more jobs for Americans.
During the campaign, President Obama, you floated the idea of creating a new cabinet position–a Secretary of Business. Here’s a news flash. We already have a Secretary of Business. She is a former academic–Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the Commerce Department.
The Commerce Department’s top job has been a revolving door in the Obama administration, with two Secretaries and two acting Secretaries. In addition to Blank (who has twice been acting Secretary), others occupying the post included the current ambassador to China, Gary Locke, a career politician and former utility executive John Bryson. Otto Wolff occupied the Acting Secretary job for just over two months, succeeding Bush administration holdover Carlos Gutierrez, a former CEO of the Kellogg Company. With this cast of characters entering and exiting the Obama administration at such a rapid pace no wonder our country lacks a focused business strategy!
The Commerce Secretary IS America’s Secretary of Business. Here is how the White House website describes her role:
“The Department of Commerce is the government agency tasked with improving living standards for all Americans by promoting economic development and technological innovation….The department supports U.S. business and industry through a number of services, including gathering economic and demographic data, issuing patents and trademarks, improving understanding of the environment and oceanic life, and ensuring the effective use of scientific and technical resources. The agency also formulates telecommunications and technology policy, and promotes U.S. exports by assisting and enforcing international trade agreements.”
This sounds pretty close to what we would expect a Secretary of Business to do. Sure the mission statement could use some re-engineering but this is the cabinet post that has been in charge of promoting commerce (another word for “business”) since it was split off from the Labor Department in1913.
And its not as though our Secretary of Business has limited resources. According to the White House, the Secretary of Commerce “oversees a $6.5 billion budget and approximately 38,000 employees.” Yes you read that right 38,000 employees! One has to wonder how many of those 38,000 are political appointments and how we measure the productivity of the Department.
What’s absolutely clear is that taxpayers have a right to expect more of the Department of Commerce. The mission statement needs to be changed to reflect the contemporary needs of business. Strong and effective leadership and continuity are needed.
We don’t need a Secretary of Business, President Obama. We just need a Commerce Secretary who is up to the job. It took two months into your first term to appoint a Commerce Secretary. I’d strongly suggest you make this a priority for your second term. (If you are having trouble coming up with qualified people, I’d suggest getting in touch with Mitt Romney–word is he has binders of men and women he was considering for the post.) This is no knock on Rebecca Blank who is a highly qualified and brilliant academic who stepped up from her deputy role to serve as acting Secretary when John Bryson had to step down for medical reasons. However, America’s business community needs focus and leadership and a strong voice in the President’s cabinet. This voice should come from our current Secretary of Business–the Commerce Secretary!