U.S. Department of Commerce

views updated May 29 2018

U.S. Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce, which was established in 1903, is one of the main government agencies intended to assist businesseslarge and smalland represent their interests domestically and abroad. The agency states that its broad range of responsibilities include expanding U.S. exports, developing and promoting innovative technologies, gathering and disseminating statistical data and other important economic information, measuring economic growth, granting patents, promoting minority entrepreneurship, and providing stewardship. The department promotes these goals by encouraging job creation and economic growth through exports, free and fair trade, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, deregulation, and sustainable development.

One of the key offices within the Department of Commerce is the Office of Business Liaison. That office serves as the intermediary between the business community and the agency. Its objectives include:

  • To be pro-active in its dealings with the business community and to be responsive and effective in its outreach efforts.
  • To keep the current administration aware of problems and issues facing the business community.
  • To keep the business community abreast of key administration decisions and policies.
  • To regularly meet with members of the business community.
  • To help businesses navigate their way through all the federal agencies and regulations through its Business Assistance Program. In addition to producing a wide variety of published materials, the Assistance Program also provides specialists who are available to answer specific questions on government policies, programs, and services.

Another office that is of interest to small business owners is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization. This office is responsible for ensuring that the department purchases goods and services from small businesses. It helps small businesses identify with which bureaus small businesses should pursue potential buyers, clarifies who the key individuals at that bureau are, and provides small businesses with basic information on the procurement process. The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization also helps businesses develop marketing strategies.

Following is a list of other key offices, departments, and programs at the Department of Commerce that are also of interest to small business owners:

  • Bureau of the Censusevery 10 years, performs a full census of the U.S. population, collecting a wide variety of information, as well as sorting and analyzing it. The bureau makes this information publicly available, and business owners often use the information for demographic or marketing purposes.
  • Bureau of Economic Analysispromotes a better understanding of the U.S. economy by providing the most timely, relevant, and accurate economic accounts data in an objective and cost-effective manner.
  • Economic Development Administrationresponsible for creating new jobs, retaining existing jobs, and stimulating industrial and commercial growth in economically challenged areas of the United States.
  • International Trade Administrationhelps U.S. businesses compete in the global market by assisting exporters, helping businesses gain equal access to foreign markets, and making it easier to compete against unfairly traded imports. Includes separate units for trade development and import administration.
  • Minority Business Development Agencydevoted to fostering the creation, growth, and expansion of minority businesses in the United States.
  • Office of Consumer Affairsexists to bridge the gap between businesses and consumers, to help businesses improve the quality of the services they offer consumers, to educate consumers, and to speak for the consumer in regards to each administration's economic policy development. The Office also works with American businesses to help them become more competitive in the global marketplace.
  • Patent and Trademark Officeprotects innovation in the marketplace by providing inventors and authors with exclusive rights to their creations.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technologypromotes economic growth by working with businesses to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. Of growing interest to U.S. businesses because of the growing influence of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and international emphasis on quality standards.
  • National Trade Data Bankprovides the public with access, including electronic access, to export and international economic information.
  • Trade Compliance Centermonitors foreign compliance with trade agreements and provides businesses with information about their rights and obligations under existing trade agreements with other nations.

Extensive information on the Department and its various bureaus and programs is available on the Web site that it maintains, located at http://www.doc.gov.


U.S. Department of Commerce. "Commerce Organization." Available from http://www.commerce.gov/organization.html. Retrieved on 9 May 2006.

                                Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                  updated by Magee, ECDI

Commerce Department

views updated May 18 2018


The Department of Commerce (DOC) is an agency of the executive branch of the federal government that promotes international trade, economic growth, and technological advancement. It performs many activities related to business, trade, and technology. Its numerous divisions work to foster business growth and to create jobs; to prevent unfair competition in foreign trade; to distribute economic statistics and studies for use by businesses, the government, and the general public; to support and conduct scientific, engineering, and technological research and development; and to promote foreign trade and U.S. exports. As part of its broad mission, the DOC administers the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the U.S. patent and trademark office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and several other major government agencies.

Originally part of the Department of Commerce and Labor, which was created in 1903, the Department of Commerce was established as a separate entity by law on March 4, 1913 (U.S.C.A. § 1501). The secretary of commerce sits on the president's cabinet along with the secretaries of the 13 other executive agencies of the federal government and other selected executive officials.

Although the activities of the Department of Commerce are not always prominent in the American consciousness, the department's efforts in administering economic programs have a major effect on the average citizen. Under the administration of President george h.w. bush, the Department of Commerce has administered a number of programs designed to enhance economic growth and to stimulate economic progress in the wake of a recession.

Economics and Statistics Administration

The Economics and Statistics Administration, supervised by the undersecretary for economic affairs, advises the president on economic developments and macroeconomic and microeconomic policy. It also makes economic forecasts and presents current economic data to the public through the National Trade Data Bank and the Economic Bulletin Board. The office oversees the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Bureau of the Census was officially established as a permanent office on March 6, 1902 (32 Stat. 51). Its major duties are authorized by the Constitution (which requires that a census of the U.S. population be conducted every ten years) and by laws codified in Title 13 of the U.S. Code. By law, the census data collected from individuals must be kept confidential. However, statistics collected from the data are published for use by Congress, the executive branch, and the general public. The Bureau of the Census collects data on housing, agriculture, state and local governments, business, industry, and international trade. The bureau also publishes projections of future population trends. For a fee, the bureau will search records and furnish certificates to individuals who require evidence of age, relationship, or place of birth. The headquarters of the bureau is located in Suitland, Maryland, and the bureau operates 12 regional offices.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, formerly the Office of Business Economics, was established on December 1, 1953. The bureau prepares and interprets statistics on the gross domestic product, personal income, foreign trade, and many other national accounts relating to commerce. It makes statistics available through numerous media and publications, including the monthly Survey of Current Business.

Bureau of Export Administration

The Bureau of Export Administration, with its offices of Export Administration and of Export Enforcement, directs the nation's export control policy, including the processing of export license applications. Export Administration oversees export licensing. It assesses whether export controls should be imposed upon specific products, with particular regard for the potential danger to U.S. national security that may result if the products are exported. This office works with U.S. allies to advocate for better ways of controlling strategic exports. Export Enforcement investigates violations of export-control laws, including possible diversions of exports to countries that are forbidden to receive particular products.

Economic Development Administration

The Economic Development Administration, established in 1965, works to generate economic and job growth in the United States, including developing the economies of distressed areas experiencing high unemployment; low income levels; or sudden, severe economic hardship. It funds public-works projects for public, private nonprofit, and American Indian groups, including industrial parks, roads, water and sewer lines, and airports. It also provides technical assistance and grants in order to promote business development.

International Trade Administration

Created in 1980, the International Trade Administration (ITA) works to improve the international trade position of the United States. The ITA oversees nonagricultural trade operations of the U.S. government and supports the efforts of the office of the u.s. trade representative. It includes the offices of International Economic Policy, Import Administration, and Trade Development, and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. The last agency produces and markets services and products to promote U.S. exports, including seminars and conferences on international trade.

Minority Business Development Agency

Formerly the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, the Minority Business Development Agency was established in 1979. It helps to develop minority-owned businesses. The agency operates a network of six regional offices and four district offices that provide technical and managerial assistance to business owners and entrepreneurs.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was formed in 1970. It is authorized to explore and to map the global ocean and its living resources; to analyze and predict conditions of the atmosphere, ocean, sun, and space; to monitor and issue warnings regarding destructive natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes; and to assess the changing condition of the environment. Included in this wide mandate are such activities as protection of marine species; preparation of nautical and aeronautical charts and geodetic surveys; prediction of ocean tides and currents; satellite observation of the atmosphere and oceans; and management of ocean coastal zones. Offices of the NOAA include the National Weather Service; the National Marine Fisheries Service; the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service; the National Ocean Service; and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was formed in 1978. It is responsible for advising the president on telecommunications policy; developing and presenting national plans at international communications conferences; managing federal use of the radio frequency spectrum; and administering the National Endowment for Children's Educational Television. Offices of the NTIA include the Public Telecommunication Facilities Program, which provides grants to extend delivery of public telecommunications services to as many citizens as possible, and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, which operates a research and engineering laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Patent and Trademark Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) awards patents, which give inventors exclusive rights to their inventions, and registers trademarks, which provide businesses and organizations with rights to symbols and other features that distinguish their products or services. The PTO issues three types of patents: design patents, plant patents, and utility patents. A patent is valid for 20 years from the date when the application was filed. The PTO also participates in legal proceedings involving patents or trademarks; advocates for strengthening intellectual property protection worldwide; and maintains a roster of qualified patent agents and attorneys.

Technology Administration

The Technology Administration helps businesses to develop technology that will increase their competitiveness in the marketplace. It identifies and attempts to remove governmental barriers to the commercialization of U.S. science and technology; helps to identify priority technologies; monitors foreign competitors' progress in technology; advises the president on issues concerning commercial technology and related policy; and promotes joint efforts among business, government, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. The office also manages the National Medal of Technology Program, the president's highest technology award.

The Technology Administration operates the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which collects and distributes scientific and technical information generated by the U.S. government and foreign sources. Its collection comprises over 2 million works. The NTIS Bibliographic Database is available on CD-ROM or online through commercial vendors. The Technology Administration produces the Federal Research in Progress Database, a summary listing of 140,000 federally funded research projects in progress. The NTIS also licenses governmentowned inventions, operates the FedWorld computer system, and makes available a major Japanese on-line information system. The NTIS is a self-supporting agency, collecting its revenues through sales of its research products.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was founded in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards and was renamed in 1988. In addition to its traditional role as developer and protector of national standards of measurement, the institute has increasingly been called upon to help industry to use technology to improve product quality and reliability, improve manufacturing processes, and more rapidly bring to market products that use new scientific discoveries. The NIST administers the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, first established in 1987, which recognizes outstanding quality achievement in business. The institute operates a world-class center in Boulder, Colorado, for science and engineering research, including research in the fields of chemistry, physics, electronics, materials science, computing, and mathematics. Its headquarters is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration

Established in 1981, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration formulates and implements national policy relating to travel and tourism. It develops trade and statistical research programs to assist the tourism industry, and aids small- and medium-sized travel and tourist businesses. It operates regional offices in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto, as well as a Miami office that services South American markets.

Web site: http://www.commerce.gov/

further readings

U.S. Government Manual Web site. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 2003).

Commerce, Department of

views updated May 29 2018


COMMERCE, DEPARTMENT OF, or DOC, was created by an act of Congress in 1913. The secretary of commerce, who heads the department of that name, is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and is a member of the president's cabinet. Among those who have served as Commerce secretary are such well-known personalities as Herbert Hoover, Harry Hopkins, Henry Wallace, Averell Harriman, Elliot Richardson, and Ron Brown.

The role of the Commerce Department to promote trade and U.S. economic and technological advancement has evolved and grown as the needs of the national economy have changed. The DOC took on the role of promoting tourism starting in the 1960s, and in the late twentieth century drastically improved its statistical information on the economy as a resource for commerce, reflecting the increasingly complicated and sophisticated needs of a global economy. With the growing emphasis on diversity and issues pertaining to women and minorities, the DOC stepped up its activities on behalf of those groups. It also greatly expanded its role in promoting foreign trade.


Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999.

Nash, George H. The Life of Herbert Hoover. New York: Norton, 1983.

Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History. New York: Harper, 1950.

Guy B.Hathorn/a. g.

See alsoCabinet ; Debt and Investment, Foreign ; Free Trade ; Gold Exchange ; Interstate Trade Barriers ; Labor, Department of ; Laissez–Faire .

Commerce, US Department of

views updated May 14 2018

Commerce, US Department of US executive department that promotes economic development and technological advancement through activities that encourage and assist states, regions, communities, industries and firms. Its agencies include the Bureau of the Census, Office of Business Economics, Patent Office and National Bureau of Standards. It was founded in 1903 as the Department of Commerce and Labor, and became a separate department in 1913.

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United States Department of Commerce