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Comparing the responsibilities and authority of the Department of Commerce against rules and regulations

Updated on April 11, 2015


The Department of Commerce is one of the few departments that have a direct connection to the Constitution. The federal government has the authority of regulating commerce not only with foreign nations but among several states and with the Indian Tribes. This authority comes from Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 in the Constitution. Specifically the language states:

“To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;”

In addition the mission of the Department of Commerce is: “to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. This is accomplished through several areas and activities.

The first area is trade and investment. In this area this department creating conditions for economic growth and opportunity is not being accomplished to the degree it should. Our economy may be growing in some sectors but in others it is stagnant or is not as vibrant as it once was. Looking at the organizations involved with the trade and investment aspect it is no wonder this activity is failing.

Basically the trade and investment aspect of this department has as its goal to increase opportunities for companies by opening global markets. This involves the balance of trade deficit which we have had in the past and probably still have today. Creating a global market increases our export/import balance and strengthens our economy. As more demands surface this creates the potential of increasing jobs to satisfy the increased demand. Additionally this entity wants to increase foreign investment in our country. This may or may not be a good idea dependent upon the volume. True it may increase jobs but only if it involves new companies or construction of new facilities of companies these sources purchase.

In the area of innovation we have long been a country which has been a leader of innovation and I feel it still is. We are constantly having new products or advances in products to satisfy customer needs and expectations. The Commerce Department was to create an environment which utilizes innovation leading to higher productivity and competitiveness. To a great extent this is accomplished. In this area this entity wants to grow a more productive, agile and high-value manufacturing sector but manufacturing to some extent is not as vibrant as it once was. Today the types of jobs are not in manufacturing but in service industries such as healthcare.

In addition this entity wants to maximize the potential of the Internet but when the FCC proposes regulating the Internet as a public utility this impacts the goal of the commerce department in the area of innovation. This is another example of dysfunction in government operations where the actions of one department impact the operation and mission/goals of another. This creates confusion in the business community when there are multiple regulations or rules which with another entity.

A third area in which this entity is involved is the environment. The activity in this area identifies improving preparedness by providing information, products and services to help companies prepare for a changing environment. The technology today is causing organizations to adapt to new demands from consumers to become more efficient. Environment in this sense is not always about the weather but the business environment. The environment in which businesses operate today is far different than in our past. Businesses need to keep up with these changing conditions or they will cease to exist replaced by others that will supply current needs of consumers. While weather can be a factor the main focus on this area in this department should be the business environment of today and what it potentially will be in the future.

In addition to the activities provided above are data and operational excellence. Data collected by this entity needs to be accurate and reliable not only for government purposes but for the business community as well. Data reliability can and does affect decisions which will be made especially by other government departments/agencies. Completeness of the information which is contained in reports or statistics affects the entire government operations. Every government entity collects data and shares that data with other departments which have a need for it in reference to their respective mission and objectives.

The last area involves operational excellence. This objective is one which should be embedded into each and every department and agencies of the federal government. Operational excellence should involve the principles of integrity. Excellence in government operations appears to be a misplaced adjective but in actual fact there are good individuals who do an excellent job for the organization for which they work. There activity is a reflection on their work ethics which may or may not be evident in the operations of an organization unless the same work ethics is present in the entire department. The same is true for those who do not have good work ethics or integrity characteristics in how they accomplish their responsibilities.

The term commerce as used in the Constitution means business or commercial exchanges in any and all of its forms between citizens of different states, including purely social communications between citizens of different states by telegraph, telephone, or radio, and the mere passage of persons from one state to another for either business or pleasure. A point clearly made in this paragraph refers to telegraph, telephone or radio and not the Internet which this department has taken action to bring the Internet under the control of this department.

With regards to the authority of states with regards to commerce activity the regulation activity of the federal government does not extend to commerce activity within individual states. Regulating commerce within a state does have the limitation as with any other federal law that it cannot interfere with federal laws and regulations.

As part of the Obama administration’s economic team, the Secretary of Commerce serves as the voice of U.S. business within the President’s Cabinet. The Department works with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation’s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans. The Department’s workforce is as diverse as its mission. It is made of up economists, Nobel winning scientists, Foreign Service officers, patent attorneys, law enforcement officers, and specialists in everything from international trade to aerospace engineering. Employees of this entity are positioned in 86 foreign countries in addition to all 50 states. One question which begs to be answered is why are employees of this department in 86 countries around the world? Another question which needs to be answered is whether the same exist with other government departments/agencies.


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