The U.S. Department of Commerce is an executive division of the U.S. federal government responsible for programs and policies related to national economic growth, international trade, and technological advancement. Established in 1903, the U.S. Department of Commerce administers the Bureau of the Census, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Travel and Tourism Administration. The Department of Commerce is overseen by the Secretary of Commerce, has a $11.4 billion budget, and has approximately 47,000 employees.
The Department of Commerce was originally established as part of the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1913, under President Howard Taft, the Department of Commerce became a standalone department, when a separate Department of Labor was established.
Previous to its founding, there was pressure from U.S. labor leaders to found a Department of Commerce and Labor. Much of the lobbying started in the late 1860s, and in 1888, President Chester Arthur established the non-Cabinet level Department of Labor, which was intended to collect information about working people. Further pressure in the late 1890s grew to establish a Department of Commerce, to represent the interests of business, while the labor leaders, who had been satisfied with the non-Cabinet Department of Labor, objected to Cabinet status for business when it was not given to labor.
The 1903 establishment of the Department of Commerce and Labor was established by President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed that business and labor should work together, and used the opportunity to elevate Labor to Cabinet status as well. When the Department was split between Commerce and Labor, it was done in part due to pressure from the labor movement, which believed that business and labor worked in opposition.
The Department of Commerce is responsible, in part, for the promotion of job creation and economic growth. This is done through ensuring fair trade, providing necessary data to support commerce, and fostering innovation through standards and conducting foundational research and development. Furthermore, the Department of Commerce provides United States-based companies and entrepreneurs with invaluable tools through programs such as the Decennial Census, the National Weather Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Foreign Commercial Service.
Other functions include overseeing ocean and coastal navigation, helping negotiate bilateral trade agreements, and enforcing laws to ensure a level playing field for American businesses and workers. This in part sees the U.S. Department of Commerce work with businesses, universities, communities, and workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has an overarching goal to help the American economy grow. This is broken down into five strategic goals in order to advance the larger mission and support the larger goal:
- Accelerate American leadership
- Enhance job creation
- Strengthen U.S. economic and national security
- Fulfill constitutional requirements and support economic activity
- Deliver customer-centric service excellence
To further drive U.S. competitiveness in international markets, the Department of Commerce works to strengthen the United States' international economic position and facilitate global trade by opening new markets for U.S. goods and services. In the United States, the Department of Commerce works to promote progressive business policies to help businesses and entrepreneurs grow and succeed. This includes using science and technology to help foster innovation, and a focus on research and development to find new economic opportunities.
The bureaus and offices within the Department of Commerce include the following:
- The Bureau of Census—conducts the decennial count of Americans as required by the U.S. Constitution
- The U.S. Patent and Trade Office—also mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it tracks new inventions and discoveries and who has the right to profit from them over a given period; this office also enforces and promotes intellectual property rights
- The Bureau of Economic Analysis—provides a range of statistical reports on the state of economy, such as the National Income and Production Accounts
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—provides weather forecasts, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charts the seas, conducts deep sea exploration, and manages fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species