President Obama Looking to Gut Commerce Department, Streamline

President Barack Obama has started off 2012 in the same vein as 2011—by trying to cozy up to business owners and, in theory, streamline the processes and structures of agencies dealing with U.S. companies.

In a recent speech, Obama publicly asked Congress to reinstate the president's authority to, as needed, reform and update the Executive Branch, which was in place until 1984 when President Ronald Regan was wrapping up his first term. Obama plans to use said authority, should he garner it, to bring the various departments focused on business and trade under one umbrella. The plan would largely gut the existing structure of the Commerce Department and place great emphasis on exporting. Doubling exports between 2010 and 2015 has been an oft-repeated priority of the Obama Administration; new statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis noting the increase in exports, up to $177.8 billion in November, puts the U.S. on track to do just that.

The president believes the changes would modernize and streamline matters for all U.S. businesses, which currently have to deal with six different departments or agencies focused on business and trade. He called the current system "a maze."

"Six is not better than produces redundancy and inefficiency," Obama said. "It's a mess. We're supposed to make it easier for them. And we can. There are some tools that we can put in place that every day are helping small business owners all across the country, but we're wasting too much time getting that help out. And if Congress would reinstate the authority that previous presidents have had, we would be able to fix this."

Obama quipped this should not be "a partisan issue," but this ignores that it is an election year (re: little happens) and that Congress is as divided, if not more so, than at any time in decades.

The president threw an additional olive branch to the small business community during the same speech, as he announced that the Small Business Administration was being elevated to a Cabinet-level agency. The speech also marked the formal acknowledging of Business USA, a government website to be launched within weeks that is designed as "a one-stop shop for small businesses and exporters." Its purpose is to consolidate information presently spread haphazardly among various government sites.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer