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Ross confirmed Commerce secretary, addresses challenges

March 02, 2017

The Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary Monday night by a vote of 72 to 27 and he was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday. The 79-year-old billionaire investor becomes the 39th head of the office, which oversees several key economic development organizations including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the Economic and Statistics Administration. In his address to commerce department employees on Wednesday, Ross said the president has given the department “more responsibility than ever before.” In addition to being more involved with “rebalancing a trade system that has gutted American manufacturing,” Ross said that Commerce will “play a key role in his historic effort to relieve the crushing burden of regulation that has shifted American economic growth overseas and made us uncompetitive on the world stage.”

He went on to say that the department “has the important task of identifying where the burdens on our economy are too great and where our innovators need more latitude in order to unleash their ingenuity.” He also cited the following challenges, which he said the staff cannot neglect:

  • changed methodology for the 2020 census;
  • launching more satellites for NOAA;
  • getting FirstNet universally accepted;
  • finding and auctioning more spectrum; 
  • enforcing trade agreements;
  • obtaining maximum sustainable yield for our fisheries;
  • improving the timeliness, accuracy, breadth and depth of our data output;
  • providing the expertise and capital necessary to spur growth and innovation in communities across America;
  • setting standards for our increasingly technical society; and
  • protecting intellectual property rights.


One of the first steps to meet the challenges is securing adequate appropriations from Congress, which will be “a major challenge,” he said.

Secretary Ross is the former Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC and has over 55 years of investment banking and private equity experience. 

dept of commerce