Innovation for Growth

Bruce Andrews

An Interview with Bruce Andrews, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and more are all part of the Commerce Department's focus on growth opportunities. Deputy Secretary Andrews provides the U.S. government's perspective.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has focused on high growth sectors such as additive manufacturing. How is this industry changing the face of manufacturing in the United States and globally?

Our view is that the United States has to be positioned to win and lead on the technologies of the future. Our National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that President Obama created is a key part of it.

Additive manufacturing is the focus of the first institute that was created - the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, also called America Makes, in Youngstown [Ohio]. That's a partnership of the private sector, universities, the local government and the federal government.

The point to these efforts is: How do we make sure we are leading on these incredibly important game-changing technologies? Additive manufacturing is one with an incredible growth potential because of the opportunity to shorten the supply chain and literally have the factory at your fingertips with production capacity in-house.

Additive manufacturing would shorten the product development cycle; it would increase the quality and functionality of manufactured parts and also would allow for rapid changes to complex molds and dies used to create new products.

Having worked in the auto industry - I used to work at Ford - I saw what Ford first did with moving to digital designing. This is the next step. Additive manufacturing is an incredible opportunity to use technology to benefit manufacturers.

We believe that additive manufacturing will continue to grow and be a key part of and a key advantage for U.S. manufacturers. Standards development is going to be one important piece of that as this critical industry develops and grows.

What are priority markets or regions outside the United States for the U.S. Department of Commerce and/or U.S. businesses?

We're very focused on growth opportunities. We look at these through the lens of U.S. business community interests and the greatest existing growth opportunities. We deploy our resources where we can get the highest return on investment.

There are a number of growing priority markets. With the announcement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, those Asian and Latin America markets that are part of the agreement are certainly ones companies should consider. TPP levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers by eliminating over 18,000 taxes various countries put on Made in America products. We can't afford to let the opportunity pass us by to open these growing markets to Made in America products.

[In addition,] we have a Look South initiative for Latin America and a Doing Business in Africa Campaign because these are important growing markets where we see opportunities. We hosted the first ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum last year, and we recently completed a trade conference called Trade Winds in Johannesburg, South Africa, for U.S. companies to explore seven Sub-Saharan markets. This is an exciting time.

There's also Asia. In addition to TPP, we are working with U.S. companies to take advantage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. China, the biggest market in the world, is of interest to many American businesses. Indonesia is also a high priority for many companies because of its large population and growth potential. We're helping companies to get the greatest rate of return on their investment and the government's investment, and ultimately creating U.S. jobs by increasing U.S. exports.

As always, Commerce will closely monitor that our trading partners are complying with the terms of these and all of our trade agreements - including provisions relating to standards and conformity assessment-related matters - and where necessary, take action to enforce our rights to ensure that our exporters benefit from those trade agreements.

What steps is the U.S. Department of Commerce taking to foster a more innovative U.S. economy? What role do the National Institute of Standards and Technology and standards generally have in this work?

As "America's Innovation Agency," we recognize that innovation is essential to economic growth.

There are a number of areas where the department and NIST [part of DOC] are deeply engaged in leading in the federal government - everything from groundbreaking science in advanced technology to manufacturing extension services to support for advanced manufacturing; economic development; education, skills and workforce; and more.

On the NIST side specifically, measurement standards and calibration services for manufacturers are a critical part of supporting innovation. NIST has the job of coordinating government participation in the development and use of voluntary consensus standards and in conformity assessment activities, and it plays a crucial role in interacting with the private sector as part of that process.

Over the last few years NIST has expanded its work with the private sector, recognizing the importance of the private-public partnership to many industries and technologies in terms of establishing standards - areas like smart manufacturing, sustainability, advanced communications, cybersecurity, smart grid, high performance buildings and so on. NIST is that critical link in working with the private sector. NIST recognizes its role as both a convener, where appropriate, and key interactor with what's already going on in the private sector-led standards development process. They make sure they work with leaders in industry and the private sector on standards setting projects, particularly those that could help federal agencies meet their mission and policy objectives.

The department also has a strong commitment to standards development, including through ASTM. We have over 500 employees who participate in more than 1,300 standards development activities every year. Of those, 142 staff work on 259 different ASTM committees and subcommittees.

What was the Commerce Department's involvement in Manufacturing Day?

Manufacturing Day, co-produced by the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers and the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, is an important effort to raise awareness of manufacturing and its value to our communities as well as that it's an excellent career choice. The day is an opportunity to showcase U.S. manufacturing.

This year's Manufacturing Day event was Oct. 2. More than 2,500 manufacturers nationwide opened their doors to teachers, parents and students to demonstrate the potential of 21st century manufacturing, tout the transformation of manufacturing into an industry of innovation and foster interest in the rewarding careers available in this growing sector.

In fact, our National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency Alejandra Castillo joined ASTM President Jim Thomas in Philadelphia on Manufacturing Day to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Ben Franklin High School. This new public, magnet high school will provide industry credentialed training in the manufacturing process to students.

Are there other U.S. Department of Commerce initiatives that you would highlight?

Currently, NIST, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice, is working to strengthen forensic science in the United States. Not all forensic sciences have achieved the same standard of reliability as DNA, for example. We would like to ensure that our justice system can trust the science coming out of crime labs. NIST has led the way with DOJ in developing forensic science and making sure that we have a strong collaboration for technically sound, consensus-based documentary standards and guidelines. A number of standards developed by ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Sciences are considered to be the start of this effort.

We are also excited and proud of our work on disaster resilience. NIST is leading a nationwide effort, including the development of standards and best practices, to reduce the toll that natural, technological and human-caused hazards take on communities. NIST has developed a Community Resilience Planning Guide for building and infrastructure systems. I think the guide will be very useful to communities to set priorities and allocate resources to reduce risks and improve resilience. This tool will help communities better withstand the shocks of extreme weather and other hazards, maintain vital services and recover more quickly. In addressing the how of resilience, the planning guide is both a self-help tool for communities and a valuable complement to other efforts promoting proactive disaster risk management.

I mentioned our focus on cybersecurity, and that is an area where we have made a great deal of progress in bringing together industry, academia and government agencies. NIST's National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is partnering with experts from all of these areas to publish guides that show how an organization can use commercially available technology to solve today's cybersecurity challenges. They are basically how-to manuals for a variety of sectors, including healthcare, energy and financial.

And our Cybersecurity Framework to protect critical infrastructure has been a great success with incredible participation from industry and other communities. Organizations are using it to review their cybersecurity risk management plans, create new plans and to communicate with external partners as well as internal audiences. We are constantly reaching out to new industries interested in learning how it can help them improve their cybersecurity.

There are a lot of national challenges that our agency can help to address.

Bruce H. Andrews is deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, a position he has held since July 2014. In his role, he manages and oversees the operations of the agency's 12 bureaus and more than 46,000 employees. He previously had been chief of staff to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce beginning in Oct. 2011. Andrews also has experience as general counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; as vice president of governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Co.; and as a practicing attorney working on public policy, telecommunications, transportation, technology, judiciary and financial services.

Issue Month
Issue Year