The president’s reorganization plan implies that the Department of Commerce will be streamlined out of business. There is nothing bold or even unique about proposing the dismemberment of the Commerce Department. It has been done before. In 1913, its labor section became the Department of Labor. In 1966, its transportation office became the Department of Transportation. Like a modern-day hydra, whenever a head is cut off, it is replaced by new ones.
The Department of Commerce’s newly appointed head will be limited in his influence at the table. A predictable turf battle of jurisdiction will be waged on Capitol Hill. The department’s bureaus and activities will be up for grabs, picked over like a cadaver in the desert, without achieving the efficiency sought by the White House.
Commerce needs a makeover, but it should not cease to exist. The purpose of the reorganization should be U.S. competitiveness, not job elimination.
If it is important to change the name, call it the Department of Industry and Trade, but place all the trade-related functions under one roof.
The Commerce Department should be the beacon light on the hill that radiates entrepreneurialism, and U.S. companies seeking export assistance should not even encounter a whiff of bureaucracy that is often more frustrating than helpful.
Former Rep. Don Bonker (D-Wash.) chaired the Speaker’s Export Task Force and wrote the Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1986. Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at the Graduate School of Business at Georgetown University and previously served as deputy assistant secretary of Commerce.