Department of Commerce – Definition

Cite this article as:"Department of Commerce – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated May 11, 2019, last accessed November 26, 2020,


Department of Commerce Definition

The Department of Commerce is a cabinet-level department of the United States government working to create economic growth and opportunity in the United States.

To support this mission of advancement and growth, the DOC has adopted several strategic goals including:

  • accelerating American leadership,
  • enhancing job creation,
  • strengthening U.S. Economic and National Security,
  • meeting constitutional requirements,
  • supporting economic activity,
  • and bringing in customer-centric service excellence.

In summary, the department focuses on advancing economic growth and creating jobs and opportunities for the American people

A Little More on What is the Department of Commerce

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Department of Commerce and Labor. Ten years later in 1913, a separate department was created by President Howard Taft to oversee the bureaus and agencies specializing in labor. Thus, this department was renamed as the Department of Commerce.

During the late 1860s, after the civil war, the labor leaders of the US started to mounting pressure to create a Department of Labor. A non-Cabinet level Department of Labor was established in 1888 by President Chester Arthur. The department was mainly responsible for gathering information about working people in the US. During late 1890s demands were raised to create a department to represent the interest of the business. Labor leaders demanded if businesses get a Cabinet-level department, labor should also get the same.

President Theodore Roosevelt elevated Labor to Cabinet status and created a single department to oversee both the Commerce and Labor as he believed by working together both would prosper. However, in the following years, labor leaders argued that labor and business were working in the opposite direction and finally in 1913 it was split into two departments.

In 2012, President Barack Obama proposed to close the Department of Commerce and replace it with a new Cabinet-level department focused on trade and exports. The new department would include Office of the United States Trade Representative, Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration. According to the Obama administration, this reorganization would save $3 billion and help in doubling US exports in the next five years.

This proposal of the Obama administration attracted criticism from the different quarters and was ultimately rejected by Congress.

Structure of the Department of Commerce

Secretary of Commerce

(Deputy Secretary of Commerce)

  1. Economic Development Administration.
  2. Minority Business Development Agency.
  3. National Technical Information Service.
  4. National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
  5. Office of Business Liaison.
  6. Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration.
  7. Office of the Chief Information Officer.
  8. Office of Executive Secretariat.
  9. Office of the General Counsel.
  10. Office of Inspector General.
  11. Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
  12. Office of Security.
  13. Office of Policy and Strategic Planning.
  14. Office of Public Affairs.
  15. Office of White House Liaison.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs

  1. Bureau of the Census.
  2. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  3. Economics and Statistics Administration.
  4. Office of the Chief Economist.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security

  1.     Bureau of Industry and Security.
  2.     Office of Export Enforcement.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property

  1. Patent and Trademark Office.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

  1. International Trade Administration.
  2. United States Commercial Service.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere

  1. National Marine Fisheries Service.
  2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  3. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps.
  4. National Ocean Service.
  5. National Weather Service.
  6. Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.
  7. Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology

  1.     National Institute of Standards and Technology.

References for Department of Commerce

Academic Research on United States Department Of Commerce (DOC)

Enhancing the international business curriculum through partnership with the united states department of commerce: the “E” award internship program, Mello, J. A. (2006). Journal of Management Education, 30(5), 690-699. This article provides details of an innovative internship program (‘E’ award internship program) in international business. The internship program has proved to be beneficial for the students, their sponsoring organizations and their academic institutions. It helps students to understand the complexities of actual management practice.

FMC Corp. v. United States Department of Commerce: An Overexpansion of Operator Liability Under CERCLA, Russo, T. R. (1996). Vill. Envl. LJ, 7, 157. This article analyzes the case of FMC Corp. v. United States Department of Commerce and argues that the court has over-expanded the scope of “operator” liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The primary goal of the Act was to place the “burden of cleanup on parties responsible for creating or worsening an environmental problem.” The article argues, the courts consider CERCLA a remedial statute and thus construe it liberally to effectuate its primary goal. To achieve this goal the courts, interpret the scope of “owner” and “operator” liability broadly and in this particular case, they have over expanded it.

International Activities of the United States Department of Commerce with Particular Reference to Africa, Blankenheimer, B. (1962). African Studies Review, 5(3), 3-12. This paper discusses the international activities taken up by the United States Departments of Commerce with particular reference to Africa. It focuses on the activities of two bureaus namely Department in the Bureau of International Programs and the Bureau of International Business Operations. These bureaus are involved in several data collection activities and have primary responsibility within the department for the promotion of United States foreign commerce and private international investments.

Environmental Law-The Federal Government Must Share in the Pain of CERCLA Cleanup Costs-FMC Corp. v. United States Department of Commerce, 29 F. 3d 833 …, Carley, D. M. (1995). Temp. Envtl. L. & Tech. J., 14, 93. This paper discusses the case of FMC Corp. v. United States Department of Commerce. In this case, the government was held liable by the court for the cleanup costs of the FMC facility under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court decided the involvement and activities of the government in that facility were sufficient to qualify as both an “operator” and “arranger” liable for bearing the cost of cleaning up. The court also held that the government had voluntarily waived their sovereign immunity under CERCLA.

United States Department of Commerce, Bell, G. L. (1980). Ann Arbor. Michigan. This is a data report that provides the data that was collected aboard the research vessel Shenehon by the Water Characteristics Branch of the Great Lakes Research Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Survey District. The data was collected between June 29 and November 11, 1965. The study aimed at collecting data to understand the vertical and lateral distribution of the chemical and physical characteristics of water in Lake Erie. It also measured and examined their variation with respect to time. However, this report doesn’t include the interpretation of the data but presents a basic data report.

United States Department of Commerce, Paulson, A. J., Baker, E. T., Feely, R. A., Bates, T. S., Murphy, P., Curl Jr, H. C., … & Crecelius, E. A. (1991). This data report provides an extensive database of trace metal and trace organic observations in Puget Sound. These data were collected during several research programs. It provides sampling and analytical methods with the accompanying quality control/ quality assurance data. The published literature in which the data is interpreted is also included in this report.

… Statistics of the United States, 1789–1945: A Supplement to the Statistical Abstract of the United States. By United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the …, Taylor, G. R. (1950). The Journal of Economic History, 10(1), 115-117. This paper attempts to explain some of the problems of public utility regulation. It uses the experience of a single company, Washtenaw Gas Company to illustrate the problems. This company received a charter from the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1917 and was taken over by the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company in 1938. The paper also describes the institutional setting in Ann Arbor and Michigan against which regulation of this utility is projected.

NJIT United States Department of Commerce, Aluminide, B. O. D. N. (1991). This paper examines the electrochemical behavior of ductile nickel aluminide in neutral solution. It characterizes the features observed in a certain potential range and identifies the potentiodynamic sweep parameters that affect them. The paper concludes that the Nickel aluminide behaves essentially as pure nickel, and only some small differences were observed.

Coastal Conservation Association v. United States Department of Commerce, Thompson, T. R. (2013). Public Land and Resources Law Review, (6), 27. This article provides the details of the case of Coastal conservation association v. United States Department of Commerce. In this case the Eastern Louisiana District Court upheld Amendment 40 to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Reef Management Plan.


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