A recent op-ed from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation makes the case for breaking up the Department of Commerce, calling it “a grab bag of incoherent functions, lacking key domestic industrial policy capabilities.”
After recommending separating out various functions, author Robert D. Atkinson contends that, “it’s long past time to create a national statistical agency. It makes no sense to have multiple statistics bureaus dispersed in multiple agencies, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Census Bureau in Commerce, to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Labor. The GAO noted in 1996 that the United States has around 70 different statistical agencies. Canada, by contrast, has one. Congress should establish a “U.S. Stats” to house Census, BEA, BLS, and ideally other statistical agencies, too."
While there is an ongoing effort to increase cooperation and reduce overlap between federal statistical agencies (such as consolidating the Bureau of Labor Statistics into the same office space as the Census Bureau), a massive time-consuming proposal like this is unlikely to garner interest on Capitol Hill anytime soon.
Neither would Atkinson’s closing recommendation, to waive “many civil service rules.” The endeavors of the Commerce Department require, he suggested, “high-performing personnel,” which can only come from a “greater ability to fire poor performers and hire the best.”