Federal Eye: Locke Assures Senators on Census, DTV Switch

Former Washington State governor Gary Locke expressed his full commitment to helping restore the nation’s economic health and stated that he was prepared to address the challenges facing the Commerce Department during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee today.

“We must rebuild, retool and reinvent our national strategies for sustained economic success,” Locke told the panel. If confirmed, the former governor faces several immediate challenges, including preparation for and execution of the 2010 census, which some critics say is in danger of being politicized by the Obama administration.

“The president has assured me that the director of the Census will report to me and of course I ultimately report to the president, but that there will always be close consultation with the White House and the Congress,” Locke said during questioning.

Locke also expressed confidence in the ability of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to oversee the remainder of the transition to digital television, a process which has been criticized for its cost and time overruns.

“We will not be seeking additional funds nor will we be seeking an extension beyond the June 12th deadline,” he said. Still, Locke said DTV public service announcements produced by the government and broadcasters “have not been all that clear.”

“I was not even aware of the full implications of this conversion,” Locke said, adding that his brother-in-law had to help explain the process to him a few weeks ago.

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