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Federal Eye: Still No Commerce Chief — Does It Matter?

President Obama marks his first week in office with much of his cabinet in place, but he still needs to name a commerce secretary to replace Bill Richardson, who withdrew his name from consideration earlier this month.

The Commerce Department “is the government agency tasked with improving living standards for all Americans by promoting economic development and technological innovation,” according to the White House Web site. It’s an umbrella organization with no real unity between its 12 bureaus, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The White House would not comment when asked about the Commerce vacancy, but an administration official did note that career staffers serving in acting positions are currently running the department. Recent reports suggest Obama will tap Symantec CEO and board chairman John W. Thompson for the job.

“Every department needs leadership to succeed,” said Lynn Jennings, interim president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. “Without that commerce secretary there, it’s kind of like a rudderless ship.”

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