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Proposals to reorganize the department go back many decades.[3] The Department of Commerce was one of three departments that Texas governor Rick Perry advocated eliminating during his 2012 presidential campaign, along with the Department of Education and Department of Energy. Perry's campaign cited the frequency with which agencies had historically been moved into and out of the department and its lack of a coherent focus, and advocated moving its vital programs into other departments such as the Department of the Interior, Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury. The Economic Development Administration would be completely eliminated.[28]

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced his intentions to ask the United States Congress for the power to close the department and replace it with a new cabinet-level agency focused on trade and exports. The new agency would include the Office of the United States Trade Representative, currently part of the Executive Office of the President, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration, which are all currently independent agencies. The Obama administration projected that the reorganization would save $3 billion and would help the administration's goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years.[29] The new agency would be organized around four "pillars": a technology and innovation office including the [3] The Department of Commerce was one of three departments that Texas governor Rick Perry advocated eliminating during his 2012 presidential campaign, along with the Department of Education and Department of Energy. Perry's campaign cited the frequency with which agencies had historically been moved into and out of the department and its lack of a coherent focus, and advocated moving its vital programs into other departments such as the Department of the Interior, Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury. The Economic Development Administration would be completely eliminated.[28]

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced his intentions to ask the United States Congress for the power to close the department and replace it with a new cabinet-level agency focused on trade and exports. The new agency would include the Office of the United States Trade Representative, currently part of the Executive Office of the President, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration, which are all currently independent agencies. The Obama administration projected that the reorganization would save $3 billion and would help the administration's goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years.[29] The new agency would be organized around four "pillars": a technology and innovation office including the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; a statistical division including the United States Census Bureau and other data-collection agencies currently in the Commerce Department, and also the Bureau of Labor Statistics which would be transferred from the Department of Labor; a trade and investment policy office; and a small business development office. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced his intentions to ask the United States Congress for the power to close the department and replace it with a new cabinet-level agency focused on trade and exports. The new agency would include the Office of the United States Trade Representative, currently part of the Executive Office of the President, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration, which are all currently independent agencies. The Obama administration projected that the reorganization would save $3 billion and would help the administration's goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years.[29] The new agency would be organized around four "pillars": a technology and innovation office including the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; a statistical division including the United States Census Bureau and other data-collection agencies currently in the Commerce Department, and also the Bureau of Labor Statistics which would be transferred from the Department of Labor; a trade and investment policy office; and a small business development office. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be transferred from the Department of Commerce into the Department of the Interior.[30] Later that year, shortly before the 2012 presidential election, Obama invoked the idea of a "secretary of business" in reference to the plan.[31] The reorganization was part of a larger proposal which would grant the president the authority to propose mergers of federal agencies, which would then be subject to an up-or-down Congressional vote. This ability had existed from the Great Depression until the Reagan presidency, when Congress rescinded the authority.[32]

The Obama administration plan faced criticism for some of its elements. Some Congress members expressed concern that the Office of the United States Trade Representative would lose focus if it were included in a larger bureaucracy, especially given its status as an "honest broker" between other agencies, which tend to advocate for specific points of view.[29][33] The overall plan has also been criticized as an attempt to create an agency similar to Japan's powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which was abolished in 2001 after some of its initiatives failed and it became seen as a hindrance to growth.[33] NOAA's climate and terrestrial operations and fisheries and endangered species programs would be expected to integrate well with agencies already in the Interior Department, such as the United States Geological Survey and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. However, environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council feared that the reorganization could distract the agency from its mission of protecting the nation's oceans and ecosystems.[34] The plan was reiterated in the Obama administration's FY2016 budget proposal that was released in February 2015.[35]