SBA, USPTO Still Lack Permanent Top Leadership

September 18, 2013

pic-whitehouseThe U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is now under the direction of interim administrator Jeanne Hulit who took over at the beginning of September upon the resignation of former administrator Karen Mills. Hulit had been serving as SBA Associate Administrator of the Office of Capital Access and was previously in the private, commercial banking industry as well as deputy director for the International Division at the Maine Department of Economic and Community development.

While Hulit brings a valuable focus on capital access to the position, Mills’ resignation was announced back in February—seven months ago—without any signal from the administration about formally nominating a new SBA administrator. As is common in many second term presidencies, many agency chiefs stepped down, leaving President Barack Obama with numerous seats to fill. Unfortunately, the SBA is the only remaining office for which there has been no attempt to name, and no final approval of a permanent successor.

This lapse sends a strong message—despite President Obama in his first term elevating the SBA Administrator to a cabinet level position—that perhaps small business isn’t as high on the list as it once was.

In addition to the staffing changes at the SBA, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is also experiencing change in leadership. Teresa Stanek Rea, interim Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO announced last week that she too would be stepping down, though without any set date of departure or any mention of future.

Rea was informally tapped to step in upon the departure of David Kappos who left the post in January 2013 after announcing his plans to leave in November 2013—marking almost a year that the administration has had to name a permanent replacement for a position with significant influence over innovation in the U .S.  economy.

NSBA is urging the president to nominate a permanent replacement for both the SBA and USPTO quickly. Both positions require candidates with solid understanding of the needs and unique challenges facing America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses.