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Obama names Locke to head Commerce

From NBC's Athena Jones

They say the third time's the charm, right?

President Barack Obama was likely hoping that old adage would prove true this morning when he officially nominated former Washington Gov. Gary Locke to be his pick to head the Commerce Department.

"I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that we've tried this a couple of times. But I'm a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right, and Gary is the right man for this job," Obama said.

Locke is the third person the president has named to lead the department, following New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who both withdrew their nominations. Locke, who was the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history, is also the third Asian-American to join Obama's cabinet.

Video: Obama introduces Locke as his pick for Commerce secretary.

Calling entrepreneurship and industry the "wellsprings of an economy that has been the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history," Obama hailed Locke for his work as governor of Washington State.

The pro-free trade Locke led 10 trade missions to Asia, Mexico, and Europe, helping U.S. companies expand their international business. "It is America's workers and businesses that employ them that will determine our economic destiny," Obama said. "It is the task of the Department of Commerce to help create conditions in which our workers can prosper, our businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow.

Locke could find himself at odds with labor groups due to his pro-trade stance, but his familiarity with China will likely be beneficial at a time when the United States is hoping to work closely with its major trading partner and key lender to spur a successful economic recovery in both countries and around the world.

"Our nation's economic success is tied directly to America continuing to lead in technology and innovation, and in exporting those products, services and ideas to nations around the globe," Locke said during his brief remarks. "The Department of Commerce plays a critical role in nurturing innovation, expanding global markets, protecting and managing our ocean fisheries, and fostering economic growth. The Department of Commerce can and will help create the jobs and the economic vitality our nation needs."

The Locke announcement followed a meeting aimed at making sure stimulus money is distributed quickly and efficiently to help jumpstart economic growth. Vice President Joe Biden met with Accountability Board Chair Earl Devaney, OMB director Peter Orszag, and several Cabinet members -- including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Biden told the group it was important to "follow the money," and said he wanted weekly progress reports from each department on how the money was being used.

"One of the primary roles that I am to play in overseeing this is to be the vehicle for you to let know what you need: What is it that you need in order to be able to get this job done; if you need to take it the president and me then to go from there to get you what you need to be able to do the job," he said. "This is a monumental project, but I think it's doable."

One concern expressed by both Orszag and Devaney during the meeting was the need to ensure that each department has enough procurement officers and second-level staffers to adequately monitor spending.