Those who have read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or followed its HBO adaption, Game of Thrones, will recognize the title of this farewell message as the customary finish to the eulogy for a fallen member of the Night’s Watch. For the uninitiated, in Mr. Martin’s fictional world, the Night’s Watch is a military order dedicated to holding the Wall, the immense fortification on the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, which protects the lands south of the Wall from the dangers that lurk beyond it. Those who join the Night’s Watch take a vow that starts, “Night gathers, and now my watch begins.”
Like the Night’s Watch, Advocacy’s staff “holds the Wall” against regulations that have a disproportionate impact on small entities by monitoring compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and observes and studies how economic trends effect small entities.
Since my watch began 13 months ago, Advocacy has steadfastly performed its duties. Advocacy has issued comment letters, participated on SBREFA panels, conducted roundtables and outreach events in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country, attended Executive Order 12866 conferences, and published several economic studies and reports. Through these activities I met with small business owners and their representatives, and heard their views on how regulations affect small business.
Three events representing Advocacy’s past, present, and future stand out. Representing the past is the Advocacy Anniversary Symposium, which simultaneously commemorated the 40th anniversary of Advocacy’s creation, 35 years of the RFA, 20 years of SBREFA, and 15 years of Executive Order 13272. I consider the panel that featured five of the six former Chief Counsels: Frank Swain, Thomas Kerester, Jere W. Glover, Thomas M. Sullivan, and Winslow Sargeant, the day’s highlight. They discussed Advocacy’s foundations and its evolution as an independent agency addressing how federal and state policies affect small businesses and entrepreneurship.
The revamping of Advocacy’s publications, led by the Office of Economic Research and the Office of Public Affairs and Information, represents the present. The 2016 Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories included new data visualizations and graphics, were completely revised to be fully transparent and reproducible by public users, and can be updated between releases. In 2017, OER intends to roll out these new user interfaces, and make them web and mobile phone compatible as well. In addition, OER is also working to make the Statistics of U.S. Businesses (SUSB) data more user-friendly for both regulatory agencies and small business stakeholders, and is completely revamping and updating the Small Business GDP report using the same principles regarding data, reproducibility, and transparency.
The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA), signed by President Obama last February, represents the future. Under TFTEA, whenever the President notifies Congress of the intention to enter into international trade negotiations, the Chief Counsel must convene an Interagency Working Group (IWG); comprised of representatives from the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and the Office of Trade Representative, and conduct small business outreach in the manufacturing, services, and agriculture sectors to gather input on the trade agreement’s potential economic effects. With this information, the IWG is to report to Congress on the most important priorities, opportunities, and challenges affecting these industry sectors, and provide (1) an analysis of the economic impact on various industries, (2) information on state-owned enterprises, (3) recommendations to create a level playing field for U.S. small businesses, and (4) information on federal regulations that should be modified in compliance with the potential trade agreement. Congress’ decision to make Advocacy a key player on international trade exemplifies Advocacy’s reputation as the independent agency within the federal government that speaks for small business.
All of Advocacy’s achievements during my watch were due to its amazing staff; to them I owe a special debt of gratitude. It has been a distinct pleasure to work alongside such an outstanding group of bright, dedicated, professional, and incredibly skilled individuals.
In closing, I thank President Obama for the confidence in my abilities he demonstrated by making this appointment. I thank my family for the sacrifices they made that allowed me to serve as Chief Counsel. Finally, I thank Advocacy’s extended family of stakeholders for their support of me and the Office. Advocacy deeply appreciates the help of its friends in small business organizations, trade associations, congressional offices, and executive branch agencies. I hope that the connections we made during this time live on. Night is gathering, but as for me, my watch is ended.