I found that the agency had no standard operating procedures. So everything we did was brand new.
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Ms. Tenenbaum was nominated by President Obama on June 9, 2009 to serve as the ninth Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 19, 2009 to a term that expires in October 2013.
When Tenenbaum arrived at CPSC, the agency was still working on projects surrounding the recall of Chinese made toys with lead paint and dangerous cribs.
The publicity surrounding these incidents led Congress to pass the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008. The new legislation updated the 1972 law and expanded the agency's regulatory mandate.
Challenges facing Chairman Tenenbaum during her first two years in office included implementation of the CPSIA and getting the mandated rules "out," as well as working on the backlog of rules that had not yet been finalized and issued.
In addition, Tenenbaum arrived at the CPSC when imports from overseas were continuing to rise dramatically. Four out of five consumer product recalls now involve imported products.
Responding to the challenge
Chairman Tenenbaum's initial response to this set of challenges was to devote much of her time during her first year to the internal management of the organization.
"I found that the agency had no standard operating procedures. So everything we did was brand new," said Tenenbaum.
She wanted to speed up the operations of the agency and to improve internal communications.
There was also a clear need to find better, more effective ways to communicate with the public. During her first year at the agency, Tenenbaum pushed for expansion of the agency's use of social media. The resulting initiative, CPSC 2.0, included the creation of an OnSafety blog, the @OnSafety Twitter, a YouTube Channel, a recall widget and a Flickr page.
She also concluded that the agency suffered from a lack of strategic direction. In response to this problem, the agency hired a consulting firm to assist in developing a five-year Strategic Plan for the agency.
In response to the increased need to focus on the safety of imported products, CPSC opened an office in Beijing and Tenenbaum visited many countries to assess production standards.
This focus resulted in an increased number of partnerships between CPSC and the Customs and Border Protection agency in the Department of Homeland Security.
Looking forward, Tenenbaum plans to focus on education and outreach work for the agency.
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