Patrick D. Gallagher's Career Biography

Issue Date: 
February 17, 2014

Patrick D. Gallagher, age 50, is currently the acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is also director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology. 

Gallagher was appointed the commerce department’s acting deputy secretary by President Obama on June 1, 2013. As such, Gallagher supports the secretary and acts as the department’s chief operating officer, with overall responsibility for budget, planning, and operations. The department has a total operating budget of more than $10 billion and has 40,000 federal employees.

The Department of Commerce is responsible for promoting job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for all Americans. It works in partnership with businesses, universities, communities, and the nation’s workers. The department manages a wide range of programs in the areas of trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship and business development, environmental stewardship, and statistical research and analysis.

Gallagher was confirmed as the 14th director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology on Nov. 5, 2009. The agency promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. Its fiscal year 2014 budget includes $850 million in direct and transfer appropriations, an estimated $50 million in service fees, and $120 million from other agencies. The agency employs about 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, support staff, and administrative personnel at two main locations in Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo. It also hosts about 2,700 associates from academia, industry, and other government agencies who collaborate with National Institute of Standards and Technology staff and access user facilities.

Under Gallagher, the agency has greatly expanded its participation, often in a leadership role, in collaborative efforts between government and the private sector to address major technical challenges facing the nation. Its participation in these efforts stems from the agency’s long history of technical accomplishments and leadership in private sector-led standards development organizations and in research fields such as manufacturing engineering, cybersecurity and computer science, forensic science, and building and fire science.

Prior to assuming the directorship of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gallagher served in several capacities with that agency, including deputy director, director of its Center for Neutron Research, and leader of the Research Facilities Operation Group in the Center for Neutron Research as well as an agency representative at the National Science and Technology Council. Prior to joining the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1993, he worked as a research associate at Boston University.

During the first stages of his career, Gallagher did work on the physics of soft condensed matter, using both laser lights and neutron beams as probes. As he assumed broader responsibilities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, he worked on important aspects of national policy for applying science to technological challenges. In the years since becoming the National Institute of Standards and Technology director, he has played a key role in formulating federal policy related to national efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, promote effective standards setting, and support advanced manufacturing.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Gallagher its Gold Medal for his leadership in interagency coordination efforts.

In 2013, he delivered the commencement speech at the University of Pittsburgh, and Pitt awarded him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in recognition of his contributions to advancing the nation through science and technology.

He is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Sigma Xi Honor Society, and the Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society. He worked as a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh and received his PhD in physics from Pitt in 1991.

Gallagher received a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College. Before his graduate study at Pitt, he taught science and math at a high school in St. Joseph, Mo., where he also served as head coach for the cross-country track team. He lives in Brookeville, Md., with his wife, Karen, and their three sons.