Gore Tells Federal Workers Reinvention Efforts Are Working
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
BETHESDA, Md., April 25, 1997 With federal workers finding ways to better serve their customers -- the American public -- Vice President Al Gore said government reinvention efforts are now restoring public confidence in government.
Speaking to the Reinvention Revolution Conference held here in early April at the National Institutes of Health's Natcher Center, Gore told over 800 federal workers and military leaders that their energy, creativity and innovation is changing the way government does business. Because of their efforts, the vice president said, public confidence in federal government is up for the first time in 35 years and continues to rise.
"It's no accident," he said. "I attribute it [government confidence] entirely to you, the federal employees, and your sustained efforts to reinvent government. Obviously, we still have a long way to go. We understand that clearly. You understand it better than anyone. But we are absolutely on the right track."
After decades of what Gore called "being demoralized by bureaucrat bashing and victimized by shutdowns," he said, federal workers have overcome obstacles and risen to the reinvention challenge.
"Who else knows better where the waste is, what pointless regulations and rules need to be changed or abolished, and how partnerships can replace rivalry and replace confrontation," said Gore. "You proved that you are the solution to reinventing government."
Gore said one positive measure of their reinvention efforts is in improving customer service. "Surveying and listening to customers is making us change the way we do everything," he said. "It's just common sense. Like the private sector, we have to look to our customers to measure our success."
After defining a federal "customer" as a regular patron of goods and services, Gore said over 150 agencies surveyed their customers to find out how they're doing. He said those surveys are revealing answers the government will publish in a report later this year.
Gore then gave a sneak preview of those results.
"One hundred percent of calls to U.S. Customs are now answered in 60 seconds or less," he said. "Second, in February of this year, 97 percent of the Social Security Administration's callers got through in five minutes or less."
He cited the Federal Emergency Management Agency's toll-free customer help line following disasters in Pennsylvania and New York, saying they handled all inquiries with a single call. He also praised the National Park Service visitors centers for receiving "good" to "very good" comments for customer service.
Saying there were many beachheads of revinvention, Gore said government must now extend the D-Day analogy in a series of breakouts from these beachheads. "We need to move from liberating single airports or offices or state parks to liberating whole agencies ... to liberate the entire federal government from the obsolete, old, suffocating, inefficient, wasteful, terrible ways of doing things," he said.
To do this, Gore said, government must adopt the customer-oriented stategies that empower government employees to streamline agencies, cut red tape and promote common-sense innovation.
"That means we have to break through some barriers in order to do it," he said. "First, you told me that communications to the front lines were poor. Committed reinventors didn't know what was going on in Washington and didn't know what was going on with other reinventors. Second, you said the top brass, or the 'higher ups,' as one person put it, 'just don't get it.'"
In helping communications, Gore said the Federal Communicators Network now provides reinvention news to the editors of over 350 agency newsletters and similar publications. He also mentioned the National Performance Review home page (www.npr.gov.) which Gore said a whole array of materials and services that now keep federal workers well-informed and able to share ideas.
He then spoke of the Blair House Papers -- a small booklet containing 15 principles designed to educate senior executives on lessons already learned through reinvention. "I'm convinced that if every federal manager applied these 15 principles, reinvention breakouts would start happening tomorrow," said Gore. "We're using the Blair House Papers to tell your bosses to 'get it.'
Gore said reinvention will not stop until the job is done. "That is what will amaze the benchwarmers -- those who believe that reinvention was just going to go away like all of the other attempts at reform in this century," he said. "We knew it would be a challenge when we took on this job, and I am committed to see this through with you. I am with you all the way. So together let's just do it."