National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Conversations with America
August and September, 1998


Federal agencies are out there listening generously to their customers and using what they hear to make improvements in their services. Across the Administration, and across the country, agencies are using every form of media to have conversations with the American Public--face-to-face, written, telephone and electronic media. Federal staff are going to where customers are, sometimes in formal settings and sometimes in less formal settings such as labor union meetings, annual picnics, fairs. Agencies are having conversations in the language of their customers, not just in English. Some conversations are by invitation only to specific customer groups, others are open to the public. Some are to discuss very specific issues, others are open to topics of interest to the attendees.

The following departments and agencies reported to Vice President Gore's National Partnership on Reinventing Government the two-way conversations they will be holding with their customers and the public during August and September 1998.

  • Department of Agriculture/Forest Service
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense/Acquisition Reform
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Interior
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of State/Consular Affairs
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Treasury/Internal Revenue Service, Customs, and Financial Management Service
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Independent Agencies:
    • Consumer Product Safety Commission
    • Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    • International Trade Administration
    • National Archives
    • National Credit Union Administration
    • Small Business Administration
    • US Railroad Retirement Board
Seven agencies (Commerce Department (all bureaus), Department of Labor, EPA, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Railroad Retirement Board) have posted their reports and other information about the Conversations with America initiative on their web sites. These can all be reached from the NPR web page at Other departments and agencies will add Conversations with America web pages in the future.

Some highlights:

Citizen Advisory Meetings:
The Bureau of Land Management's Resource Advisory (citizen) councils will hold 16 meetings (open to public) in 9 western states over the next two months to get citizen advice and recommendations regarding management of public land resources within their areas. For example, a meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska on September 22-23 seeks to resolve mining conflicts in Fortymile Wild and Scenic River. In four different locations in Montana during September, discussion will focus on off road vehicles, land exchanges, weeds and access. In Nevada, the topics of August and September will be wild horses and burros; land use plans, water rights policy, and elk management plan.

On June 23, 1998, in response to recommendations of Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rossotti announced the members of the nation's first IRS citizens' advocacy panel, to be based in the IRS South Florida district. The South Florida Citizens' panel's first meeting will be held 9/26. Area citizens interested in contacting the panel can reach it through a special toll-free number (1-888-912-1227).

Several bureaus at the Department of Commerce are holding meetings during August and September with their Advisory Committees. For example, the Census Advisory Committee 8/10-14 in Anchorage, Alaska; the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, 9/24 in Ellicott City, MD.

On 9/14-15 in Washington, DC, the Environmental Protection Agency will meet with the Federal Advisory Committee to help implement he Food Quality Protection Act.

The Department of Labor has a 12-member National advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health which will hold a public meeting 8/5-6 in Washington DC to get advice on policy issues.

Telephone Surveys:
During September, the Bureau of Land Management will conduct a telephone survey on collecting fees at recreation sites. BLM will interview visitors of the recreation fee pilot sites to gauge their satisfaction with the program and the value for the fee charged. BLM will use this information as part of an evaluation report to Congress on user fees.

Written Surveys:
During September, the Bureau of Land Management will be conducting written surveys of five additional customer groups in the western United Sates to assess their satisfaction with the service delivery processes and the service provided by BLM. The surveys will include: mining claims, timber sale contractors, recreational and educational users, and public room users. The information obtained by these surveys will be used as one of the performance measures for BLM to report to the public and to Congress on their performance and as a foundation for process redesign efforts to provide the American public the best in business service.

The Department of Interior's National Park Service has selected the next parks to survey visitors and measure customer satisfaction. These are Kanai Fjords National Park and the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, Saint Croix National Scenic River in Wisconsin, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania, New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park in Massachusetts, San Juan National Historic Park in Washington, and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. Feedback from visitors will help park managers and planners make more informed decisions to improve customer service.

The Department of Agriculture's Forest Service has established a great web page "My Government Listens - Forest Service Upcoming Conversations with America" ( From this page the public can learn the results of a Customer Service Comment Card given to visitors from May 25-July 25, 1998 asking them about whether or not they got prompt service, good information and service, clear and efficient procedures, and their satisfaction with facilities. It also tells them about upcoming conversations for August and September, 1998 and links them to information about customer satisfaction surveys. During August and September, the Forest Service will be conducting customer satisfaction surveys on the law enforcement program at seven national forests, on the technical development centers in two sites, and on fish & wildlife customers in six forests. Fish & Wildlife partners will be surveyed in all regions.

The Bureau of Land Management sends out customer comment cards with its publications.

Electronic posting of survey results: In addition, during September BLM will post five completed customer surveys on its web page. These include surveys regarding: grazing permits, oil and gas leases, realty management (exchanges and acquisitions), recreation permits, and rights-of-way grants.

Television and Radio Call-In Shows:
On Sept 9, State Dept/Consular Affairs will have a simulcast live television and radio call-in show called "Talk to America" aimed at potential immigrants and Americas abroad. This will also be translated and rebroadcast. The topic will be the Diversity visa lottery, an annual lottery that last year led to 3.4 million qualified entries received during the one-month application period. Consular Affairs will use what they hear to refine procedures and outreach efforts for future lotteries.

The Department of Treasury/Customs passenger service representative will appear on a Farsi language question and answer radio program to be broadcast in the Dallas/Ft. Worth , Los Angeles, Atlanta and Las Vegas areas. The goals are to both inform Iranian-American and Iranian Resident aliens as to what they can and cannot bring back in the U.S. from Iran and get comments on how Customs can better serve the Iranian-American community.

Public or customer meetings and town halls:
On 8/18 in Seattle the Technology Administration (Department of Commerce) will hold the second in a series of public town hall meetings to discuss information technology work force development issues to hear first hand the concerns of the business community. The town halls were launched in response to business concerns that a work force shortage was impairing business growth and product development. Transcripts made of all town hall meetings and the new home page on information technology will result in a report that presents the issues, problems and innovative solutions discovered around the country at these regional meetings.

On 8/11 in Newburg, NY the Department of Health and Human Services will participate in "Community Conversations on Health, a town hall meeting hosted by the Family Health Center. The HHS Regional Director will discuss Administration and HHS initiatives but will spend most of the evening listening to community residents, providers and others discuss their health care delivery, access and service concerns. Feedback on community concerns will be shared with all the appropriate HHS operating components for comment and, as appropriate, action.

National Archives -- holding conversations all over the country to get input to help determine how NARA can improve the quality of its record storage and enhance access to records. Five such conversations being held during August, in NYC, Kansas City, St. Louis, Anchorage, and Cincinnati.

On 8/1 in Knoxville, TN, the Environmental Protection Agency will meet with representatives of a consortium of cities in Region 4. Participant input will be used to focus Region 4 efforts for involving state and local governments in sustainable development efforts.

ON 8/6 in Topeka, KS the Department of Labor/Women's Bureau will visit with regional child care coalition to the Potawatomi Indian Settlement to observe and learn form the on-site child care center on the Indian Settlement. Discussions will center on child care needs and issues affecting Native American children.

On 8/10 the Small Business Administration will hold a hearing in Cleveland to get feedback from small business owners on Department o f Labor and other federal agency regulatory activities. Feedback will be used to make DOL's Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act program more responsive to small businesses. Similar hearing to be held 8/25 in Nashville, TN.

On 8/12-13, the Environmental Protection Agency staff will tour every Superfund site in New Jersey's 11th congressional district with Congressman Frelinghuysen and representatives of the community to answer questions and listen to communities concerns regarding remediation plans and progress of work at each site. They will visit Chester, Rockaway, Sparta, Dover, and East Hanover townships, Wharton Borough, Parsippany, Troy Hills, Boonton, Fairfield, Gillette, and Millingotn, NJ.

On 9/8-10 in Pascagoula, MS the Department of Labor Negotiated Rulemaking Committee for Fire Protection in Shipyard Employment will hold a public meeting. The location was requested by a number of small shipyards. The purpose is to develop a recommendation to OSHA for a safety standard for the shipyard industry.

The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce is holding almost 100 public meetings around the country during August and September to get community input for the 2000 Census. In the New York City area alone, Census employees will be meeting with 38 community groups during the next two months to discuss partnership and community outreach efforts. These include the Committee Guadalupano Cristo Bay (8/12), The Point CDC (8/13), the 92nd Block Association (8/13), the New South Bronx Police Athletic League Youth Center (8/13), the Caribbean Omen Health Association (8/13), the PRC Management Corporation (8/13), Protective Services for Adults (8/17), the Maimonides Hospital (8/17).

Also, the Queen of all Saints Church (8/20), the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center (8/21), the "We care" Senior Support Group (8/21), the St. George's Senior Citizens Center (8/24), the 21st Century Partnership (8/25), the Wilson Desir Community Center (8/27), the United Bronx Parents Day Care (8/28).

Also, the American Serashram Sangha (9/3), the Sunset Park Redevelopment (9/3), the Beulah Church of the Nazerine (9/8), the Sunset Terrace Family Health Center (9/10), the Marcus Garvey Pan African Association (9/10), the Sunset Park Family Health Center (9/14), the Women's Survival Space (9/15), the Trinidad and Tobago Nurse Association (9/15), the Haitian Americans United for Progress, Inc (9/16), Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (9/17), the Guyana Ex-Police Association (9/17), the Center for Family Life (9/17), Neighbors Saving Neighbors (9/21), 5th Avenue Community (9/21), Samuel Tilden High School (9/21), Victims Services Agency (9/22), the Schomberg Library Center (9/24), the Lutheran Medical Center Community Relations (9/24), the Vocations and Community Services for the Blind (9/24), the Community Food Resources Center, Inc (9/24), In Touch Networks Inc (9/28), the Queens Youth Collective (9/28), the Prospect Plaza Housing Authority (9/30).

The Department of Veterans Affairs will listen to concerns of minority veterans at an open meeting on August 3-9 in Austin, Texas. Similar open meeting to be held on August 19 to discuss concerns of veterans in El Paso, Texas.

Energy/Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is holding several public meetings, the transcripts and videos of which will be available for further public review following the meetings

VA -- monthly exchange of dialogue between Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary and Veterans Service Organization liaisons. VHA identifies breaking issue or developing initiatives and feedback is solicited from VSO liaisons. VSOs also submit discussion items for which they seek additional dialogue. VHA uses real-time feedback on policy and program initiatives prior to decisions or implementation.

On 8/27-28 in Philadelphia, the Environmental Protection Agency will lead three open public meetings on the proposed Water Quality Standards regulation. The meetings will assist stakeholders in developing their positions and preparing their comments for EPA during the 180-day public comment period.

On 8/29 in Del Rio, Texas, staff from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board will answer questions in Spanish on retirement and disability benefits at the Union Pacific Maintenance of Way lodge meeting.

DoD holding town halls in Washington state, Nevada and Ohio with government and industry acquisition community to evaluate the effectiveness of acquisition reform.

On 9/15 in Los Angeles, the Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration will co-sponsor a biotechnology grassroots meeting with drug and medical device manufacturers in the 9 states of the Pacific Region that employ biotechnology in their manufacturing processes. FDA will listen to concerns of the biotechnology industry, problems that may exist between FDA and the industry, and proposed solutions to these perceived problems.

The Department of Commerce/Economics Statistics Administration will hold focus groups in early August in Chicago with 5-10 of the National Trade Data Bank CD-ROM subscribers to discuss the existing product and find out what they would like in the way of a replacement product.

In Long Beach, CA on 9/10 the Department of Commerce/NOAA will hold its fourth Regional Constituent Affairs workshop with invited constituents to get feedback t NOAA leadership on constituent issues and concerns regarding NOAA programs, products and services.

The third Wednesday of each month, the Commerce Department/Patent and Trademark Office meets in Arlington, VA with external customers who purchase copies of PTO records to receive customer feedback on quality and timeliness of services and provide customers with information about PTO initiatives and procedural changes. Feedback is used to improve customer service and public record operations.

In September, the Commerce Department/Bureau of Export Administration will hold a town hall meeting in Washington, DC for freight forwarders.

Electronic Town Hall:
Commerce/National Telecommunications and Information Administration will have an electronic town hall called "Open Dialogue on the Net" where Assistant Secretary Larry Irving will respond to emails on the programs and directions of NTIA. Feedback will be used to better serve all customers

At the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Program Administration the Office of Hazardous Materials is holding an electronic on-line open public meeting via the Internet on September 14-16 to all Americans to submit comments, read and respond to others comments, and to respond to specific questions on a proposed rule on the transportation of infectious substances. Feedback will be incorporated into the final regulation.

Telephone Call Centers and Toll-Free Numbers: A special toll-free number has been set up for Florida citizens interested in contacting the first IRS Citizen's advocacy panel. 1-888-912-1227.

The Department of Commerce/Bureau of Economic Analysis maintains a toll-free customer service number (1-800-704-0415) to facilitate ordering BEA products and to communicate problems, complaints and suggestions. Feedback is used to evaluate and improve BEA's products and customer service.

Electronic comments on regulations or specific initiatives: The Department of Agriculture's Forest Service seeks customer input via its web page on the Recreation Fee demonstration project.

The Bureau of Land Management has an interactive web site, and a page for Conversations with America. BLM also receives electronic comments from the public on proposed regulations.

The Department of Commerce/Bureau of Economic Analysis maintains an interactive web site that encourages users to communicate electronically their comments and suggestions on BEA's products and services.

At the Department of Labor/Mine Safety and Health Administration, Assistant Secretary McAteer set up an electronic "Mailbox to the Assistant Secretary" to obtain ideas, comments, suggestions, or anything else that miner, mine operators or anyone else would like to tell him about the Agency's programs Comments have been used to improve the Agency's enforcement, assistance and educational programs.

Satellite Broadcasts and Video Teleconferences: National Credit Union Administration will have a conversation with state credit unions via video satellite broadcast to discuss year 2K readiness of credit unions.

On 8/23 in Boise, ID the Environmental Protection Agency will participate in a video teleconference with about 100 Idaho growers and agricultural leaders to discuss issues surrounding implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act. EPA wants to hear and discuss stakeholders' concerns with this Act.

On 9/22, 23 and 24 the Department of Health and Human Services/Maternal and Child Health Bureau will co-sponsor with states three interactive videoconferences to discuss quality assurance issues for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and children with special needs community. Public and private agencies, consumer and advocacy groups, and experts will be invited to participate. These videoconferences are designed to present information, identify issues of most importance to customers, define desired health outcomes, and identify and prioritize indicators that will measure these outcomes.

Exhibit booths at informal gatherings where customers are: On August 15 on Kent Island, MD the Consumer Product Safety Commission will present, have an exhibit booth, and answer questions from public at Darling Angels Day, a health and safety fair for about 400 children and adults. Feedback will be used to help CPSC determine how it can serve customers better, such as by providing more and other types of safety information and publications.

On August 29 in Vancouver, Washington's Burlington Northern Yard Office, staff from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board will staff an informational booth at a Rail and Health Fair open to the railroad public to answer questions on railroad retirement benefits.

Multi-media approach related to specific release of information: On 9/14 the Department of Commerce/Bureau of Economic Analysis will release estimates of State Personal Income to the press and to a network of about 230 state officials and analysts. In Washington and throughout the 50 states BEA will field questions on interpretation and methodology in person, by phone, by email, and through the BEA web site. Interaction with data users will tell BEA how they want to receive data and what additional data they would like BEA to produce.

Examples of how agencies are using what they hear:

  • The Department of Treasury/Internal Revenue Service is holding local and national "Problem Solving Days" to help individual taxpayers resolve their tax problems. Through root cause analysis, best practices and lessons learned, methods to prevent and resolve recurring problems are being explored with the responsible operational areas within IRS. The goal is to remove the problems and provide relief for taxpayers. Data is also being used to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these events.
  • The Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration will participate in a Musculoskeletal Disorders Stakeholder Meeting in September. Input will help OSHA rulemakers better understand what concerns the regulated community, employee representatives and workers have with respect to this often controversial issue. Documents submitted to the record are used to help OSHA model its regulatory approach and consider regulatory alternatives.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration will hold a series of public meetings during August to solicit views on how the agency can best meet its statutory obligations. These exchanges with scientific and academic experts, health care professionals, representatives of patient and consumer advocacy groups, the regulated industry and the general public will be used to develop and publish a plan for achieving compliance with each of FDA's obligations under amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • On 9/16-17 in Newark, NJ the Department of Health and Human Services will convene 175 community service providers, women living with HIV/AIDS in New York and New Jersey, and government officials. Summit participants will develop policy recommendations for action concerning the current status of prevention, care and treatment and research for women with HIV/AIDS. A report of the Summit proceedings will be shared with the Secretary of HHS, Donna Shalala, for implementation and integration in the HIV/AIDS initiative.
  • The Department of Transportation/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting listening sessions around the country over the next three months (e.g., 8/3 in Lakewood, Colorado; 8/27 in Detroit; 9/1-4 in Boston; 9/12 in St. Louis, MO; 9/15 in New Orleans; 9/22 in Lawrence, Kansas) to gain ideas and support from traffic safety customers and industry partners as they begin planning the implementation of the Transportation Equity Act legislation.
  • The Department of Transportation/Coast Guard will meet August 4 in Arlington, Virginia with towing industry partners to discuss possible voluntary, non-regulatory solutions for the disproportionately high fatality rate aboard towing vessels.
  • The Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration have invited air traffic managers and airline executives to Herndon, Virginia on August 18 to discuss air traffic control service and the customers service requirements, and to establish a process by which to measure the quality of air traffic control service being provided. The goal is to establish a common set of requirements and measurements for both FAA and industry to use when determining the quality of air traffic control service being provided.
  • The Department of Transportation/Research and Special Programs Administration will conduct a public meeting in Arlington, Virginia on August 25-26 to solicit views and recommendations on the direction of a study of one-cal notification system best practices in damage prevention for pipeline safety. This office is also holding public workshops to solicit interest in participation in the development of a national pipeline mapping system.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs uses the conversations events to elicit from customers and their representatives their impressions of how well VA services are performing and to anticipate services that may or should be considered for future implementation.
  • EPA is holding many conversations across the nation in next two months. Some are site specific and issue specific. On August 18 in Wilmington, DE, for example, regional senior managers will meet with counterpart state officials to reach agreement on which environmental indicators and outcomes will guide the 1999 performance partnership agreement between EPA and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
  • EPA will participate 8/11-12 in the 2nd Annual Tribal Environmental Summit with Tribal Chiefs and environmental officers of 65 Tribes, and senior managers from other federal agencies. The goal is to work with Tribes to incorporate their needs into General Assistance Program grants and to improve work processes.
  • The Department of Commerce/National Technical Information Service uses feedback from public forums in creating the agency strategic plan, business plan, and customer service measures, as well as modifying products and services to meet customer service requirements.
  • Several agencies are putting proposed regulations on-line and allowing the public to comment and to read others comments.
  • Several agencies plan to use input from various conversations to target outreach and training, to develop a research agenda, or to revise data collection or distribution based on needs of their customers.
August 7, 1998
For more information, contact Kelly Paisley at (202) 694-0051or or Beverly Godwin at (202) 694-0064 or

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