Address by Vice-President Al Gore on the Second Anniversary of the
National Performance Review and Release of the NPR Annual Report
The White House
September 7, 1995
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Mr. President, distinguished quests, thank
you all for joining us here. I would like to acknowledge a few of the
people who are joining us, before giving my remarks and then presenting the
President to you. I'd like to thank some of the people in the private sector
who've been especially helpful to us in inspiring the work of the National
Performance Review. I'd like to acknowledge David Osbourne, the author of
"Reinventing Government. Tom Peters, the author of, " In Search of
Excellence", and Philip K. Howard, the author of " The Death of Common
Sense". Would the three of you please stand. We would like to thank you for
the inspiration and the hard work.
I would like to acknowledge four members of congress who are here who have been tremendous allies, extremely creative and hard working. Pushing the work of the National Performance Review on a bi-patrician basis, and it has received a great deal of bi- patrician support. I'd like to acknowledge as a group Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Jane Harmon, and would and Rep. Steny Hoyer. Would all of you please stand. Thank you.
I was talking with Steny at the game last night and looked right past him there.
We've worked so closely together with this group, Democrats and
Republicans. And in thanking you I would also like to thank your colleagues,
especially on the relevant committees, who've been so helpful in moving this
I'd like to acknowledge quite a few members of the President's cabinet who are here. And there's no possible way I can express the gratitude that all of us in the White House feel for the extreme enthusiasm and hard work and dedication that has been demonstrated by each member of the President's cabinet.
And please hold your applause, but I'd like to acknowledge Secretary of State,
Warren Christopher; Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown; Secretary of Labor,
Bob Reich; U.S. Trade Representative, Mickey Kantor; Secretary of Housing
and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros; Secretary of Agriculture, Dan
Glickman; Secretary of Transportation, Federico Peña; Director of the Office
of Management and Budget, Alice Rivlin; Administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency, Carol Browner; of course, chief of staff, Leon Panetta;
and, in addition, I also, well, let, let me see here, Administrator of the Small
Business Administration, Phil Leder(?); Special Representative Assistant to
the, to the President, Mack McLarty; Administrator of the General Services
Administration, Roger Johnson; the brand new chairman of the Council of
Economic Advisors, Joe Stiglitz; the director of FEMA, James Lee Witt. And
I'm sure I've left a lot of people out. Head of the SEC, Reid Hunt, who is, is
here. And if I've overlooked people I apologize profusely. I know that Bill
Perry couldn't be here. Doc(?) Hook is representing him. There're many
others from the departments.
I'd like all of you to stand and let us give you a round of applause.
I'd like to acknowledge the director of OPM, who's been a tremendous ally in
this, Jim King. Please stand, Jim. Come on.
I know there're, there're probably a dozen other people that I ought to single
out. And I, I just apologize. So many people have worked hard and helped on
this. It, it's probably gonna always be impossible to thank everyone
individually. But we're very, very grateful to you.
We welcome Congresswoman Jane Harmon. We already acknowledged you,
your hard work earlier.
And I also want to thank all of the owners and executives of themany scores of
small businesses and large businesses who have been supporting our work.
And many of them have been kind enough to join us here today. And we're
especially grateful to you.
And, of course, a very special thanks to the people who have really made
reinventing government work, the real heroes of reinvention: the men and
women who are federal employees at every rung on the ladder; the folks who
work where the rubber meets the road; the people who have really buckled
down and made this whole enterprise successful. Some of them are featured in our new report, and I, I'll refer to it in, in a moment.
But the ones who are featured, who have been invited specially to be with us
today, I'd like all of you to stand as a group and take a bow. And in thanking
you all, we'd like to thank all the federal employees. Please stand.
Of course in this time when we're all still glowing from the achievement of Cal
Ripken, Jr., last night, Steny led the applause there. The President and I were
joking about how many references to Cal Ripken would be made here this, this
morning. But it is really appropriate to talk about the federal employees who
show up for work every day and do an outstanding job on and, and, they, they
keep at it. They're steadfast. Many of them have had ideas for reinventing
government, and bringing about constructive change, and eliminating red tape,
and saving money, and improving the quality of service for years and years.
But they were afraid to stick their necks out because if they did under the way
the system operated they'd get their heads chopped off.
And thanks to President Clinton, they've now been given the green light to
come forward with those ideas, with those suggestions, with the innovations,
and work together as a team, because they know they're gonna be listened to.
And when they come up with these new approaches, their managers are now
hungry for them because the philosophy has changed. We know that the best
ideas come from the people on the front lines who are actually doing the work.
And when they're rewarded with recognition and in other ways for the
creativity they're demonstrating, then the ideas keep on coming.
And, and, and we really thank all of the federal employees who have been a, a
part of this. And many of them are watching by way of our satellite link, and
this is your success that we are celebrating here today. This blueprint for the
years ahead has been created largely with your input, and we thank all of you
for making it possible.
You know, two-and-a-half years ago, when President Clinton took office, it's
worth remembering that at that time the national debt had been growing faster
and faster, up by almost two-and-half trillion dollars in the previous dozen
years. The federal payroll was bigger and bigger, up a quarter million since the Kennedy Administration. And Americans were getting madder and madder about the way their government worked.
Government programs kept on going year after year, regardless of the results
that were being produced. Well-intended regulations piled up higher and
higher and higher, until they smothered common sense.
And customer service too often was just terrible, with long lines, confusing
forms, busy signals, the run-around everything designed more for the
convenience of the government than for the customer. And I say designed for
the convenience of the government, not for the government employees
necessarily but for the system the way the system operated.
And that's what things were like when President Clinton came into office and
said, as he did during the preceding campaign, we're gonna reinvent
government. And he asked me to conduct a national performance review and
use the results as a blueprint to completely reinvent the way the entire federal
I needed a lot of help because the President only gave me six months to come
up with a plan, and I got that help from the federal workers that I bragged on a
few minutes ago. Because they wanted to change things; they had signed up
for public service in order to give America their best. And, of course, no one
knows better what's wrong with government and how to fix it than they do.
And of course the first thing we did is we went to the private sector and the,
the pioneering public service outfits that had shown the way, and asked them
what had worked for them. And the, one of the main lessons they said is go to
thepeople who actually do the work and listen to 'em. One of the people said,
you know, the definition of a consultant is somebody who walks around the
factory floor and listens to what the employees are sayin' and then charges the
boss totell him what they're saying. And we decided to short-circuit that
approach and go directly to the people who were actually doing the work.
And, and as a result two years ago today we unveiled our plan to reinvent
government and to make it work it better and cost less.
Our plan was designed to put customers first and switch from red tape to
results; to use quality management the same way a well-run business uses it;
and to deliver service that is equal to the best in business.
President Clinton not only approved that plan. Some of you who were here
that day remember that he said to, to the whole country, every place where this
report says the President should, the President will. Well that, that one line, if
that'd been the only line he spoke that day, it would've been enough to make all of the difference. Because since that time the, the signal has been very, very clear. He told us to get back to work and make the changes.
And so for the past two years the entire government has been doing the hard
work of changing. It is a huge job. Another thing we learned from studying
the private sector organizations is that it's not unusual even for a small outfit
just a fraction the size of the federal government to take decades to change.
And when the report was first released, we said at that time it'll take eight to
ten years to bring about the full transformation that we envision with this
reinventing government blueprint.
Well, everybody's pitched in to help: administration officials, career civil
servants alike, managers as well as workers, and labor leaders. Our partners in
state and local government are helping us cut red tape. Business leaders have
continued to show us the best ways to use modern technology. And we've
gotten that bipartisan support in Congress for some important legislative
changes, such as procurement reform.
And so today I'm delivering to President Clinton this report on the status of
reinvention, a report of what we have accomplished so far, a report that
demonstrates that we are a full year ahead of schedule, and an updated
blueprint for the years ahead.
Mr. President, I'm proud to present this report to you. And we're gonna get to
work in implementing these recommendations the same way we did with the
first report. (APPLAUSE)
The President has spoken an awful lot about the need to find common ground.
And at a time when all the reports comin' out of Washington emphasize the so-
called train wreck possibility, common ground of the kind the President speaks
about is needed by our country more than ever. I sincerely believe that this
blueprint represents the, the, the ground zero of common ground, and that we
can start here and build out toward a consensus that can help us keep our
country on track.
We welcome continued bipartisan support for this approach. We ask for it. It
embodies ideas that are not partisan in any way, shape, or form.
And we want to invited people and read this and analyze it, because it gives us
a clear blueprint that is an alternative to a slash-and-burn extremist kind of
approach that I, I don't believe people in either political party ultimately are
gonna want to adopt.
But let me make it clear: We are not trying to compete, to make the most
promises. We are trying to keep the most promises. And we intend to do just
I'm very proud of what we have done because even though we have plenty left to do we are way ahead of schedule; ahead of schedule in cutting the cost of government and ahead of schedule in reducing the size of the government. And you know, the team that we have had hard at work in coordinating the National Performance Review has done a superlative job. And, and I want to single out for special recognition Elaine Kaymart(?), who has been the staff director at the NPR, and also Bob Stone, who has been a critical player. There are quite a few others who are here; we're very grateful to all of those who've worked so hard.
We're, we're also a lot farther along than anyone predicted at making
government work better also. That's what Americans say they want most, not
simply deeper and deeper cuts in government. They want better results, and
nobody should be confused about that. All of the disappointment at how
government has operated in the past, and all of the concern about red tape and
poor performance, should not be interpreted as a call for, by the American
people, to eliminate the, the whole government. What they want is a
government that works and that delivers quality service at the lowest possible
So that's really what this whole thing is all about: They want their money's
worth. And what we have to report on that score not only makes me proud, I
think it ought to make every American proud of our ability as Americans to
redeem the promise of self-government.
Because reinvention is not just happening in Washington. It is happening in
your home town wherever you live in America. We know how much more
remains to be done, and we're keenly aware that we're not there yet. But the
day will come, and we are moving rapidly toward the day, when you will be
able to go into every office of the federal government and come away bein' able to tell your family, I noticed a difference today. Somethin' has changed. We're gettin' better service, and it's costin' less. There are many places in the federal government right now where you can walk in and get that kind of service, and go home and say to your family, It's beginning to happen.
The big public awareness of this change will not come until the whole is larger
than the sum of its parts, and it's happenin' everywhere in every office. That is
But we want to celebrate the places where it is already happening. If you work at the South Dakota, I mean the S.T. Warren Paper Plant in Skowhegan,
Maine, you are a lot safer on the job now because Bill Freeman and his team at OSHA reinvented the way OSHA does its job. Instead of just inspecting and issuing fines, they got the plant manager, Dave Maskowitz, and the workers into a partnership focused on safety. Less hassle but more results, specifically, accidents down 35 percent; productivity up 25 percent.
Similarly, if your international plane flight lands in Miami, you can get through
customs and immigration quicker and be more certain that drugs and terrorists
don't because Lynn Gordon from the Customs Service, and Bob Kasperek of
the National Treasury Works Union, and Dan Cadman of INS have reinvented
their relationship with each other and with airline managers like Art Torno of
American Airlines. They're all working as partners now and getting passengers through in minutes instead of hours.
Similarly, if you own a business, large or small, anywhere in America, you now have the on-line 24-hour U.S. Business Advisory. It gives you one-stop
electronic access to virtually every government organization that helps or
regulates or has any relationship to business in America. You can even get the
names and telephone numbers of the individual federal workers who write the
regulations. We're not ready to tell you where they live quite yet...
But we're getting to the point where accountability and responsiveness and
quality are just integral parts of the way the government does business
everyday. Again, we know how far we have to go. It's not everywhere yet,
but we're getting there and it soon will be.
You know that old derogatory saying, "good enough for government work"?
I've often compared that to what happened years ago to the phrase "made in
Japan," which in the 1950s was synonymous with poor quality, cheaply made
goods. And then all of a sudden in the 70s, 80s, when did it happen? Almost
before we noticed it. We went into stores and saw electronic products and
motorcycles and then cars, and then a lot of things, that had "made in Japan"
on the label. And it conveyed a new meaning. All of a sudden it was very high quality, at a very competitive cost.
And thank goodness American business woke up and started responding, and
now we're seeing this surge in productivity, especially during President
Clinton's administration. But my point is that phrase took on a whole new
The phrase now, "good enough for government work," is comparable to what
"made in Japan" meant back in the 1950s. But ladies and gentlemen, it is
changing right now before our eyes. And I'm here to tell ya, with this report
today, that we now can see clearly just ahead the day when that phrase "good
enough for government work" will have a completely new meaning.
In Miami, for example, the baggage handlers all of a sudden are now faced
with people who've been cleared through so quickly that they're waiting for
their bags. And the baggage handlers have been given instructions by the
airlines to reinvent the way they handle the baggage and get it out faster.
Why? Because they want to be good enough for government work.
The Social Security Administration, the same thing in, in answering the
telephone. The Air Combat Command, when Walmart went into the pharmacy
business they have a tradition of benchmarking against the very best in every
activity. They found that the U.S. government's Air Combat Command was
the very best at what they did so they went and learned how to do it. Why?
Because they wanted to be good enough for government work.
There're plenty of other examples. What we're aiming toward, again, is the
time where it will be uniform. And that phrase will have a whole new meaning.
Common sense is making a comeback because at the President's direction in
the same effort all regulatory agencies are getting much better results than ever
before, behaving less like tough cops fill a ticket quota and more like partners
who share goals with the businesses they regulate, like OSHA in Maine, and
the, soon like OSHA all over the country. That change is underway.
It all adds up to few hassles and safer workers. Less red tape and a cleaner
environment. Less nonsense and more common sense.
According to Philip Howard I acknowledged earlier, best-selling author of The
Death of Common Sense, we have made, and I quote, "a complete U-turn
away from the reigning philosophy of government regulation." President
Clinton has brought that about, and Mr. President, there's somethin' goin' on
here that I believe all Americans can be proud of. Because in this country the
people, of course, are our government, and government is responding to the
will of the American people.
This turnaround is a national success of the first order, and one that Americans
everywhere will want to continue and do want to continue. For all of the
criticism of our great nation, we're doing some things right, as we always have
when we have rallied to the call. And this time the call is coming from
And it is my great pleasure and privilege to present to you the person whose
vision guides this turnaround, this reinvention campaign. The man who from
the very beginning knew that it could be done; the man who told us that it must
be done; and who is now presiding over the effort by which it is being done.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton.