NPR Hammer Award Alumni Event
U.S. Mint Building
January 11, 2001
Thank you, Jay, for that introduction and for hosting tonight's event. And thanks to Deputy Director John Mitchell for being such a strong champion of reinvention. The Mint can boast of two outstanding reinvention accomplishments - one of the highest government customer satisfaction scores - one that rivals AOL, the highest in the private sector - and 17 hammers. That's a record number for an agency of its size. All 17 of these were sent in from around the country for tonight's event and are up on the walls just outside...
I want to start my recognizing Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Hershel Gober, FEMA Director James Lee Witt, and Janice LaChance, OPM Director.
I also want to acknowledge all of the other members of the President's Management Council who are hear tonight. They are the chief operating officers at the cabinet departments and agencies who help drive reinvention throughout the federal government. If you all would wave when I call your name:
- Sally Katzen, Deputy Director for Management at OMB and chair of the PMC;
- Mark Lindsay, Assistant to the President for Management and Administration;
- Robert Mallett, Deputy Secretary of;
- Richard Rominger, Deputy Secretary at USDA;
- Kevin Thurm, HHS Deputy Secretary;
- Mike McCabe, Deputy Administrator at EPA; and
- Mort Downey, Deputy Transportation Secretary;
- Edward Powell, Acting Deputy Secretary at VA;
- Bill Halter, Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration;
Let's begin tonight's program by traveling back to the future. Although the Vice President couldn't be here tonight in person, he wanted me to tell you how much he appreciates the hard work you've done on behalf of the American people.
We are, however, able to bring him to you through the magic of video... (Note: tape of Letterman show)
was the first time we saw the Vice President with his hammer, but certainly not the last - he's recognized a total of 1,378 Hammer teams since 1994.
To those team members with us tonight -- thank you for being here to reflect back on your success and to honor all of our Hammer Award winners. You are the heroes of reinvention. You took your vision, drive, energy, and dogged determination and used them to create positive and lasting change for the American people.
Some of you might not know how we chose the Hammer as the symbol of reinvention in this Administration. It all started with Bob Stone, NPR's first project director, who is here tonight. Bob, raise your hand...
He had come to the Vice President's attention because of his strong reputation as a passionate innovator and reinventor at the Pentagon.
After his starring role on David Letterman, the Vice President told Bob that he wanted a way to go out and teach-to shine the spotlight on specific teams of individuals who were working throughout the government to make it work better, cost less, and get results for American citizens.
About that same time, NPR was focusing a lot of its work on procurement reform. You all remember that $400 hammer at the Pentagon?
So NPR combined the national exposure from the Letterman Show and the notoriety of that Pentagon hammer and decided on the Vice President's Hammer Award. Since a hammer symbolizes both tearing down and building up again - which are both needed for reinvention - it would be the official symbol of reinvented government.
The very first one was awarded to the Veterans Benefits Administration's New York office in March 1994. It's here on stage...and here's the original blueprint...
VHA was also the very first Reinvention Lab.
Michael Messinger, the current chief of staff at NPR, had come on board just prior to that and actually designed the first one in a workshop at USIA's television prop shop. Michael-where are you?
When the Vice President began this Administration's bold journey on the road to reinventing government eight years ago, he thought it was the career front-line employees who knew what needed fixing and who were in the best place to create real and lasting change. The Hammer Award became a powerful tool for encouraging, motivating, and rewarding you on the front lines. It was a way to focus on results.
Standing here tonight, I know in my heart that the Vice President could not have been more right in that premise - that decision early-on to empower you and your partners. You lit the fire and fanned the flames of reinvention throughout the federal government.
But reinvention is about more than just doing things better or doing things differently. A big part of reinvention is restoring trust by changing the public's perception of government. Your accomplishments - the things you've done to win the Hammer Award, the difference you've made in countless lives across America - have helped to change that perception and to increase trust in government.
The last two Hammer Award-winning teams that we are honoring tonight embody all the core principles of reinvention that have guided our work from the beginning -- delivering great service to our customers; fostering partnerships and community solutions; and getting the job done with less.
IRS Modernization Team
The first of our two Hammer Awards for tonight goes to the IRS Modernization Design Teams. They partnered with the National Treasury Employees Union on an ambitious program to modernize virtually every aspect of the agency. The result has been nothing short of the transformation of an agency that literally affects each and every American's life.
Beginning in January 1998, the IRS Modernization Design Teams got to work on creating a 21st-century organization - one that would provide taxpayers the service they expect and deserve, and give employees an agency they and the public could trust.
The first item on the agenda was to redesign an organizational structure that was keeping the IRS from reaching its goals. The new structure is built instead around taxpayer segments - your customers. The goal: to significantly improve service to your customers while simplifying operations and reducing the burden on taxpayers.
Not only did the IRS reorganize itself around its customers, it redefined its business practices, established clearly defined management roles, at the suggestion of NPR used a balanced set of performance measures to evaluate its work, and installed the kind of technology needed to support these changes.
Over the last couple of years, we at NPR have proudly pointed to Commissioner Rossotti and the IRS as one of our greatest reinvention success stories. They've put their customers first, they've empowered their employees, and they've achieved results all Americans care about. In short, they've gone far beyond just collecting as much money as possible from taxpayers and created a whole new conversation about what it means to serve customers.
I want to ask IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, Deputy Commissioner Bob Wenzel, and Assistant Deputy Commissioner John C. Stocker to come up on stage to accept the Hammer...
And also Colleen Kelly, President of NTEU...they represent all the hundreds of team members who worked on IRS modernization...please raise your hands...
Congratulations to all of you.
The second of tonight's Hammer Awards goes to the FirstGov.gov Website Development Team.
This site was something that was very near and dear to our hearts at NPR because a large part of our focus over the years has been the development of a comprehensive electronic government - one that puts Americans online not in line.
FirstGov.gov, launched last September, is the first-ever U.S. government portal that provides the public with easy, one-stop access to all federal government online information and services. 24 hours a day/7 days a week, this site provides a single online information portal that connects Americans with information and resources from 27 million federal agency webpages. Using a state-of-the-art new search tool as part of the portal, Americans can find information and services the way they want them when they want them.
Most Americans don't necessarily care which agency or department provides the service they need and with FirstGov they don't have to. Since FirstGov is built around specific types of services, they just click on whatever they are looking for. It organizes the information by Search, Topics, and state and local information. Citizens can file taxes, compare Medicare options, and find good jobs. They can tap into the latest health research, change their address with the Post Office and follow along with NASA's missions in outer space. They can also send questions, comments, and suggestions to over 125 federal agencies.
FirstGov is the latest in a string of e-gov accomplishments by this Administration. The Vice President laid out its vision with the AccessAmerica initiative in 1997. It transcended the traditional boundaries of government by targeting specific groups of citizens with websites like students.gov, seniors.gov, business.gov, and workers.gov.
These sites became the models for e-gov and FirstGov now makes our customer focus a permanent part of the federal government's culture.
So I think the FirstGov Hammer Award is an appropriate way to close tonight's program. If the IRS demonstrates the traditional core principles of reinvention like customer service and balanced measures, FirstGov shows us how it all looks on the Internet. In some ways, reinvention has become synonymous with e-gov and this site gives us a powerful springboard to the future.
I'd like to recognize the FirstGov Board Members who are here - Sally Katzen, Mort Downey, Bob Mallett, Bill Halter, George Malaski, Roger Baker, and Marty Wagner...
Now, representing all the team members and accepting the Hammer Award for FirstGov are, from GSA, Executive Director Deborah Diaz, Bill Piatt, Tom Freebairn, and Roopangi Kadakia; Please come up...
From NPR, Bev Godwin, Karen Freeman, and Meredith Lovell;
From the Department of Commerce, Ralph Hager;
From OMB, Dan Chenok;
And from the Fed-Search Foundation, which donated the state-of-the-art search engine technology, Dave Binetti...
I want to also acknowledge some of the other private sector partners who helped bring FirstGov along:
GRC International (Joe Brito) - He was extremely helpful and critical during the pre-launch;
Commerce One (Matt Walters) - They helped pull it all together and get rid of all the glitches;
Imagitas (Scott Matthews) - We wouldn't be where we are without their focus group research: and
A.T. & T (Jonathan Sturges)
With your status as the heroes of reinvention comes an important responsibility. As reinventors, you've made government work better and cost less. Your work has led to results that matter to Americans. You've helped build trust -- the foundation of our representative form of democratic self-government. You have been part of a historic time in the life of our country. And there's no going back. You are the ones who will have to keep the fires of reinvention burning bright during the next Administration and beyond.
Congratulations again on your tremendous efforts and outstanding results. Wear your pins proudly. And no matter where you are or where you go, always remember your responsibility to keep reinventing government.
Thank you all very much...