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History of the
National Partnership for Reinventing Government
ACCOMPLISHMENTS, 1993 – 2000
NPR was the longest-running reform effort in the history of the Federal Government. We started by recommending more than 1,200 specific changes to make government work better, cost less, and get results Americans cared about. We then set out to implement those recommendations. After the first Clinton-Gore term, nearly two-thirds of the changes had been made.
In the second Clinton-Gore term, we began to focus on transforming the culture in major agencies with the most public contact to be more results-oriented, performance-based, and customer-focused. We used technology and new approaches in employees’ roles as key levers. We also created a network of results-oriented partnerships across agency lines with states and local governments, and changed the relations between regulatory agencies and business.
Its major accomplishments included:
Ending the Era of Big Government
- Reduced the size of federal civilian workforce by 426,200 positions between January 1993 and September 2000.1 Thirteen of 14 departments reduced in size; Justice grew because of Administration’s fight against crime and drugs. The government workforce was for the first time the smallest it had been since the Eisenhower Administration.
- Action on more than two-thirds of NPR recommendations resulted in savings of more than $136 billion.
- Cut government the right way by eliminating what wasn’t needed – bloated headquarters, layers of managers, outdated field offices, obsolete red tape and rules. For example, cut 78,000 managers governmentwide and some layers by late 1999.
- Cut 640,000 pages of internal agency rules (equivalent to 125 cases of copy paper).
- Closed nearly 2,000 obsolete field offices and eliminated 250 programs and agencies, like the Tea-Tasters Board, the Bureau of Mines, and wool and mohair subsidies.
- Procurement reform led to the expanded use of credit cards for small item purchases, saving about $250 million a year in processing costs.
Changing Government to be More Results- and Performance-Oriented
- Made the government more results oriented – developed the first annual performance reports required under the Results Act, created networks and cross-agency partnerships for results, and advocated the use of balanced measures to drive individual performance incentives.
- Recommended legislation adopted by Congress that included delinquent debt reform. financial standards, grant reform, the use of credit cards to pay taxes and more. President Clinton signed more than 90 NPR-related bills and 50 Presidential directives.
- Fixed long-standing management challenges in specific agencies, including in the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Internal Revenue Service, the disability program in Social Security Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Office of Student Financial Assistance, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control operations.
Serving People Better
- By 1997, about 570 federal organizations had committed to more than 4,000 customer service standards, embedding a recognition that government does in fact have customers. By 2000, 80 percent of managers saw service goals aimed at meeting customer expectations, up from 36 percent in 1992.
- By 2000, 30 agencies were measuring satisfaction with their services via a third party with international standing. Comparison with private sector was close and narrowed between 1999 and 2000. Agencies have committed to expanding to over 100 customer segments in 2001.
- Agencies working together (the Bureau of Land Management’s Trading Posts with the Forest Service; Customs and INS international airport clearance efforts, community level service kiosks).
- Expanded the use of Internet gateways sites allowing one-stop transactions and more than 1,000 on-line forms, such as IRS electronic filing in 2000 by more than 32 million Americans. More than a dozen cross-agency sites serve populations such as students, seniors, businesses, and state-local employees.
- Worked with agencies and communities to create hassle-free communities in 13 states to provide one-stop service delivery and encouraged agencies to have public conversations with America to learn first-hand the needs of their customers. Agencies sponsored hundreds of such forums.
- As part of the Administration’s welfare reform initiative, President Clinton in March 1997 charged federal agencies with setting a good example for the private sector by hiring former welfare recipients. He asked NPR to lead this initiative. NPR worked with agencies to set a goal of 10,000 hired over a three-year period. By the end of 2000, agencies had hired 50,330.
Changing the Way Government Works with Businesses
- The use of regulatory partnerships has become the preferred approach for getting results. NPR worked with five key regulatory agencies (EPA, FDA, FSIS, OSHA and FAA) to pilot new approaches, to deploy information technology, and to do a better job measuring what matters—namely their impact on their mission (e.g. clean air) as opposed to historical process measures (e.g. the number of tickets written for regulatory violations). As a result, food-borne illness, toxic emissions, and worker injury rates are dropping. And the regulated community has better information and tools to help with compliance.
- In 1996, agencies eliminated more than 16,000 pages of unnecessary federal regulations affecting businesses.
- Agencies also rewrote another 31,000 pages into understandable, plain language. This initiative spread to a broad segment of the federal workforce, with more than one-third recognizing it as an important initiative. Customers of agencies and programs, such as the Small Business Administration, the Security and Exchange Commission, and Medicare, have recognized the change.
Changing the Way Government Works With Communities
Used partnerships and networks to achieve results and streamline services via five initiatives:
- The Oregon Option piloted joint federal-state-local efforts in three policy areas: child health, workforce development, and family stability.
- Reducing gun violence in 10 cities working together in a SafeCities network with a range of federal partners. Included the development of a gun violence injury tracking system.
- Implementation of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act via a network of more than 2,000 one-stop job centers, a website with 1,000 useful links for workers, streamlined planning, measurement, and cost sharing efforts, and a local 21st century skills community network among 20 communities and federal partners.
- A network of 13 communities and states, along with 70 associate communities and federal partners in a Boost 4 Kids network focused on improving child well-being in part by insuring children.
- Afterschool network to ensure children have access to appropriate supervision after school. In 2000, resource fairs were conducted in 50 communities and networks of providers and users were created.
Transforming Access to Government Through Technology
- Worked to help create FirstGov – a one-stop website www.firstgov.gov for government information, transactions, program results, and e-mail feedback to public officials – with connections to 27 million web pages and about 1,000 forms and services.
- Catalyzed the creation of more than a dozen Internet gateway websites to serve specific populations of users, such as students, workers, disabled, business, state-local, recreation users.
- Catalyzed the creation of kiosks offering touch screens for one-stop services in 36 communities traditionally under-served by the Internet. Piloted by GSA, more are under development by other agencies, and private businesses.
- Catalyzed the use of mapping and other geographic information as an organizing tool for achieving cross-agency, intergovernmental policy results and accountability in public safety, smart growth, and responsive citizen services. For example, catalyzed a joint 17-agency agreement with North Carolina after the 1999 Hurricane Floyd to ensure better public safety information in the future. Also supported the Census’s American Community Survey to provide more performance information to policymakers outside the decennial census.
Making the Federal Government a Better Place to Work
- Recognized frontline employees for their reinvention innovations. More than 68,000 employees on 1,378 teams received Vice President Gore’s Hammer Award. Together, they not only improved government operations but also saved or put to better use more than $53 billion.
- Empowered front-line employees to better do their jobs. NPR chartered more than 350 reinvention labs to pilot new ways of doing business. President Clinton also directed agencies to streamline the granting of waivers from their own internal regulations so frontline operating units could better serve their customers.
- Streamlined some administrative silliness. About 41 percent of employees said sign-in sheets and time cards had been eliminated and statutory changes have allowed paperless travel arrangements and vouchers, saving millions in administrative costs.
- Increased employee understanding of what constitutes good performance from 26 to 31 percent. Embedded continued change by requiring that SES bonuses be based on demonstrated improvements in business results, customer satisfaction, and employee feedback.
- Expanded initiatives to create a family-friendly workplace. Sixty-five percent of employees rated the federal government as a family-friendly workplace.
- 850 labor-management partnerships were sponsored by agencies, covering 66 percent of bargaining unit employees.
- Governmentwide employee surveys between 1998 and 2000 showed that employees who felt their organizations actively promoted reinvention were twice as satisfied with their jobs than those employees who did not believe reinvention was a priority in their organizations.
Overall, accomplishments like these have been important steps in restoring trust and faith in the government by improving the delivery of service to the public. After a 30-year decline, public trust in the federal government is finally increasing. When last measured by the University of Michigan in 1998, the public's trust in government had nearly doubled within a four-year period to 40 percent. While this cannot be totally attributed to the results of reinvention, NPR believes reinvention has made an important contribution in raising the public's trust in the government and creating a better workplace for federal employees.
January 12, 2001
1After removing the temporary workers for the decennial 2000 Census.