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Preparing the Original Report -- 1993

Implementing Phase I Recommendations -- 1994

Phase II of the Performance Review -- 1995

Governing in a Balanced Budget World -- New Initiatives in 1996

Accomplishments After the First Five Years

"Forever Changing Government" Future Directions

Resources for Further Information




National Partnership for Reinventing Government
(formerly the National Performance Review)

A Brief History

by John Kamensky
January 1999
National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Suite 200
750 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

The National Partnership for Reinventing Government is the Clinton-Gore Administration's initiative to reform the way the federal government works. Our mission is to create a government that "works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about." Begun in the early days of the Administration, with Vice President Al Gore at its helm, our task force is the longest-running reform effort in U.S. history.

Preparing the Original Report--1993

President Clinton created the National Performance Review on March 3, 1993 with Vice President Gore as its leader. The President asked the Vice President to report results by September 7, 1993. David Osborne, co-author of the bestseller, Reinventing Government, served as a key advisor. Our initial task force included about 250 career civil servants, and a few state and local government employees and consultants. We organized into two sets of teams. One set of teams reviewed individual agencies. The other set of teams focused on governmentwide systems procurement, budget, personnel, etc. The President also directed agencies to create their own internal reinvention teams to work with us in developing recommendations. In addition, the Vice President asked agency heads to create "reinvention laboratories" units within agencies that would pilot innovations in service delivery and be granted waivers from internal agency rules.

Vice President Gore participated extensively in this first phase. He took part in a series of "town hall" meetings in several dozen agencies to learn first-hand the problems facing these agencies. He hosted a June 1993 "Reinventing Government Summit" of corporate executives, government leaders, and consultants who were leaders in organizational change. Before we published the Phase I report, he met with each agency head to ensure support for proposed recommendations.

We started our work with a clear set of principles and an inspiring vision of what government should look like. We said we would create a government that works better and costs less by putting customers first, empowering employees to allow them to put customers first, cutting the red tape that held back employees, and cutting back to basics.

Based on this, the Phase I report, Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less, made 384 recommendations. It was based on 38 "accompanying" reports which detailed 1,250 specific actions intended to save $108 billion, reduce the number of "overhead" positions (management, procurement, financial management, etc.), and improve government operations.

The Vice President presented the report to President Clinton on September 7, 1993. The President and Vice President made a tour of the country to promote the report. The President issued directives to implement a number of the recommendations, including cutting the work force by 252,000 positions, cutting internal regulations in half, and requiring agencies to set customer service standards. In addition, the Congress adopted a law developed during the study phase of our task force the Government Performance and Results Act -- that required agencies to develop strategic and performance plans, along with measures of performance, and publicly report progress annually.

In general, we focused on how the government works, not on what it should be doing. We chose to target the overhead costs, not the organizational structure, of agencies. The Vice President asked that, to the extent possible, recommendations should be administrative changes, not proposals requiring statutory changes and that recommendations for "further studies" were not acceptable. Working against a six-month deadline ensured the work was crisp and not over-analyzed. Upon completion, we assigned a "champion" in the agencies to follow through on the implementation of each recommendation and in the early years we asked for a status report on progress every six months.

Implementing Phase I Recommendations--1994

Shortly after releasing the Phase I report, most of our task force staff returned to their home agencies. About 50 remained to start implementing over-arching initiatives including customer service, reinvention laboratories, streamlining headquarters functions, and staffing NPR-recommended cross-agency councils. Initially, we thought this would take three to six months. It soon became clear the Vice President was committed to a much longer involvement than any previous reform effort.

Individual agencies were to implement the two-thirds of the recommendations that were specifically targeted to them. The recommendations affecting all agencies -- such as budget or civil service reform -- became the responsibility of interagency groups, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), or NPR. We worked with OMB and White House staffs to develop performance agreements between major agency heads or cabinet secretaries, and the President, something never done before.1

We focussed on communicating the reinvention message to the federal work force. We developed a training video, prepared an interactive CD-ROM disk of the original reports, sponsored an electronic forum on reinvention issues involving hundreds of people across the country, and created a newsletter for federal employees. We sponsored "Net Results," an electronic interchange of information and ideas among federal employees and the general public. This now includes a web site (www.npr.gov) with links to a series of other related sites.

Our most important results in 1994 included:

  • helping agencies create their first sets of customer service standards
  • piloting a partnership with the State of Oregon to focus on jointly achieving program results in children and family programs
  • developing the "Hammer Award" for federal employees who had reinvented their part of the government.
  • Working with Congress in the passage of 34 laws enacted a quarter of all of our recommendations needing legislation. This included authority to reduce the size of the workforce by offering bonuses for employees leaving voluntarily and major reforms to the government's procurement system.

Phase II of the Performance Review--1995

Recognizing the election of a new Congress in fall 1994 as an opportunity to further governmental reform, President Clinton asked Vice President Gore to launch a "second phase" of reinvention. The emphasis of this review was more on "what" government should be doing, but also included additional reforms to "how" the government works. By September 1995, NPR proposed about 200 new recommendations, with savings totaling nearly $70 billion over five years. By then, agencies claimed they had completed implementation of one-third of the original recommendations with savings totaling $58 billion of the originally-recommended $108 billion in savings.

During Phase II--

  • NPR undertook a major reform of the regulatory system. Agencies identified $28 billion a year in reduced regulatory burdens and proposed eliminating 16,000 pages of regulations. They also proposed to change the way they enforced regulations, to increase the use of partnership arrangements and reduce historical emphases on identifying procedural violations.
  • Agencies reviewed their current programs to identify areas that could be eliminated.
  • NPR used benchmarking studies to encourage broad action across agencies on specific issues, such as tele-servicing.
  • NPR expanded its work with state-local governments on the use of performance agreements in place of restrictive grant programs.
  • Agencies expanded their customer service standard programs. The October 1995 Customer Service Standards report shows 214 agencies with over 3,000 standards of service to the public.

Governing in a Balanced Budget World -- New Initiatives for 1996

By early 1996, it became clear that as the Administration's commitment to a balanced budget came closer to reality, the government faced declining fiscal resources for the foreseeable future. Vice President Gore recognized that agencies needed help responding to resource cuts. He proposed new initiatives to show how the Administration would responsibly govern in a balanced budget world:
  • a focus on the ends, not the means, of what government does;
  • moving more decisions to managers on the front line;
  • "Performance-Based Organizations," in which offices that deliver measurable services would get greater autonomy, in exchange for greater accountability for results;
  • improvement of customer service; and
  • increased use of regulatory partnerships.
We formed teams to implement these and other initiatives. We also assessed the state of reinvention in government. Although we found lots of improvements, we also found that many federal employees still didn't know about reinvention, and many senior managers were not supporting reinvention efforts.

Reinvention in the Second Term

At the beginning of President Clinton's second term, we examined the assessment done at the end of the prior term to determine how we could be more effective in spreading reinvention. We decided to shift our strategy from encouraging hundreds of small, frontline teams to transforming entire agencies, especially those agencies with the most direct impact on the public. While the initial strategy was key to dispelling the cynicism that reinvention was a brief fad, the new strategy is designed to permanently imbed reinvention in the day-to-day operations of the government. To spread the word about the Administration's support of reinvention, the Vice President developed
"The Blair House Papers," a series of short essays on different aspects of reinvention. The papers include the most successful change tools developed during the first term for agencies to use to further reinvention. The President shared the papers with his new Cabinet in the first Cabinet meeting of the new term, calling them the "rules of the road for reinvention."

To further our work with entire agencies, NPR selected 32 "High Impact Agencies" to help them develop strategies for transforming their performance, even in the face of reduced budgets. We selected these agencies based on their high degree of interaction with the public, business, or the operation of other federal agencies.

The leaders of the High Impact Agencies have committed to more than 250 specific improvements in services to the public by 2000. These agencies cover 1.4 million of the 1.8 million civil servants and include the Internal Revenue Service, the Weather Service, the Customs Service, the Park Service, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration. These agencies' commitments are listed in the President's 1999 budget and also appear on NPR's Internet web page. One example of our work with one of these agencies is the joint task force we sponsored with IRS employees and managers to restructure that agency's operations. The recommendations of this group contributed to major legislative changes and are driving major changes in that organization.

Accomplishments After the First Five Years

As of March 1998 the fifth anniversary of the creation of NPR reinventors could point to a number of important achievements.

"Forever Changing Government" Future Directions

In late 1998, we crafted a two-year strategy designed to forever change government operations. By January 1, 2001, we will put in place five sets of actions that will become self-sustaining and change the way Americans experience their government.

Achieve Outcomes No One Agency Can Achieve Alone. People and organizations will collaborate enthusiastically across organizational boundaries to produce amazing results and transfer power to communities and citizens by providing them real-time information.

Some of the things that matter most to Americans are results that are beyond the power of any single government agency. Significant improvements in the cleanliness of the nation's water, the safety of our food, or the well-being of our children depend upon a broader effort, often rooted in communities and supported by a variety of local, state and federal agencies as well as the private sector. We are working with agencies to create "seamless service delivery" based on shared accountability for key outcomes. Key initiatives include:

  • Reducing food-borne illnesses by 25 percent. President Clinton administratively created a Food Safety Council of the eight agencies with jurisdiction over the safety of Americans' food supply and directed them to prepare a unified budget and common goals.
  • Ensuring at least 88 percent of Americans have access to clean water. An interagency committee with representatives from a number of agencies are working together to craft a common set of measures and strategies to significantly improve the quality of water in our country.
  • Reducing crime by an additional 12 percent. Using new technologies and working collaboratively, the Justice Department will work with state and local police to put in place new techniques that will dramatically improve crime fighting.
  • Improving child well-being. While there are no outcome goals yet set in this arena, this Administration is creating a set of statistical indicators and will work to achieve performance targets in ten communities to substantially improve child well-being.
  • Creating an integrated national training, education, and employment system. Partner with states and localities to expand the network of One-Stop Job Centers from 800 to 2,000. Ensure the centers integrate service delivery and have a customer satisfaction rating of at least 80 percent.
  • Expanding the designation of "Hassle Free Communities." In 1998, we designated three communities (Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, and Seattle) as "hassle free" pilot projects and is working with another four communities. Together, they are developing new ways to deliver public services customers want when, where, and how they want them based on federal, state, and local partnerships. The focus is to increase customer and government employee satisfaction to more than 90 percent and increase citizen trust in government by 20 percent over the 1998 baseline. The planned expansion to 50 cities by January 2001 will benefit more than 120 million Americans.

Agencies Use a Balanced Set of Measures. Agency management from the head to the front line supervisors will daily use a balanced set of measures to drive operations.

In 1998, we co-sponsored with the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies a governmentwide survey of federal employees to better understand the extent of changes resulting from reinvention initiatives over the previous six years. The results showed a dramatic increase in employee understanding of the desired business results of their agency and their own roles in improving customer service. However, employees said there was insufficient attention on dealing with poor performers and labor-management relations. Vice President Gore has charged agency leaders with taking action on the results of this survey and has committed to repeating the survey in the coming year to assess progress.

In addition, we will work with agencies to create a balanced set of measures for assessing agency performance that include business results, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction. We will soon complete a study of best practices in private companies and in agencies that are pioneering the use of balanced measures, such as the Veterans Benefits Administration, the IRS, National Security Agency, and Postal Service. If appropriate, we will propose the President direct all agencies to create and use balanced measures. This would include not only additional employee surveys, but also surveys of customers and an expansion of the President's "Conversations with America" directive, which requires agencies to reach out to their customers and use what they learn to fine tune their operations.

Create an Electronic Government. Government will be transformed like "amazon.com" transformed bookselling.

Initiatives begun in early 1997 are designed to allow anyone who wants to transact business with the government electronically to do so. By the end of FY 2000, nearly 40 million Americans will. Emerging forms of information technology will be vital tools in changing Americans' experience with their government. They will be able to access information to solve problems themselves through the Internet, via telephones, and through neighborhood kiosks.

In early 1999, Vice President Gore launched "Access America for Students." This initiative is piloting the integrated delivery of a suite of services in 5-10 colleges, to be expanded over the course of this year and in 2000. Services targeted for these pilots include electronic income tax filing, student loan eligibility, student loan applications and renewals, online address changes, national park reservations, veterans' educational benefits, campus admissions and services, and local merchant purchasing. Technology components will be digital identification/signature, secure electronic payments, and encrypted forms processing. For the first time, people will be able to complete paperless non-financial transactions with the federal government using the Internet.

The Access America initiative is based on the concept that the customer not the government should control access to personal information. Using security technologies and privacy policies will provide a way for Americans to control access to information and get the services they need. The initiative will initially target to specific user or customer groups. By January 2001, this approach will be expanded beyond college students to seniors, businesses, and government employees.

In addition, the Government Information Technology Services Board, which spearheads the Access America initiatives, is promoting electronic access to a wide array of services. Its 60 on-going initiatives and task forces include:

Additional information on Access America progress is available at www.gits.gov and www.accessamerica.gov.

Transform Agencies with the Greatest Impact on Americans. The High Impact Agencies will complete the reinvention of their operations and their relationships with their customers.

Our work with those agencies that have the most interactions with individuals and businesses continues. One effort, for example, is a campaign to use "Plain Language" in government communications. Following a June 1998 Presidential directive, agencies are now required to communicate in clear language with their customers. As an incentive, Vice President Gore monthly presents an award to an agency that has done a terrific job in revising its communications or regulations.

By January 2001, we will have worked closely with selected agencies on dramatic improvements in their operations, much like we did in 1998 with the IRS. We will assist agencies by sponsoring benchmarking studies of best practices, helping front-line employees re-engineering processes, and working in partnership with major unions to improve labor-management relationships in these agencies.

Mobilize America's Real Heroes to Get the Message Out. Create an active movement that lets people know that the government is changing forever.

While there have been hundreds of remarkable improvements in the way government works over the past six years, the New York Times calls it the "silent revolution." Likewise, our 1998 survey of federal employees shows than just a little more than one-third see reinvention as a priority in their agencies. The only way Americans will increase their trust in government is for them to experience a difference in their personal interactions and to hear about these improvements from their neighbors and the media.

Federal employees are also citizens. They too experience changes in their jobs and the services they deliver. The challenge is for them the real American heroes of reinvention to tell their stories of how they deliver value to their neighbors, their children, their community.

Resources for Further Information

Our web site address is: http://www.npr.gov. There are also a number of other Web sites that are heavily involved in reinventing government, including at the state and local levels

Our primary and supporting reports are available from the Government Printing Office. They are also available on our website. The primary reports include:

From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less (September 1993)

Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less: Status Report (September 1994)

By the People (video, September 1994)

Common Sense Government: Works Better and Costs Less (September 1995)

Reinvention's Next Steps: Governing in a Balanced Budget World (March 1996)

The Best Kept Secrets in Government (September 1996)

The Blair House Papers (January 1997)

Access America (February 1997)

Businesslike Government (November 1997)


1 Performance agreements were eventually replaced by agency annual performance plans required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, which was phased in by 1998.
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