March 21, 1997, Vol. 3, No. 3

An Information Sheet for Federal Communicators, Managers, Workers, and Their Partners--Pass It On

NPR Celebrates Two Anniversaries in March

The National Performance Review is the longest running government reform initiative in U.S. history, according to Elaine Kamarck, Vice President Gore's Senior Policy Advisor who heads the reinventing government task force. "And the President and Vice President are fully committed to keeping it going," she said.

Four years ago this month--March 3, 1993 to be exact--President Clinton asked Vice President Gore to lead a 6-month review of the federal government. The Vice President organized a team of experienced federal employees from all corners of government--a marked change from past reform efforts that relied mainly on the opinions of those outside government looking in. "We turned to the people who know government best," the Vice President said.

NPR picked a tough measure of success--does the public trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time? In 1993, public trust was at an all-time low--in some polls, fewer than 20 percent responded yes, compared to about 75 percent in 1963.

Perhaps public opinion is turning around. A July 1996 Roper poll reported an increase in the number of Americans who have a moderately or highly favorable opinion of most federal organizations, with the Postal Service having the biggest gain.

VA Got First Hammer Award

Three years ago this month--March 11, 1994 to be exact--Vice President Gore presented the first ever Hammer Award. He created this award to recognize teams of federal employees that are doing outstanding things to create a government that works better and costs less. The first Hammer went to the Department of Veterans Affairs New York Regional Benefits Office. That office, under Director Joe Thompson, developed self-managed teams to process claims, replacing an anonymous assembly-line where claims often got delayed or misplaced.

That office keeps reinventing. It was a pilot site for the Government Performance and Results Act, developing performance measures that VA adopted for nationwide use. The office also became a national demonstration project for federal pay--moving from the general schedule into a skill and competency-based system. They also partnered with Social Security so they could confirm birth and marriage records online. Contact Joe Thompson at (212) 807-3055.

More VA Hammers

VA teams continue to win Hammers. Here's an example: Veterans and visitors had to endure waits of up to three hours to park at Pittsburgh VA Medical Center. Rather than build a multi-million dollar parking garage or lease a parking lot with shuttle service, the "Parking Veterans First" team instituted valet parking. Long-standing lines of 50 or more cars disappeared and neighborhood streets are no longer congested. In addition, the Center increased their outpatient visits by 15 percent and the number of new veterans served by 16 percent. Contact Steve Young at (412) 688-5110.

Is There a Hammer in Your Future?

The application form is on NPR's Web site ( Click on "Awards," then "Hammer Awards." Contact Jerry Nikolaus at (202) 632-0391 or

Good Idea Department: Customer Service On the Air

Every Tuesday evening from 4 - 7 pm consumer reporter Tom Martino on Denver's KCNC TV News 4 opens up a Help Center with phone banks staffed by local and federal government employees. These government workers provide assistance to viewers who call in their questions on designated topics. When Food and Drug Administration staff fielded questions on weight loss products, the show generated an unusually large number of calls. For these shows, the station continues its regular programs, but shows the busy phone bank during commercial breaks.

What a great idea--bringing government into your living room via television. If your community doesn't have this kind of programming, why don't you help make it happen? One agency, or a coalition of government agencies, could propose this idea to a station's news division or community service staff. You might also try the public service cable stations. To learn about FDA's experience, call Virlie Walker at (303) 236-3018.


Welfare to Work-- NPR has set up a web site ( to help federal agencies draft "Welfare to Work" plans due to the President on April 7 and then to help them implement those plans. In a March 8 memo, President Clinton directed the heads of federal departments and agencies to lead by example and move people off the welfare rolls into federal jobs using available hiring authorities. The President asked Vice President Gore to oversee this effort. Contact Susan Valaskovic at (202) 632-0354 or or Stephen Butterfield at or (202) 632-0321.

HUD Web Site Hosts Federal Volunteer Opportunities--In anticipation of President Clinton and former President Bush's Summit for America's future, Housing and Urban Development web master Candi Harrison is trying to locate and link to all the volunteer opportunities listed on federal web sites. You may reach Candi at or (202) 708-1547. HUD's web site is

The summit will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia. President Clinton said, "Much of the work of America cannot be done by government, much other work cannot be done by government alone. The solution must be the American people through voluntary service to others." Contact Jim Issokson or Jeff Wender at (800) 639-1288 or (202) 371-8122.

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