Show me the Reinvention!
Believe that government has been reinvented when you see it

Who hasn't heard that movie line "Show me the money"? But that attitude is not unique to sports contracts; most people care more for results than for promises. That goes for "better government," as well.

I can state with complete confidence that government is better today than when we started this effort four years ago. We have found groups of workers all across government, many of them in what we designated "reinvention labs," who have been experimenting with new ways. We have spotlighted and praised the most successful experiments -- started hundreds of fires of change and fanned the flames. Now some bonfires are raging, ready to sweep entire agencies, starting with the ones that affect the public and business most.

By the year 2000, you will notice a difference in those agencies. For example:

  • If you are a student (or the parent of one), you'll be able to apply for college financial aid over the Internet and find out your aid eligibility within four days, cutting in half the current processing time. The forms will be simple; the instructions will be in plain English; and if you call with a question you'll get a quick, courteous answer. Faster aid decisions will reduce the anxiety at a tough time for students and parents and give them more time to make the right choices in picking the right college.
  • The Food and Drug Administration will cut review time for important new medical devices by 30 percent, speed drug approvals, provide you with better information on medical products, and assure improved quality of your food.
  • The Weather Service will be giving you twice as much warning of severe weather; that means you'll have a better chance of finding safe shelter.

And within the next decade, the Federal Aviation Administration will reduce city-to-city flight delays and, with some help from NASA and the Defense Department, cut the aircraft accident rate by 80 percent. For space flights, NASA will slash the cost per pound of rocket payloads, and the agency will get more of its scientific discoveries to teachers and students fast.

These are just a few examples of how government will answer the "show me the reinvention" challenge. They are drawn from goals set by the agencies as concrete promises of action -- promises they will keep. The agencies are committed to report their progress to the public. That is common practice in business; it is called a report to stockholders. Now that kind of report will be common practice in government as well.

But setting goals and reporting progress is not enough. There is no one simple fix. It will take the efforts of people in government, people in business, and individual citizens to make government work better and cost less.

This book emphasized what government has learned from business. We can't say often enough how much we appreciate the willingness of the business community to share lessons. Some of the best examples of reinvented government, in fact, are the result of ongoing partnerships with high-performing private-sector companies.

We took the lessons learned from the successful reinventors -- both in and out of government -- and distilled them into a set of "rules of the road." President Clinton's cabinet learned about these rules at a retreat at Blair House in Washington before the January 1997 inauguration. We put these lessons into a book called The Blair House Papers, and this book is now near the top of the government best-seller list.

Here is one indicator that we are on the right track: Public trust in the federal government has improved by 9 percentage points over the past four years, reversing a 30-year decline.

There is still much more to be done, but by collaborating with businesses that want their government to succeed, we'll get there. Restoring the faith of Americans in their government will be tough. The only way agencies can make this happen is by convincing their customers, one by one, that things have changed.

My vision is that when John or Jane Q. Public deals with the government -- Social Security, the IRS, or any other federal agency -- afterwards they will say, "I expected a hard time -- but that was easy." Or, "Some department stores can be really helpful, but this agency was even better."

When that happens, it will show them the reinvention. When that happens, we will have reinvented a government that works better and costs less. When that happens, the faith of Americans in their government will be restored.

Al Gore

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