National Partnership for Reinventing Government


By Morley Winograd, Director
National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Virtual Government '99 Conference
February 23, 1999
Washington, DC


My first responsibility is to apologize on behalf of the Vice President. He truly values the work that AFCEA and the GITS Board have done in advancing the cause of electronic government. And, yes, the Vice President did notice that the program mailer referred to him as "The Father of Virtual Government."

Actually, he told me that made him a little bit uncomfortable. He thought the "The Father of Virtual Government" might be too grandiose for a mere Vice President. I told him not to worry about it, that it was just one more Y2K problem - and that we will have it solved by, say, November of next year.

The Vice President is very sorry he couldn't be here for another reason, as well. He is really excited about Access America for Seniors, the website that we are unveiling here for the first time.

Before we unveil today's big surprise, let me say something about the pivotal role that IT plays in reinventing government. Obviously, the first priority for reinvention is "people power" - empowering and encouraging front-line workers to provide world class customer service to our citizens. But that first priority is driven by a second - IT power.

I can't say it any clearer than our new vision statement for the new NPR. As most of you know, NPR turned five last year and we changed our name from the National Performance Review - which always sounded a bit like a Broadway musical to me. We are now the National Partnership for Reinventing Government - which truly describes what are about.

The vision statement for the newly reinvented NPR is: America @ Our Best.

The "at" in that vision statement is the funny little abbreviation called an "ampersand" - like we use in e-mail addresses. It is no accident that it appears in the middle of our vision, because it symbolizes the central role that IT plays in our accomplishing our newly defined mission:

"Creating a government that works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about."

The first part of that mission statement is unchanged from our first five years - getting results Americans care about is the critical change. We all know that bureaucracy is great at tinkering around the edges and refining internal processes. Our mission statement says that we will achieve results that will make average Americans sit up and take notice, because we are touching parts of their lives that really matter.

And you know, and I know, and the Vice President knows that the quantum results we are seeking can only be accomplished through making smart use of IT. We are not going to increase the size of government - in fact the federal government is 350,000 FTE's smaller today than when the Clinton-Gore administration took over. And there will be no new massive infusions of cash into the agencies. We have saved $137 billion through changes made through the NPR. And we have achieved a balanced budget for the first in over 40 years, and the surplus is - we hope - going to help save Social Security for the 21st Century.

That means that much of the success of reinvention depends upon you -- the IT professionals attending this meeting. And I am well aware that there are more than just federal government attending this meeting. In fact, I was delighted to see that Virginia's Secretary of Technology, Donald Upton, will be addressing you at lunch tomorrow. If reinventing government is to succeed in getting results Americans care about, we will have to reinvent what I call "government with a small g." And by that I mean the entire government - federal, state, county, and local.

The American public doesn't much distinguish where one level of government drops off and another kicks in, and particularly we in the IT community shouldn't either. The Web is a great leveler, the City of Fairfax homepage looks just as big as the U.S. government's.

And our shared success in reinventing government at every level matters - very, very much. We must press on to achieve what Vice President Gore established in 1993 as the ultimate goal for reinvention - to restore the trust of the American people in their government - at every level.

But, in one sense, there is no such thing as "the American people." There are just individual Americans who we know as co-workers, neighbors, or relatives. These are the individuals who are going to have their trust in government restored, one person at a time.

Which is why I want to tell you about a dream I had last night. I fell asleep watching Letterman do one of those hilarious "camera on the street" prank interviews. Somehow, my dream picked up on that theme. I dreamed about my Uncle Mike from Detroit, and how he was experiencing government now that he retired from his clothing business.

It began with him visiting the IRS Office . . .

A spotlight picks up Uncle Mike standing in front of the table on the other side of the stage. We hear their conversation:

Uncle Mike: Hi, I'm Mr. Winograd. I dropped off a copy of my 1040 for you to look at a few days ago. Is it really true that I'll get a refund as I close out my business?

Employee: I be glad to check, Mr. Winograd. What's your Social Security number?

Uncle Mike: 555-55-555.

Employee: (keying into the computer) O.K. Yes, we checked your figures and you will get a refund this year.

Uncle Mike: Money back from the government - will miracles never cease.

Employee: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Uncle Mike: Well, yes. Since I gave you my Social Security number, that reminds me that I should start to get my retirement checks soon. How do find out about the status of my account?

Employee: Gee, I'm sorry. I can't help you with that here. You will have to go to the Social Security Office to find out about your benefits.

Uncle Mike: Oh. Well, where is that office?

Employee: It is five blocks down, and one over to Oak Street.

Uncle Mike: O.K. Thank you for your help.

Employee: You are welcome.

Uncle Mike walks in "slow motion" to symbolize six blocks to the Social Security Office desk.

Uncle Mike: Good morning. Is this where I can find out about my Social Security account?

Employee: Yes sir. Just show me your driver's license and you Social Security card, and I'd be glad to check on it for you.

Uncle Mike: (Searches in wallet, hands them over.) Here you go.

Employee: Thank you. (Starts keying in numbers) There, it will take about 30 seconds to get your statement to come up.

Uncle Mike: Say, giving you my driver's license made me think of something. I want to travel now that I'm retired. How do I go about getting a passport?

Employee: Well, sir, first of all let me say that your Social Security accounts looks in perfect order. Do you want me to print you a copy?

Uncle Mike: Yes, please. (Employee hits print key)

Employee: Now, about getting your passport. We don't do that sort of thing here. I'm pretty sure that most Post Offices have the form to apply. Or you could go over to the Passport Office, but that's all the way across town. Either way, you need to fill it out, get some special kind of photo taken, and then send it in. (Picks up paper from printer) And here's your account report.

Uncle Mike: Thank you. Well, I sure don't want to go across town. So where is the nearest Post Office?

Employee: Oh, it's about eight blocks up the street. Just turn left as you go out the door. Or your could take the number twelve bus, they go every half-hour this time of day (looks at watch) . . . and you just missed one.

Uncle Mike: (Gives a big sigh) Gee, that's a surprise. Well, thanks for your help . . . . [Turns, and says to himself] Isn't this convenient customer service! And I thought Morley was going to make the government work better ... boy, what a loser he turned out to be! [He heads off into the darkness]

The Virtual Government Solution

Morley: I was so unhappy about my poor Uncle Mike having to chase all over town to get his government business handled that I woke up in a cold sweat. But then I remembered that we were announcing the availability of the Access America for Seniors web site today.

[At this point, you hear dramatic music and the Access America for Seniors logo appears on the large screen]

Now let's see how my Uncle Mike might use Access America for Seniors to really get help. Through the magic of the "E-Gov TV", we can see Uncle Mike at his home PC now. He has just logged into the Access America for Seniors site at

[A second spot lights up Uncle Mike, sitting at a pc. Also, the home page for Access America for Seniors appears on the large screen.]

Morley Hi there, Uncle Mike!

Uncle Mike: Hi there yourself, loser. OK, I'm logged on this thing, and it seems to be a government website just for seniors like me. But I'm doubtful. Explain to me, Mr. Washington Big-Shot, what I can do here.

Morley: Sure, Uncle Mike, let me walk you through it. First, along with the release of this brand new web site, we are announcing two new online services from the Social Security Administration. Starting today, and just in time for tax season, you can go online and ask Social Security to send you a replacement statement of the benefits you received last year. You know the one you need to file your taxes. Social Security sends these to all beneficiaries, but some don't quite get there. Did you get yours, Uncle Mike?

Uncle Mike: Why, come to think of it, I did get that statement. (Looks around) But, I put it on my desk, and your Aunt Mildred filed it . . . someplace. Morley: No problem. You can click on the Electronic Services link from the Access America for Seniors page and go right to the Social Security website. Once there, you fill in some information to identify yourself, and the statement will be in the mail.

Uncle Mike: But will the information that I send over the Internet be secure? I don't want someone else getting my Social Security number and using it to steal my identity. There's only one me, you know!

Morley: I know, I know - thank goodness. No Uncle Mike, you don't have to worry about that. The Social Security folks have put in place the right privacy and security safeguards. Since I helped you set up your PC, I know you have web browser software that can scramble messages - almost all of the newer models do. As a further check, you'll have to put in things like your mother's maiden name and where you were born, along with the usual information, before you will get a response online from Social Security. Only then you can request your statement.

And finally, the statement will only be mailed to your personal address listed in the SSA's records, the one where they send you your checks or, if you have direct deposit, where they send you official notices.

Uncle Mike: So they won't send it to me over the Web?

Morley: No, the SSA's expert advisors said that the best privacy would be to send statements through the mail to your home.

Uncle Mike: (Impressed) Well, I am glad to hear that. So what else are they announcing?

Morley: The other new Social Security service is online Benefit Verification. Seniors who need to verify their Social Security benefits to apply for housing, welfare, or other programs, can request that this statement be mailed to them. You can also apply for this through the Access America for Seniors site, using the same safeguards.

Uncle Mike: Hmmm. Well, this is pretty good. But, what else can I do? Will it save me a trip to the Post Office?

Morley: Yes, depending on what you want to do. You go to the Electronic Services page and click on the Buy Postage Stamps Online. That will take you to the Postal Service's page where you can order stamps.

Uncle Mike: Now that's wonderful! Especially in a town like Detroit where they don't even shovel the snow off the streets. This will make it a lot easier for me. Oh, and look, I can link straight to the AARP! And here I can get information on all those National Parks I want to visit in my retirement!

Morley: Well, why not really have an adventure? Right on the site you can volunteer to join the Peace Corps. Just think, Uncle Mike, you could share your business smarts with some people in some exotic far-off land. Very, very far-off.

Uncle Mike: O.K., O.K., Mr. Smarty-Pants. These are some pretty great services. But what if, with all my business smarts, I have a brainstorm about some other service you should put on the site? This is probably set this in concrete, just like every other government thing. Am I right, or am I right?

Morley: Well, just go to the Ask Us/Tell Us page, and we'd be glad to get your feedback. This is your page, and we need the input from seniors like you to make it as useful as possible.

Uncle Mike: You know, Morley, maybe you aren't such a chump after all. I always knew you'd turn out alright . . . eventually. Tell the Vice President that this Access America for Seniors is really wonderful, and tell him I said hi!

Morley: I will, Uncle Mike. And give a big hug to Aunt Mildred for me. Bye-bye.

[Lights dim on the Uncle Mike at the pc]


Uncle Mike has just demonstrated Access America for Seniors at work. You can find it at "" on the Internet. This site was developed as an interagency initiative - a partnership - involving 15 different agencies. It is being housed and maintained by the Social Security Administration - and I would like to particularly recognize the SSA and thank them for all the good work they have done on the Seniors project.

I would also like to acknowledge C. Anne Harvey, Director of Programs of the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, now just known as AARP.

AARP has provided invaluable advice as we developed the Access America for Seniors site.

And I particularly want to thank my "Uncle Mike" for coming all the way from Detroit to help out. Actually, Uncle Mike is Jack Kalish, a volunteer from the AARP who did a great job.

The funding for the development of the site was provided by the Innovation Fund of the Interagency Management Council. We held a series of focus groups about the site with seniors and people who work with seniors, again thanks to the Social Security Administration. We will be working to incorporate their suggestions in the coming weeks. I invite you all to stop by the Centers of Excellence booth in the Exhibit Hall to take a closer look at the Seniors website and give us your input. It is truly a work in progress.

But this is just the first step, and not really the first. This website began as a concept in the Access America report that Greg Woods and his colleagues pulled together while he was at NPR. I know Greg will be speaking to you this afternoon, wearing his Department of Education hat.

And a few weeks ago, we rolled out an Access America for Students website, which has a constellation of services of particular use to college-age kids. The students like the on-line tuition loan application. But, like most parents, my favorite icon is "How to get a Job."

Coming up soon is a newly redesigned U.S. Business Advisor. It is a one-stop electronic link to all the information and services that government can provide to the business community. The new design has two really nifty database-driven features. One will allow federal webmasters to enter new links from their own desktops. The second will enable you to ask a business question in plain language - without using the "secret terms" that only government knows - and your plain language question will prompt a database-wide search, capturing appropriate responses to your question.

And I am also pleased to announce another NPR web site today: the Access America Online Magazine This online "'zine" features stories about real people, the federal workers and their customers who are working together to create the government of the future. I encourage all of you to check it out at "", it will renew your hope and enthusiasm for the future of virtual government.

And, as I said before, the future of reinventing government is very much in the hands of IT government professionals like you. This is a very exciting time to be on the cutting edge, we resolve the paradoxes of privacy and security, with transparency and maximum access.


Now, as part of recognizing the "real people" who are making the IT revolution happen in government, it is my pleasure to present a Hammer Award to Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, affectionately known as "OSTI" The Department of Energy has won 68 of Vice President Gore's Hammer Awards for their reinvention and process improvement efforts, so this yet one more hammer on their cap - or some such thing.

OSTI manages and coordinates the scientific and technical information generated by the DOE research and development activities. Previously, access to this information was only available on paper or microfiche. Utilizing the latest information technology tools and capitalizing on the Internet, an empowered OSTI team reengineered existing information dissemination systems to provide Web access to full-text scientific and technical report literature.

A password-protected DOE OSTI database, called the Bridge, provides limited-availability information across the DOE Complex without compromising statutory, regulatory, or proprietary restrictions. Currently, this version has over 2000 registered users among the DOE.

In April 1998, a highly acclaimed public version of the Bridge was made available. This publicly-available collection contains 27,000 full-text documents. Together these Internet-based ABridge@ tools provide free, desktop access to the intellectual discoveries of a cabinet-level R&D organization - truly a significant return-on-investment to the American taxpayer!

On behalf of the Vice President, it is my distinct honor to present this Hammer Award to the DOE Information Bridge Team. Representing the team of 24 people who created this Electronic Bridge to the 21st Century - gee that has a familiar sound - are Don Altom, Project Manager, Kathy Chambers, Product Manager, Kelly Dunlap, Account Executive, Dave Henderson, Team Leader, Dr. Walter Warnick, Director of OSTI. Representing the crucial role that the Government Printing Office played in "going public" with the Information Bridge is Mr. Fran Buckley, the U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Come on up and get hammered! And, finally, thank all of you IT professionals. See you at the other side of the "Bridge."

NPR Home Page Search the NPR Site NPR Initiatives Site Index Calendar Comments Awards Links Tools Frequently Asked Questions Speeches News Releases Library Navigation Bar For NPR site