Defense Logistics Agency
Hammer Award Ceremony

Ft. Belvoir, VA
November 30, 1998

Sliding Doors

Remarks by
John Kamensky
Deputy Director, National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Good morning! Thank you General Glisson and your DLA team. I'd also like to recognize Mr. Kallock and his fellow private sector partners in the audience today.

On behalf of Vice President Al Gore, let me offer congratulations to the entire DLA team -- and particularly to the Hammer Award winners.

Sliding Doors

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Did any of you go to the movies? Any of you see the movie "Sliding Doors?" It's about a woman who's life takes remarkably different turns, depending on whether or not she gets on a London subway train before the doors slide closed. The movie shows both scenerios, each with a different ending. I'd like for you to think of the sliding doors in your life. Did any of you have any conversations over the holidays with friends, family or neighbors that went like this "Hi, what do you do?"

"Oh, I work for the government [or work for the Defense Department] or [work for DLA]"

If that didn't kill the conversation, what was the next predictable question? "What do you DO?" "Oh, you know, the usual . . . ." . . . and the conversation just trails off. Well, let's slide the door.

There are more holidays in the next few weeks. And more parties. And more opportunities to answer that familiar set of questions. But this time, tell whoever asks, that "you're changing government forever." That you work with real American heroes, like Jim Sanchez, or Mike Yakubick, or Mike Shields, or Greg Andrilenas.

Your work is important, not only for the Nation's defense, but the trust of the American people. That's a key piece of what reinvention is all about.

Restoring Trust

How do we restore Americans' trust in self government?

In 1963, 76 percent of all Americans thought that the federal government did the right thing most of the time. By 1993, it was less than 21 percent. This drop occurred among Democrats, Republicans, blacks, whites - just about every group you can imagine, including federal employees.

The good news is that this perception is changing. Americans use "performance" as the key to how they judge "trust." And performance is improving. But while the trust figures have nearly doubled in the past 5 years, they're still pretty pitiful.

We tend to blame the media for a negative image. But we have to look at ourselves, too. A few weeks ago, a colleague said she spoke to a federal audience and asked them to turn to the person sitting next to them and tell them briefly what they did at work. She then asked the audience if they'd be willing to spend their tax dollars for that activity. Only 5 percent of the audience raised their hands. They were all shocked by the response. But this isn't unusual. Federal employees never see themselves the way they should.

Why the Hammer Award?

This is why Vice President Gore created the Hammer Award. We don't recognize the heroes among us. The Vice President said he wanted to do something positive for federal workers. He didn't like Sen. Proxmire's Golden Fleece Award. He thought it was important to find people and organizations that were doing the right thing and recognize them. Too often, government was following the maxim of the Office of Management and Budget: "Reward is the absence of punishment." Or the Inspector General's maxim: "If you're doing something innovative, you're probably breaking some rule."

Vice President Gore wants to reward innovation. He wants to build a better government and break down bureaucracy. He sees Hammer Award winners as real American heroes - sailing off into unchartered waters, not sure of their support. He wants to tell your story. But we all have to help.

Tell the Story

Let me tell you what I did on Thanksgiving Day. My brother-in-law - who is a former banker and stockbroker - asked me what I was doing. I told him I was trying to change government forever. I told him about what I was going to do today.
  • I told him the story of how the Distribution Standard System team worked with private sector partners to save $500 million.
  • I told him about the bid evaluation model that the Bulk Fuels Business Unit developed to run on a PC,
  • and about the way the Material Returns Improvement Team empowered frontline specialists to make decisions about what was returned to inventory.
He was wowed. He said he had no idea that there were teams across the government doing such exciting things. He said we need to do a better job telling the American public what's going on.

That's what I'm challenging you to do today.

The Challenge

You now have been recognized and honored by the Vice President of the United States. You are now a member of an elite corps of Hammer Award reinventors who have made government work better, cost less, and get results Americans care about. This membership also brings responsibility. Your responsibility as part of this membership is:
  • to tell people what you did and how you did it;
  • to help others replicate what you did; and
  • to continue to reinvent within your organization.


This leads me to one last thought on how you can "slide the door." It's often hard for adults to relate to their children or gandchildren about their work. The kids are often proud of their parents or grandparents, but aren't sure why.

Here's a chance to show them why. Show them your Hammer Awards. And go to their schools and show the Hammer to their class as part of "Show-and-Tell." Explain to the class what your agency or your company have done to make the world they will inherit a more common sense, safer place to live in. It is really, really important for them to understand that some real heroes have names like "Dad" or "Grandma."

And when you are done with your show-and-tell, I bet they will applaud. And, far more than Al Gore, or anybody here, these children will make you feel like the heroes you really are.

Congratulations for building a government that works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about. Again, thank you for the privilege of joining you today.

Related Link
Vice President Gore's Hammer Awards

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