(formerly The National Performance Review)
Vice President Al Gore Presents the
National Partnership Awards
February 14, 1996
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your warm welcome. And Jim King, you sweet-talking devil, you. Happy Valentine's Day to everyone here, and to all of your families, and Jim, thank you very much, seriously, for your outstanding leadership at OPM -- my partner in this reinvention effort. We really appreciate you. I worried a little bit yesterday when the weather forecasters were forecasting another snow day today. I thought that was real appropriate for coming over here, but it's warmed up and I'm glad, because it's been so cold that people who don't know me better have thought I was frozen stiff.

(Laughter & Applause.)
I want to acknowledge George Wise, Commissioner of the Customs; Mary Ellen Withrow, Treasurer of the United States; Philip Deal, Director of the Mint; Major General James Childress and Major General Billy Solomon, and all of the members of the National Partnership Council who have each been introduced and acknowledged by Jim King and to all of the other distinguished guests here and to all who are joining us by way of this satellite hookup, thank you very much for participating and for giving me the opportunity to celebrate some partnerships that are helping to change the face of the U.S. government. They are improving the way government and government's employees work in delivering better service to our customers.

Before going further, I want to thank each and every person who has joined in these efforts. You're doing wonderful work and I urge you to keep it up.

I want to again thank the members of this Partnership Council and single them out for their hard work and commitment. As you know, the Council is being expanded to include career managers representing the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association. President Clinton and I think this is an important addition, and we hope to see two new members in place by March. And, again, Jim King has had not only the task of running the Office of Personnel Management but he has also had the challenge of chairing this council. Jim, that's reinventing government -- wearing lots of hats and being paid for only one job.

Before coming here, I looked up the word "partner" in the dictionary, and in Webster's I found at least one definition that goes like this. "One of two persons who dance together." Well, that's probably a pretty good description of how some in these partnership arrangements must feel as you test out these new partnerships. Two steps forward, one step back, a little shuffle to the left, then back to the right, the occasional dip here and there; sometimes you feel a little bit like the nervous couple on the first date, hoping to get through without tripping. But these winners have shown that we can set our goals a whole lot higher than just avoiding bruised toes. By working together, labor and management can dramatically improve how government delivers its services. That is why President Clinton created the National Partnership Council. Every corporate CEO we talked to told us that if we were going to make this government work better and cost less, we were going to need labor and management working closely together to help lead the way.

Well, the people we are honoring here today show us that federal employees are more than up to that challenge. Take the Army's Red River Depot, where many unions joined with management to eliminate layers of supervision, increase productivity and, in 1994, were able to save the taxpayers almost $15 million. And by making themselves so much more productive, they were able to save 5,000 jobs for the local economy.

Or take the partnership between the Department of Labor and the American Federation of Government Employees, which produced a new landmark collective bargaining agreement. Along the way, this new way of doing business has helped to produce seven Hammer award winners. And, incidentally, I was looking at a tape of a Hammer award winner on -- was it Jeopardy? Yeah, a contestant on Jeopardy talking about the Hammer award; just goes to show ...

Then there is the U.S. Mint and AFGE in Denver, who attained unprecedented levels of customer service, productivity and quality, and saved taxpayers nearly $10 million. And the Customs Service, working with the NTEU, has made tremendous strides in stepping up our war on drugs while, at the same time, making it easier for legitimate businesses to operate. I was just looking yesterday at the tripling of the cocaine seizures in the Port of Miami, under the new approach.

These four winners and all of the others being honored today are helping to restore faith in government. It's a job that is sorely needed. As we continue our push to eliminate the budget deficit, we also have to tackle the trust deficit. Some of you may be aware of the fact that thirty years ago, while 75 percent of American citizens trusted government to do the right thing most of the time, by the 1990s that same statistic had fallen to less than 20 percent. And it's fallen across the board, among Democrats and Republicans, young and old, rich and poor, black and white. In every demographic category, the level of trust in government has fallen dramatically since the 1960s.

The American people are demanding change, and change has been a cornerstone of the Clinton/Gore administration. Our view of change is a change for the better. As President Clinton said so eloquently in his State of the Union speech, "The era of big government is over, but we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves." The president spoke of the value of team work in meeting our challenges, and he stressed the need to protect our basic values to enable all Americans to make the most of their lives, and I quote, "With stronger families, more educational opportunity, economic security, safer streets, a cleaner environment in a safer world." Our challenge is to serve the American people with a government that is smaller and more effective.

As partners, you can help government move with the change that is now underway. The success of the National Partnership Council and of each of the winners being honored here today and, in fact, of hundreds of other examples around the government, demonstrate that is possible. Building on the success of these and other partnerships, we are working to expand the government's use of partnerships in how we regulate, in how we administer programs with state and local governments, and then how labor and management can work together toward common goals. Together, as partners, we can make it happen.

I've told some of you before that I remember vividly how, as a youngster, the phrase "Made in Japan" meant to me something that was low quality and would wear out pretty quickly. But now, it means to many consumers a level of -- a high level of quality and craftsmanship. Luckily, America's businesses have responded to that challenge and are now the best in quality in the world. Well, in the same way, the phrase "good enough for government work" means to too many people today just barely enough to get by.

But we can see a future not that far away when these kinds of partnerships that we are celebrating here today bring about a change just as profound in the meaning of that phrase "good enough for government work," as we saw the change in that phrase, "Made in Japan." And some years from now, sooner than many people think, that phrase "good enough for government work" will mean "top quality, world-class, a standard to aspire to."

The winners today have given us a glimpse of that future. So now let's recognize them for what they have done and thank them for showing us all of what lies ahead. Congratulations to each of the winners, to all who have helped them, and God speed to all who are chasing after the high level that they have set. Thank you very much.
(End of proceedings as recorded.)

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