Hammer Award Ceremony
EPA New England Center for Industry and
March 6, 1998
I find myself in a pretty unusual circumstance. I'm about to give the Hammer Award, which was invented by Vice President Al Gore, at an event where the Vice President himself is speaking. It feels almost like I'm infringing on his patent.
The Hammer Award was invented by Al Gore to recognize teams of government employees -- and their partners-- for helping to create a government that works better and costs less and produces results Americans care about.
The Vice President selected the hammer as the award for many reasons. On one level it represented the mythical $600 hammer purchased by the Pentagon in the days before reinvention. This one costs $6 and it's in an aluminum frame.
On another level, the hammer was the original tool. Hammers can be used to build up and to tear down, and reinvention usually involves both.
And, finally, hammers were one of the few pieces of hardware that the Vice President could find that didn't require some of Bill Gates’ software to run properly. Hammers are compatible with just about any operating system, but I find that they have a bad habit of crashing on "Fingers 5.0" when I use them.
What we are recognizing today is a remarkable "Hammer Team." who are real winners in one of the toughest games around, a game we call regulatory reinvention.
Now, as we say in government, let's get down to business. And that's one of the best kept secrets about reinventing government. America has the most successful economy and best-run businesses in the world - we are the envy of the world. The Vice President made the decision early on that we should learn from the private sector when we set out to reinvent the public sector. He said he wanted to take the quality revolution that had swept the private sector and spread it through the public sector.
That effort started five years ago this week. It was March 3, 1993 when President Clinton asked Vice President Gore to lead an effort to reinvent government.
Five years later, reinvention has resulted in the smallest civilian workforce since JFK's administration, down by 350,000 from its 1993 level of 2.2 million. There has also been a corresponding reduction in red tape and bureaucracy, leading to a savings of $137 billion to taxpayers -- and the end of the once monstrous federal deficit is in sight.
In addition to rising to the challenge with their own ingenuity and common sense, federal workers at every level reached out to the private sector for help.
There are dozens of examples.
Wal-Mart and Eddie Bauer helped the Defense Department reorganize their inventory and supply system. Citicorp, one of the major mortgage lenders in the country, showed the Department of Agriculture how to consolidate its rural development loan program from 2,000 offices to one central location in St. Louis.
Government resembles business in so many respects. Business has personnel and payroll issues, so do we. Business has training, IT issues, and so do we. Heck, we even share the toughest management issue of all --- parking.
But the hardest job in reinventing government is what we're celebrating today.
The one distinct, unique activity of government - at least we thought it was unique -- is regulation. Regulation is the government as sovereign, ordering people about.
There were no private sector models for reinventing regulation. Or so we thought.
Looking back on it, I realize that there was a business model for regulation. It's "quality control." Remember?
In the early days of quality control, the principle was that you could "inspect quality in." Companies had their own quality "cops." The cops would inspect stuff coming off the line, ticket the poor quality product, and good quality would result. And, like most really bad ideas, it worked . . . sort of. Just enough to confuse people.
Then the quality management movement emerged, and companies started to design quality into their process, not just inspect it in. Quality began at the drawing board, continued through their suppliers, through the assembly line, and right into the customer's hands. Quality became everybody's job, not some "cop's."
Regulatory reinvention has followed the same course. Many regulators, most notably John DeVillars and his team, discovered that the real measure of their success wasn't how many tickets they could write - it was the results the regulated businesses produced.
OSHA could try to "inspect-in" safe workplaces, or FDA could try to "inspect-in" safe medical products, or EPA could try to "inspect-in" environmental quality, but it was much more effective to work with companies to design the desired result into the process. And the best way to do that was not through confrontation, but through partnership. Sound familiar?
Thanks to America's successful businesses, we know that this is possible. They've been through this in their own companies. They've changed adversarial relationships to partnerships. Some have even gone from arms-length dealings with suppliers to letting suppliers decide when they need new supplies. That's essential to just-in-time inventory control and to lean production.
As with businesses, so it is with government.
Regulatory reinvention works when government and industry work together as partners. But to work together as partners, government and business have to focus on our common interests. To begin, we must be willing to stipulate that the public and private sectors are both after the same result.
That none of us wants our children drinking polluted water, or breathing unsafe air.
Now we're not naïve. We know that regulatory agencies will always have to deal with a few outfits that don't want to design quality in. But when regulators work with good players, they can put more people to work catching those who do intentionally violate and disregard the laws.
That will lead to cleaner air and water, a healthier environment for our children and grandchildren.
The Center for Environmental Industry and Technology -- or "CEIT Hammer Team" - is a great example of regulators working with good players.
The CEIT team has worked in many ways to help the environmental technology industry and businesses who might use their products. CEIT has showcased new environmental technologies in trade shows and on the web. They have published directories of financial assistance and held venture capital forums.
And that's not all. The CEIT team has created a framework for a regional permitting process to test and approve new environmental technologies. So each state doesn't have to go to the trouble and expense of doing their own evaluation of new approaches.
That, obviously, is also great news for the business community. Companies won't have to submit their innovations to six state agencies, with all the attendant hassles and expense. The CEIT team has created "one-stop-service" that will save both the states and the companies money. Not to mention the taxpayers.
Let me quote an editorial in The Providence Journal Bulletin about this accomplishment, "The new program will be good for the environment … and it will help the economy … by reducing the regulatory costs of doing business in New England. We hope this is only the start of a major effort to reduce regulatory redundancies in our region."
I couldn't have said it better myself - so I didn't.
Let me just add that I think the hope expressed in this editorial is much more likely to become a reality because of the efforts of this wonderful
CEIT Hammer Team. You are masters of regulatory reinvention.
Now let's present the team with their well-deserved recognition. Would Jim Cabot, Lucy Casella, Carol Kilbride, and Joanne Vizziello please come up?