NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR REINVENTING GOVERNMENT
5th ANNIVERSARY EVENT and ANNOUNCEMENT OF
CONVERSATIONS WITH AMERICA
March 3, 1998
Vice President Gore's Remarks as Delivered
Off Stage Announce: Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for the warm welcome and thank you for joining us here today, and happy birthday to NPR. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to be talking with these folks up here about our process of reinventing government, some of the progress we've made and some of the work that still needs to be done. I will acknowledge some of these individuals in my comments here, but I want to first of all acknowledge some of the others who are with us in the audience.
Bobby Harnage, President of the American Federation of Government Employees, and Bob Tobias, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, two of our partners in this exercise and advisers and people that we talk with on a constant basis. We don't always agree, but we work together and we agree a whole lot more than we disagree, and I'm very glad that they are here today.
I want to acknowledge Morley Winograd, my Director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government -- I started to say National Performance Review, I forgot we've changed the name. But it's still NPR and it's still REGO and, as you know, REGO is Gore spelled sideways because I've worked so hard on this.
I also wanted to acknowledge the fact that some of the original NPR deputy directors are back visiting today. Billy Hamilton and Carolyn Lukensmeyer and Bob Knisely, and I wanted to say -- where are you all?
-- thank you all, and Elaine Kamarck, the first director, is at the Kennedy School in Cambridge and can't be with us today, but I wanted to acknowledge her work. And Morley and the whole team at NPR are working so hard and I'm so grateful to them for doing such a great job. My staff at the NPR are all here today, and these folks have been pushing the envelope on reinvention for the last five years. And I want to give a special thanks to the many federal agency heads who are here who have worked extremely hard, and to the customers of our government who are -- some of whom are on stage, some of whom are in the audience, and you'll hear more about them throughout the program today.
Now, we are gathered here today to celebrate a milestone of progress and achievement. On this very day, five years ago, President Clinton asked me to take on the assignment of trying to reinvent our federal government so that it would work better and cost less, and do more in a better way for the American people. And here's what President Clinton said on that occasion. He said, "Our goal is to make the entire federal government both less expensive and more efficient, and to change the culture of our national bureaucracy away from complacency and entitlement toward initiative and empowerment. We intend to redesign, reinvent, and reinvigorate the entire national government."
Well, that was a big assignment. And I said at the time it would take eight to twelve years in order to fully accomplish that goal. But we are proud to report, five years later, we're ahead of schedule, we've made tremendous progress and today our government is leaner and more effective and more customer focused. Thanks to REGO we have reduced the size of the federal government by 350,000 employees -- actually, the chart shows 348,000 employees as of December, but I think it's safe to say that here in March it's now 350,000, maybe a little bit more than that. And it is the smallest federal government as a percentage of the entire work force since before the New Deal.
We eliminated 200 outdated government programs, we slashed more than 16,000 pages of red tape, and saved the American people over $137 billion. It has been our progress in reinventing government that has enabled us to balance the budget, cut taxes for families, and invest in key priorities. A lot of other decisions went into reaching those goals, because they were objects of the president's economic plan that passed in the summer of 1993, but our project to reinvent government has assisted dramatically in reaching all of those goals.
For a generation, many in Washington would reflexively say that the solution to the budget crunch was to cut down on waste, fraud and abuse. They said it so often it wasn't a policy proposal, it was a punch line. And it wasn't really accompanied by any sustained effort to make it policy. But, for the past five years, under President Clinton's leadership, we have made the tough choices and done the hard work of actually cutting wasteful spending. And those cuts have enabled us to make greater investments in our priorities, like education and the environment and children's health. Because of REGO, the first balanced budget in a generation is also a progressive budget for America's families and America's communities.
Even more than cutting government or making it more efficient, reinventing government has been about a different vision of the role government ought to play in America's life. We tried to give the American people the same kinds of choices that they find in the rest of their lives. Over the past decade, American business has changed the way it does business pretty dramatically, and all of us have had the experience of walking into stores and realizing that the service is better and the products are of higher quality, they're better bargains, because the business has really changed the way it operates. It's not true of all businesses. We have the other kinds of experiences, too. But we've come to recognize that when a business makes up its mind to do business the new way and reinvent itself, it makes all the difference. And Americans have a right to expect that all parts of the federal government can go through the same process of reinvention.
Business has emphasized choice, quality, and efficiency. And they've stopped "business as usual," to adopt these new approaches. Well, the real story with REGO, after five years, is that we have stopped government as usual, and have undertaken a sustained effort to really change the way government serves the American people. We've still got a long ways to go. But we've got a lot of progress to report; not only is the government smaller, not only have we cut an awful lot of wasteful spending, but we have improved the quality of government services in a great many agencies, and we have focused on customer service for the very first time. We're going to hear a lot about that here today.
Once, the focus of the federal government was on filling out paperwork, making sure the forms were done in triplicate. Today, the focus is on working efficiently and offering Americans more choices. We want a government that sees citizens as customers, to be respected and served. Now, the difference between government and a business is that our customers are also our bosses, and so that just doubly emphasizes the necessity of listening carefully to what the customers want and then changing the way the governmental organization does business in order to respond efficiently with high quality to all of the people who are being served by a particular agency or department. We want a government that emphasizes results instead of red tape. That replaces bureaucratic nonsense with old-fashioned common sense. And it can be done. In fact, it is being done.
I believe that our work has slowly and steadily begun to reverse the downward trend of American's trust in their government. And some of the poll results from companies that actually go out and take the time to measure how Americans feel about government programs are showing the turnaround. They're showing a change in attitudes toward government. They still show, again, that we've got a long way to go, but they show that we're making a lot of progress. And by showing that government can work well and work for the good of the American people, we are slowly restoring America's faith in the idea of self-government, and that's something we absolutely must do if we're going to have a true self-government that works for all Americans.
Now, I've said several times that we still have a long way to go, even though we're ahead of schedule. After five years of making government work better and cost less, I'm convinced that we now need to renew our commitment to giving Americans the quality service that they deserve. So we're going to focus REGO's sixth year on customer service, and that's why today I'm pleased to announce that President Clinton has just signed a
As a first step, today I'm unveiling a new directory called, "America Anywhere." I meant to bring a copy up here. Has anybody got a copy there? It's real easy to read -- thank you. It starts with "Adoption" and ends with "Weather." And any kind of help that you need, it's there. And, for example, passports are listed under "Passports." They used to be listed under "S" for "State Department," of course. And of course, anybody intimately familiar with the workings of the bureaucracy here in Washington would know to look for passports under State Department, right? Well, we want the federal government to be customer-friendly, and we don't want that just to be a punch line or a buzz phrase. We want people to have a meaningful encounter with high quality when they deal with the federal government. Some people think, "Well, that's impossible, that's not going to -- that's never going to happen."
Well, it is going to happen, because federal employees and federal managers and people who interact with the federal government are all working together in teams to make sure that it happens. Now, this guide here is an easy-to-read guide that provides access to government services through toll-free telephone numbers and web sites on the Internet. I'd like to thank June Huber and Beth Johnson of the General Services Administration for all their help in making this guide possible.
Well, today we're celebrating a half-decade of innovation, dynamism and of changing the way the federal government does its business. Tomorrow, let's return to our work with renewed determination to reinvent our government and especially to reinvent the way it serves the American people. Let's all listen better so that we never miss the voices of hardworking Americans who pay their taxes, obey the laws, and ask only that their government give them a good value and value them as citizens.
Now, in just a moment we're going to be having a conversation up here on stage with representatives and satisfied customers from the Social Security Administration, the Postal Service, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and our one-stop Career Centers. All of these organizations have made amazing progress in working more efficiently and restoring the trust of the American people. Before we begin that conversation, I'd like to briefly highlight a few other success stories from our reinvented federal government and some of the representatives that are here because, together, their stories show how far we have come and how strong our commitment is to going even farther in improving the quality of government service.
Melba Price is here from the Missouri Department of Social Services, along with Yvette Jackson, the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service at the Department of Agriculture. People like Melba and Yvette have helped states save millions of dollars and eliminate fraud by administering their food stamp assistance electronically. And Melba gave me -- didn't you give me this card? And this is a benefit security card that you all use in Missouri now as part of the partnership, and I'm pleased to announce today that we are making the formal commitment to having 65 percent of all food stamp recipients receive their benefits electronically by September of the year 2000. We believe that we can achieve that goal, and by September of 2002 we will have all 50 states delivering their food stamps, child support, and other federal benefits electronically. There's less fraud, less abuse, lower cost, more efficiency, and a higher quality of service to those who are being served by these programs. So thank you all for helping us find a way to do that. We appreciate it very much. (Applause.)
Also here are Jeff Davis, the President of the Wisconsin Box Company in Wausau, and Charles Jeffress, the Assistant Secretary over at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. In 1994, when OSHA was an adversary looking for violations, 72 of Jeff's workers were injured on the job. Now that Charles and Jeff are partners and OSHA is focused not just on the number of fines that can be levied, not just the number of citations that can be handed out, and of course that used to be the measure for promotions and awards and all that, now they're focused on reducing the number of injuries. And one of the best ways to do that is to enter into a partnership with the employers. One of my favorite stories is about how they used to get all these fines by walking in and noticing that the big poster giving employees their rights wasn't on the wall so they'd give them a fine. Now they go out to the trunk of the car and get the poster and give them the poster. And if they put it up, you know, that's the real result they're wanting.
Anyway, now that they are partners, not one single person has lost a day to injury in three years. And I think that's a remarkable accomplishment. And today -- (Applause.)
And today I'm pleased to announce that we're making a formal commitment to reduce injury and illness rates in the workplace by 20 percent in the 50,000 most dangerous workplaces in America. That is a lot of avoided workplace injuries and illnesses, and we will reduce red tape while reducing the need for surgical tape, as well. So thank you for helping us find a way to do that.
B.J. Mason owns Mid-Atlantic Finishing in Maryland, and he is accompanied by Fred Hansen, the Deputy Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, B.J. said that he remembers when the government's environmental regulators -- and I'm quoting, these are B.J.'s words -- "Treated business people like they were evil, horned creatures with ugly facial sores." Yeah. That's the first time I've used that phrase in a speech. And those are pretty strong words. And he says that the feeling was mutual, or at least he felt that he was made to feel that way. Well, Fred, of course, is at the EPA and he is one of those people who is helping to de-horn the situation by treating business people like B.J. with trust and respect. The EPA will continue to work in partnership with the metal finishing industry, and B.J. tells me that you've seen a whole lot of difference with this common-sense initiative.
MR. MASON: Unbelievable.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, great. And EPA is making a commitment to continue on this project, to fulfill its goal of cutting toxic pollution by 75 percent, and EPA will expand this approach to other industries by the year 2000. Thank you for helping us chart that course. I appreciate it. (Applause.)
Bill Healey is Financial Aid Director at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. He's here with Nick Vaughn, who is the first Northwood student to use the electronic online student aid application. And his loan application was approved in just one week. Also here is David Longenecker, the Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education at the Department of Education, whose staff developed the electronic application. We're making a formal commitment here today to expand the number of electronic applications for student financial aid to 3 million by September of the year 2000. Thank you all for helping us figure out how to do that. (Applause.)
You'll notice that we've got specific goals attached to each of these agencies, because only by setting goals and focusing on reaching those results can we begin to measure whether we're making progress in the right direction or moving in the wrong direction, and then we can gear everything toward the results instead of just the process, the forms or the fines or the red tape.
Charles Rossotti, the Commissioner of the IRS, is here with us today. Got a big month coming up. We appreciate your taking a little time out to come here today. Under his brand-new leadership, the IRS has been working very hard to provide Americans with much better customer service. Now, I know a lot of people feel like, "That's one service I can do without," but we all understand that in a self-government there has to be either the IRS or something like it. And last year, half of all the callers to the IRS got busy signals. Half. This year, nine out of ten get through without a busy signal. Well over twice as many people have gotten forms straight from the IRS web site on the Internet, and 25 percent more people are filing by telephone so that they can avoid paperwork altogether and get their refunds much faster.
Now I'm pleased to announce that this Saturday, for the first time, IRS offices will be open on the weekend for walk-in service during the tax season. Also, we have a formal commitment to have an IRS toll-free number where Americans can access information and service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by the beginning of next year. Because people should not have to miss work to pay their taxes. And I want to congratulate you, Charles, on your new leadership over there and your team for helping to make this possible. (Applause.)
I think we ought to start, just as President Clinton would suggest, by doing Social Security first. And this is an audience that might appreciate all these inside jokes here. With me first of all is Jane Barton, from Mesa, Arizona. Jane, thank you very much for coming. I was sorry to learn that you haven't always gotten the best of service from the Social Security Administration since you lost your husband when he died eight years ago. And I'm so sorry about your loss and about the difficulties that you had.
But things have changed on Social Security's end of this, and I'd like you to tell us what happened when you called last month.
MS. BARTON: Well, let me preface it by saying I've got three daughters, and I get Social Security monthly, death benefits. And it's very important to me. And having been in the system for eight years, every time you have to call or whatnot it would be a nightmare. You just -- because there's a lot of red tape and whatnot. And that's just part of government, you know, and I'm not very familiar with what goes on in it.
So it's been a while since I've talked to anyone in Social Security so I thought, "I haven't gotten any paperwork in awhile," and I got kind of nervous, thinking, "Something's up here." And so -- money still was coming in, but I thought, "That could be cut off," so I called up the 800-number and I got this rep by the name of Bonnie, and I was totally unprepared like most customers, I didn't have the Social Security Numbers that I needed for my kids, I didn't have this or that.
And I was kind of expecting her just to give me just the typical, you know, the heavy sigh and, "Just a minute," and transfer me to twelve people, and Bonnie was like a real person. I mean, she was a real person! It was incredible. I was real surprised, and we just started talking and she was looking into the areas that I didn't even know existed. She found out the problem was I had moved three times and didn't contact Social Security, and that was on my part that I didn't do that, I didn't think to do that, and so that was the reason I wasn't getting the paperwork.
And then she goes, "Well, how about this paperwork over here," and I said, "I never even heard about that, what are you talking about?" And she goes, "Well, you have to have these forms filled out by the school." I said, "They've never sent them to me," and I'm going, "Oh!" So Bonnie was starting to laugh and I started to laugh so she relaxed me and basically just said that, "Let me check into this for you because I don't want to, you know, get you upset or have the monies cut off," and I wasn't even aware that this stuff was going on.
And so she checked into that and found out that no, the paperwork will start this fall when my daughter, my oldest, hits high school, and then she said, "Well, let's check into this also while we're doing, you know," so she checked into a number of things, I was on the phone for like 45 minutes and I didn't call up with any major problems. It was just I needed to find out where the paperwork was at, and she was just awesome. I just can't get over the service that I got. And that's really sad when you've got to be surprised to be treated well.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yeah. Yeah.
MS. BARTON: And I was, and so this was the very first letter I've ever written, I mean I'm the first to complain if something goes wrong but this gal just was awesome so I wrote a letter on her and I'm sitting next to you now.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well ... (Applause.)
Well, I want to give the credit where it belongs here, because Bonnie Szczawinski is in the audience, Bonnie "Awesome" Szczawinski. I'd like to ask Bonnie to stand so we can thank you. (Applause.)
Bonnie, I know you don't have a microphone out there, but how does it feel to be able to give this kind of service, as a federal employee. Do you notice the difference? How does it feel to interact with her?
MS. SZCZAWINSKI: Well, I interact with everybody in the same manner I did with Ms. Barton, so to me it's my job. It's every day. I don't do -- I haven't done anything different than I do every day. I treat all customers the same.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, thank you very much. (Applause.)
You know, it's really important to make it possible for federal employees who take pride in their work and who want to do an excellent job, to make it possible for them to function that way. And if they're rewarded for the number of calls they take rather than the quality of each call, then they don't feel like they can take 45 minutes to help to the degree that she helped you. And so I want to say to Ken Apfel, who runs the Social Security Administration, first of all, I want you to make sure that Bonnie gets rewarded for delivering good service.
And now I want you to tell us what the Social Security Administration is doing to make it possible for everybody who contacts Social Security to get the -- to have the same kind of positive experience that Jane had when she talked to Bonnie.
MR. APFEL: Well, Mr. Vice President, there's nothing more important to Social Security than providing customer service. It is our highest priority within the agency and it's the Bonnies of the world that make all the difference within Social Security. What we've got to do and what we have done over time is strengthen that 800-service which we have. We now receive 68 million -- million -- calls a year within Social Security. It's an important service to the American public. We realized that years ago. Your initiatives in terms of benchmarking, forcing us to say, "How do we provide better service through that 800-number" was very important to us. We took it as a major challenge to improve service to the public and we have.
One of the ways to do that is through the quantification that you said was to establish standards for service delivery and more than anything else it's to talk to our customers, find out what they want, what do customers want from us. And the one thing that we've heard, time and time again, is they want to be able to use the phone. They want to be able to utilize that phone to provide that service and get that service, so we are now establishing new benchmarking that says, by the year 2000 that if anybody comes in the door -- excuse me, not comes in the door -- if anybody calls on the telephone and says they'd like to file a claim for Social Security, that we'll be able to handle it right then and there on that first telephone call. We're also establishing higher standards for wait times on our system.
So we believe that, one, it's through REGO and benchmarking and, two, the most important thing, which you've been saying for five years, is listen to your customers, listen to your customers, and what they tell us is provide better service and the other way that we do this is by listening to Bonnie. It's listening to our employees and finding ways to support our employees to do their job better.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I thought the people in the central office had all the answers.
MR. APFEL: Oh, that's not exactly what I've found so far.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Oh.
MR. APFEL: Except for the "main" central office.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Touch‚. Well, I'm finding the same thing you are, that the federal employees who are out there where the rubber meets the road are the ones who collect the insights as to how the world is changing and how each of these organizations that make up the federal government have to change in order to continue giving -- or begin giving the high-quality service that the people have a right to expect. And I want to congratulate you, Ken, and all of your colleagues at Social Security for the hard work that's going into this process. And Jane, thank you --
MS. BARTON: You're welcome.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: -- very much for giving us the feedback that we need to do this.
Now, let me move on and talk to Kelly Smith. Kelly is the Chief Financial Officer of Replacements Limited, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Were you rooting for North Carolina or Duke last Saturday?
MR. SMITH: I'm personally a Duke fan.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: All right, so you liked the outcome of that game. Okay.
Tell us what your company does and why you depend on the U.S. Postal Service.
MR. SMITH: Well, we are the world's largest retailer of discontinued tableware -- china, crystal, flatware. If you and Tipper were to get into a fight -- hope that doesn't happen --
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Who's writing this guy's remarks?
MR. SMITH: But if you did and you broke some of your wedding china, for example, we'd be the place you'd call. We mail customers advertising materials about our service and, through an 800-number, take orders and ship our merchandise to our customers. We ship about 1500 packages a day, and have historically used UPS as the primary means to get packages to our customer.
We are extremely customer service-oriented, we really look to our vendor partners to be as customer service-oriented as we are, and we'd always used UPS, primarily because we were concerned about the fragile nature of our product and the delivery times. But the Postal Service's representatives kept hitting on us, saying, "Give us a try, we're making a lot of changes," and so we did, last summer gave them the opportunity to ship on a test basis for us. And we're just overwhelmed with the response.
The packages -- we use the Priority Mail Service, it gets packages there in two to three days, much faster that UPS in many cases, and in many cases less expensively. And so we really decided to shift some of our volume to them.
During the strike, the Postal Service again really went to bat for us. I had the Postal Service rep calling me, asking me could they get additional trucks for us because they knew we needed the extra service during that hard time for everybody. So we've been just thrilled to death. Right now, the Postal Service ships about seven to eight hundred packages a day for us, and we're looking to increase that volume even more.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, that's great. That's great. There have been, by almost all measures, a lot of improvements, and Marvin Runyon, you're delivering service that from the measures appears to be breaking some records now.
MR. RUNYON: Well, we're looking forward to what we can do to make our customers happier with us. I'm really proud to be here, representing our United States Postal Service today because we've got 750,000 of the most dedicated employees that you'll ever find. I'm reminded of the -- when I first came on as Postmaster General, I was having a group of people over to my house because we'd been building a new house and I wanted to thank them for putting up with all the construction debris and stuff, and two of the women backed me off in the corner and said, "Mr. Runyon, we know you're the new Postmaster General."
I said, "Well, that's good."
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Good start.
MR. RUNYON: And they said, "Yeah, but let me tell you something. We have gotten the very best letter carrier in the whole world and don't you dare do anything to mess him up."
And she's right. It's our people out there that do the job, that make it happen, that make it possible for us to have three years of record surpluses and to improve our delivery performance by 13 points, all the way up to 92 percent, which is wonderful. So I think it's employees that do the job, they're the ones that are great. We've got a management system we call Customer Perfect and we use Customer Perfect because it's our customers that we have to satisfy. We thought about making it "Letter Perfect." We thought, "Well, that's pretty nice but, you know, the product is not what has to be perfect. It's the customer that has to be satisfied every time." So that's what we're doing, and we're doing a lot of things in connection with that.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, great. And please keep up the work because it's true of every single agency and department, just as it's true of private business. Even if you're having a lot of improvements and everything is getting better, if there are a few who are a small percentage who are dissatisfied and who encounter serious problems and have some kind of horror story, then that's -- those are the experiences that get the attention and that ends up demoralizing the employees and so forth. So we have to keep pushing forward until we cross that threshold beyond which people generally say, "Well, when I contacted the Postal Service or the Social Security Administration or whatever, it was great and I really do notice a change." And then when the overwhelming majority of people have those positive experiences, then we'll begin to pick up momentum and we'll have even further improvements in the quality of service.
Dennis Eggebraaten is a police lieutenant from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and we all watched on television, Dennis, and some of us were up there also to see firsthand the terrible consequences of the disasters that struck in North Dakota last year. It was almost like a scene out of a horrible movie when you had those floods and the fires at the same time, and I know that you know the whole country was keeping you in their thoughts and prayers and reached out to you.
Tell us about your interactions with FEMA.
MR. EGGEBRAATEN: Well, FEMA actually started before the flood. FEMA did a lot of advertising about January -- our flood happened in April -- to take out flood insurance. And they were really insistent that people take and try it if they've never taken it out, and so I took out flood insurance. And I thank God I did, because I live in the lowest part of Grand Forks and my house got 19 feet of water, so it was destroyed, and I had moved about half of my possessions out, but they got flooded where I thought they were safe too.
But FEMA helped me with rental assistance so I could find a place to rent until I could find another home. I also had a lot of friends that had losses. FEMA brought in trailers so that people could stay beside their houses, the ones that weren't destroyed but had damage anyway, while they cleaned them out. And they also brought in trailers, mobile homes, and they set them up in an area of Grand Forks, we call that area "FEMA-ville" now. And I also, in my job as a police lieutenant there, got roped into being a public information officer for emergency operations center. There was only two of us and we had a flood of media that came into town. So FEMA brought in their media experts, all their equipment, and they just took the load off us completely. And they brought in a trailer called Red October that they use as a command center, helping the whole city.
I guess the main thing that I got from FEMA in dealing with the many ways that I did and every assistance you can think of, was the courtesy, the compassion that they showed whoever I interacted with. And it was truly unbelievable and helpful for us and my family, and the town.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, God bless you and your neighbors who've been through so much, and we're all proud of the way FEMA has really turned around in the last five years, and James Lee Witt would be with us here today except he's off, heading off a disaster -- actually, he's at a FEMA budget hearing on Capitol Hill ... But -- prevention is the first rule, you know.
And Morrie Goodman, you're FEMA's top communicator. Tell us how much better FEMA is going to be, not now compared to five years ago, but how much better is it going to be a year or two from now?
MR. GOODMAN: Well, we've embarked on -- James Lee Witt has a new program called "Project Impact." Project Impact is -- the whole focus is creating disaster-resistant communities. Private sector initiatives, a partnership with state, local, city, business, chambers of commerce, to do everything that they can to reduce the vulnerability to disasters. We've had seven pilot projects that have kicked off already, and we've had a tremendous outpouring of interest from states -- from every state. We have a goal of putting a disaster-resistant community in every state by the end of this year, and by 2000 we want to demonstrate, through this program, that every dollar spent on preparedness through Project Impact will save $2.00 in future disaster costs.
We've -- you know, being involved in a catastrophic disaster is kind of like somebody telling you you have a catastrophic illness. The thing that people need most of all is they want to know that there is somebody there to help them. And they will have the latest technology, the latest administrative efforts. They will be honest with them, not lead them with false promises, false hopes. That they will explain to them that they need to take part in their own recovery, and that most of all they will listen to them, which is part of this initiative as well. It's ironic how the two go hand in hand, that they will listen to them. And we found out through all of our polling that people, they don't always want just more money. They want somebody to listen and to care and to help find solutions to their problems, and cut the red tape. We've done that over the past five years, and we're going to be doing that. That's the focus of our administration at FEMA. Every single employee is taking customer service training, and James Lee Witt demands that we deliver extraordinary customer service.
And, Mr. Vice President, if I can, I'd like to say that Dennis, being a police officer, the emergency teams, the fire, rescue and police personnel in Grand Forks did an unbelievable job through the worst situation that you could possibly imagine, as you know, and I know you were up in Riunito, California, just last week listening to victims of that disaster, and he was, in the middle of all that with his home being damaged, he was helping other people too.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: A lot of people -- a lot of times people don't realize that the fire and police and the rescue workers are out there helping everybody else, but their own families are going through the consequences of the disaster and they're really burning the candle at both ends, and so Dennis, thank you for all your help and to everybody at FEMA, we really are proud of you. In many ways, FEMA's kind of the flagship of what a turnaround can look like in an agency. It used to be that when a disaster took place, the people in the community affected would feel like they had a second disaster when FEMA came in, and you may remember those days. But those days have changed, and now it's routine to hear the kind of praise that Dennis has laid on FEMA here today, and we're grateful for that and we appreciate all the folks at FEMA.
Now, finally, we're honored to have with us a woman who has worked her way off welfare and into a good job. Yutiv Lipscomb. Now, first of all, I want you to tell us where you work, Yutiv.
MS. LIPSCOMB: I'm Secretary for the President's Office at the NAACP.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Okay. And she works for Kweisi Mfume
MS. LIPSCOMB: Yes, I do.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Now, what kind of help did you get from the Labor Department when you began this challenge of working your way off of welfare and into a good job?
MS. LIPSCOMB: Okay, I got a referral from DSS, which is Department of Social Service, to attend the One-Stop Program. I attended the one at Southwest Career Center in Baltimore, Maryland. I had a very wonderful case worker, by the name of Marleen Bomax (phonetic). She was very personal with me.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: --The Department of Labor has spent a lot of time figuring out how to best interact with people who are making this journey. Kitty, tell us what more you're planning to do to help Americans get good jobs.
MS. HIGGINS: Well, we hope to double the number of One-Stop Centers over the next year. We now have a little over 500 One-Stop Centers that are open. We plan to open a thousand in the coming year and have 2300 One-Stops open by 2002. By this time next year, we will reach half the country with One-Stop Centers and by 2002 we ought to be able to serve the entire country.
As Yutiv has mentioned, the people who work at the One-Stop Centers are really the heart and soul, but the electronic backbone, if you will, of the one-stops is our America's Job Bank and America's Talent Bank. And we now have the Job Bank operating in all 50 states, and in a few weeks the Talent Bank will be up on the Internet in all 50 states, so regardless of where you live you can post your resume on the Internet, and employers all over the country will be able to read your resume and decide whether they want to hire you.
But what Yutiv didn't tell you about her story is that not only is she working as a secretary for Kweisi Mfume, she's also going to school at Baltimore Community College, paying her own tuition, she has a two-year-old son who was born on Christmas Day in 1995. She's paying for child care, paying for school, just bought a new car. She's paying her rent, paying more taxes than she thought she'd have to pay.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: You're kind of tying everything together here.
MS. HIGGINS: She's planning to go on to the University of Maryland, is studying computers, and wants to develop web sites for the Internet. And when I asked her about her paycheck she said, "It seems like the more money you earn, the less money you have." (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, you're definitely on the road.
I want to thank you, Kitty, and I want to thank all of these public servants who have joined in this conversation and all of these American citizens or customers and bosses of the federal government for sharing their stories. And we are really committed in our reinventing government team and throughout President Clinton's administration to continuing this kind of progress.
In our internal meetings of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, I often use the story about this phrase that we saw on consumer products for a long time, that changed its meaning. In the 1950s, the phrase "Made in Japan" was interpreted to mean shoddy workmanship, poor quality, cheaply made, et cetera. And then, starting with transistor radios and then motorcycles and then all kinds of products and automobiles, the meaning of that phrase changed. And actually people started paying a premium in the marketplace if something was "Made in Japan."
Now, that was a wake-up call to the American companies that were challenged, and they've long since responded and are beating that challenge off. However, the point is, that phrase changed because there was a determined effort to change the reality. Now think about this phrase. "Good enough for government work." That phrase began in the midst of World War II, and it meant the highest quality. People put so much of themselves into helping to win the war effort that "good enough for government work" was a mark of great pride, it was the very best that you could possibly expect. And then, of course, it changed its meaning as the reaction that you all gave to that phrase signifies that it became synonymous with sort of halfhearted effort and not very high quality and so forth. Well, I'm here to tell you that after five years, that phrase is beginning to change again and reacquire its original meaning. And our goal is to make sure that the kinds of success stories we've heard here become commonplace, so that whenever American citizens deal with their self-government, they will come away with a positive experience and feel like "good enough for government work" really does mean the very best that they could possibly expect.
We've made a lot of progress, we've got a long way to go, and we're focusing this sixth year on customer service, results, performance measurement, and the kind of high quality service that we've been hearing about here today. Americans from all walks of life have a right to expect high-quality, low-cost service from their federal government. That's what a national partnership is all about. So let's all work together to keep on creating a government that works better and costs less, and one that listens to and serves the American people. Thank you very much. (Applause.)