THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT AT REINVENTING GOVERNMENT ANNIVERSARY EVENT The South Lawn
10:24 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us on this occasion. I appreciate all the solicitude on my crutches and my cast. It's not true that I did this dancing with Tipper here in the front row. (Laughter.) The doctor said I'll have this cast for another five months, and I'll have to wear the old full-body cast for another two years. (Laughter and applause.)
I told somebody the other day that since I was under anesthesia for almost 90 minutes, I formally transferred the powers of my office as Vice President to the Speaker of the House; and when I regained consciousness, Speaker Foley was restored to full power. (Laughter.)
I want to welcome all of the heroes of reinvention who are here, all of our distinguished guests, members of the Cabinet, members of the administration, members -- heads of agencies and departments who have been implementing these recommendations, federal employees who have made all the difference in making all of this possible in giving us the ideas and then in helping us implement the ideas.
And I want to say, first of all, that one year ago here on the South Lawn, I presented the report of the National Performance Review to President Clinton. The report said that if we followed a few simple principles, such as putting customers first, empowering employees and cutting red tape, we could create a government that works better and costs less. We symbolically cut some red tape on the way in here, but we've been cutting the real thing over the past year at a remarkable rate. There is still a lot to go, just as there's still a lot of the symbolic red tape in these laundry baskets there. But we're making a lot of progress, and this is a status report at the one-year mark.
In the first year since we published the report, federal civil servants, members of President Clinton's administration, and the President himself have been cutting red tape and have been working extremely hard to turn the National Performance Review into reality.
As you can see, there is a lot left to do, and we're talking about that, too. Today, we're releasing a formal status report on the first year of the National Performance Review. Here's the report in CD-ROM version. It's also available on the Internet and, and for some of us, there is also a book. (Laughter.) I commend it to your reading, just as I commended to your reading the original report a year ago. And those who took me up on it got back and said they felt well-rewarded by the experience of reading it.
This is just as readable as the one a year ago, and it gives us the facts and figures of which we're very proud, that show how much progress we have been making.
But as we present the one-year status report on Reinventing Government to the American people today, I would like to emphasize that it is only the first in what we promise will be many installments toward the goal of a government that works better and costs less.
There are two ways to summarize the work that we have done in the past year. One way, the traditional way, is through statistics, some of which you see over here, right to the right. I said from the beginning this would be a seven- to eight-year project. Most of the figures have, in the tradition of the budget document, been calculated in five-year terms. But just in the first year, as you can see, we have already seen action taken on more than 90 percent of the recommendations in last year's report.
Money saved, personnel cuts accomplished, bills passed by Congress -- this is a record of great success. And while I'm talking about the actions taken by Congress, I want to single out the individuals in Congress who have been so remarkably supportive of this and have made it all possible.
First of all, the two committee chairs of the committees with jurisdiction over most of the recommendations in Reinventing Government, Senator John Glenn and Congressman John Conyers. (Applause.) Would the two of you stand, please. (Applause.) I'll tell you, these guys have been wonderful to work with. They and their colleagues have been extremely supportive. And I'm very, very grateful to them.
I want to thank a friend of mine who has been more than a majority leader in helping to put this stuff across. He's been a friend and ally in helping to remove obstacles, the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Congressman Dick Gephardt, who is here. We appreciate your work, Dick. Thank you. (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge two other members of Congress who have been extremely helpful on these matters and who are present, Congressman Bill Richardson and Congresswoman Jane Harmon. If the two of them could stand. (Applause.) We appreciate your work very much. (Applause.)
I'm leaving out a bunch of people. I hope I haven't overlooked someone who is also here. Forgive me, it's an oversight if I have.
I'd like to acknowledge the agency heads who are here and who have done such an outstanding job. Alice Rivlin, the Director of OMB who has been a real hero of this. (Applause.) And she's also been heading up the President's Management Council, and every week we work very hard on this. One of my strongest allies, Roger Johnson, head of the GSA -- Roger, thank you for your help and support. (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge several others. From FEMA, James Lee Witt; from SBA Erskine Bowles; from the Social Security Administration Shirley Chater; the acting Customs Director, Sam Banks; Jim King at OPM who's been a real hero and in the vanguard on this material. (Applause.) Peggy Richardson with IRS, whose been just outstanding. Ann Brown with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ann, thank you.
And the members of the President's Management Council, in addition to Alice -- Tom Collier at the Interior Department; Mort Downey at Transportation; Dave Barram at Commerce; Hershel Gober at the Veterans Administration; Madeleine Kunin at Education; Richard Moose at the State Department; and Tom Glynn at the Labor Department. We appreciate your work, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
I also want to acknowledge some folks who have been key allies. And when they signed on to really help make this work, some people who didn't really understand what federal employees are all about were surprised. I wasn't surprised after spending a year talking with federal employees in every agency and department, because I already knew that most of these ideas in here are ones that federal employees at the grass-roots level, where the rubber meets the road, have for years been saying -- why don't they do this? Why don't they do it the right way? Don't they understand what makes sense? And so when the representatives of public employees in the public employee unions spoke up and to the surprise of some say, yes, we endorse this, we think this is greatly needed, I was not surprised. But I'm very grateful to them. I'm going to ask three of them to stand who are present -- John Sturdivant with the American Federation of Government Employees; Bob Tobias with the National Treasury Employees' Union; and John Leyden, Secretary Treasurer for Public Employment in the AFL-CIO. Would the three of you gentlemen stand. Thank you, thank you. (Applause.)
You talk about one big change in the prospects for all of this stuff -- it came when the employees and their representatives spoke up loudly and clearly.
So, Mr. President, we can talk about the people who made it possible; we can talk about the facts and figures which are summarized over here. But before we talk about the facts and figures that are usually in this kind of report, I'd like to shift gears and go about this in a different way. I'd like to introduce to you some people who have had firsthand experience on the receiving end with a reinvented government.
Now, I know that this phrase I'm about to use sounds like a contradiction in terms or an oxymoron, to use the fancy word, but I'm going to introduce you to three satisfied citizens. (Laughter.) That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I want to introduce all three of them and then ask the three of them to come and talk to you. First to the microphone will be Emilio Mendoza from San Antonio, Texas. And Dr. Mendoza is the chief executive of a small business called Galactic Technologies, a defense contractor in San Antonio, Texas. Last January, the company ran into cashflow problems and began to think about the cash flow problems and began to think about the SBA. And he's going to come up here in a minute and tell us his experience as a high-tech small business CEO.
Our next speaker will be from big business. Small businesses, like Dr. Mendoza's are not the only ones that are now having the chance to become satisfied customers of the government. Big businesses have been noticing the change, too. So the next person I'd like you to hear from is Mr. Art Torno, managing director of American Airlines, from Miami, Florida. And he'll be up here in a moment.
And our third speaker is from California. Disasters like last January's Northridge earthquake in Southern California can be the time when Americans need their government the most. In the past the government has not always been there when it was needed. Not because there weren't good intentions or hardworking employees, but because the systems were failing them and there were some things that were not enabling them to give the quality service they wanted to give.
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been reinvented. So third to speak will be Mrs. Alameda Holstein and her granddaughter Crystal. And we'll ask them to come up here. Mrs. Holstein came from Sylmar, California, to tell us about her experience after last January's major earthquake. And then I'll come back to present the report, the status report to the President and to present the President to this gathering.
Would the three speakers come up here now and give us your presentation please.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, there are thousands of stories across our country just like these three stories. And in every case, federal employees who want to do an outstanding job and deliver the highest quality service, but have been trying in vain to unleash those energies in the face of systems that don't work, red tape that ties them in knots, burdens that they have to carry that don't make any sense, now are able to do what they want to do anyway.
For example, the "Low Doc" form -- SBA was able to do that because the leadership and the employees at SBA took a form that looked like that and put it down to one two-sided piece of paper. FEMA -- they were able to provide this quality service because they weren't having to spend hours upon hours filling out needless forms because the innovators at FEMA have now given them small hand-carried notebook computers where they can put the information in instantly and send it electronically overnight and cut the turn-around time to practically nothing -- the same in Customs. Even though the conversations between the regulators and the regulated, the government agencies and the effective business community have been going on for years, now with better systems, with a commitment from management, with a new reinvented government approach, they're able to implement the good ideas that have been there in the private sector and in the minds and hearts of federal employees for quite some time.
This is working. We have a long way to go, but we have made an outstanding start in the first year, and we are going to get this job done. And there's one simple reason why, when you get past all the rest of it. Last year, at this time, President Clinton took the initial report and held it up and said to the country -- everywhere it says the President should, this President will. President Clinton has kept his word. He has delivered the full resources of his administration to the accomplishment of this goal.
And, incidentally, partly because of this, we were able to have the success announced yesterday with the crime bill. This week has illustrated President Clinton's leadership on many issues: national Service, which was just kicked off; the Crime Bill, which was just signed yesterday; and now, the one-year status report on Reinventing Government. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to be able to work with the federal employees who have made this report possible.
It is my pleasure to present this report to you, Mr. President. And, ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor to present to you the President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You know, when the Vice President opened this occasion by saying that he would have to wear his full body suit for two years and that the Speaker of the House had been restored to full powers after his surgery came out all right, I couldn't help thinking, it took Reinventing Government to get him on David Letterman -- (laughter) -- and now this terrible accident -- but he's actually become the funniest person in the administration as a result of these two projects. (Applause.)
There is no effort that he has spared to promote this project. You remember he even went on the Letterman show to smash an ashtray. And he has now been invited as part of our follow-up to show we're making progress to go on the show again, where he will read a top five list -- (laughter) -- showing that we can do more with less, he will make each one of them twice as funny as any top 10 list that was there. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Dr. Mendoza, Mr. Torno, Ms. Holstein for traveling here to tell your stories. For all the facts and figures and charts about the success of Reinventing Government, the thing that really counts is that the benefits are being felt the way they ought to be by the American people -- in a very personal and immediate way. And, of course, we hope as a result of this occasion today and the follow-up report, that the rest of the American people will see that we are changing the way the federal government works.
I want to thank the successful teams who made these particular stories possible: Erskine Bowles and the "Low Doc" team from the Small Business Administration who cut a 100-page application down to one page; Customs Commissioner George Weise; the Assistant Commissioner Samuel Banks and Lynn Gordon for their team in the Miami office, who realized that becoming partners with airlines and shippers is a win-win situation. My old friend, James Lee Witt and Bea Gonzalez and the team that completely reorganized FEMA so that all its resources are available to respond to any emergency.
When I took office, the National Academy of Public Administration said this about FEMA: "FEMA is like a patient in triage. The President and Congress must decide whether to treat it or let it die." There was even a bill pending in Congress to abolish FEMA. And in 1992, as I traveled the country, I never went a place that somebody didn't say something disparaging about it. Well, the bill is gone, and it may be the most popular agency in the entire federal government.
There's nothing that makes an ordinary taxpayer madder than to feel that those of us who work for the government don't value their hard-earned dollars. One single, simple example of the waste of taxpayers' money can erase in the public mind thousands and thousands and thousands of examples of devoted service to the same taxpayers.
That's especially true in these perplexing times when people have such conflicting feelings. We're going through a period of profound change. And by large margins, Americans say they want government to address our great national problems. But by equally large margins, they say they don't trust our ability to do it right; or as we say down home, most of our folks think that the government would mess up a two-car parade. (Laughter.)
Now, this Reinventing Government effort grew out of several sources -- first, out of my experience as a governor, where we tried to begin this effort; second, out of the encounters that the Vice President and I had with each other and with citizens all during the campaign -- with the literature we read and the things we learned that were going on in the private sector; thirdly, with the enormous energy and desire we got out of federal employees themselves; next, with the leadership that was already coming out of the Congress -- Senator Glenn and Congressman Conyers have already been acknowledged. And there were others who really thought that we ought to do it.
But finally we did it because it was necessary. Because without it, we could not fulfill the mission of the administration. The mission of this administration from day one has been to increase economic opportunity and maintain national security; to empower the individuals of this country to assume personal responsibility for their own futures; to strengthen the sense of community in America -- to make our diversity a cause of celebration and unity, not division; and to change the way government works for ordinary citizens.
Unless we can do the last thing, we cannot achieve the other three. Why is that? Well, one of the reasons we have so much economic opportunity today is that we reduced the budget deficit. You couldn't reduce the budget deficit and not hurt the public interest unless you're Reinventing Government.
We want to empower individuals. One of the things that we did with our empowerment program is, through the Department of Education, to completely reform the college loan program so that 20 million Americans now with outstanding loans are eligible to refinance them with longer repayment schedules at lower interest rates. And starting this year, large numbers of new students will be able to do the same thing. We couldn't afford to do that except we actually save money by doing it by converting the old expensive, cumbersome student loan program into at least largely a direct loan program and increasing our ability to recover delinquent loans, which is dramatically increasing.
If you want to strengthen the American community, people have to feel like we care about each other. If every place there is a disaster people think that FEMA has failed them, it's hard to say they're part of an American community. But from the people in California who suffered from the earthquakes and the fires, the people all up and down the Mississippi River that were flooded out last summer, to the people in the Southeast that suffered drought last year and floods this year, I think they will tell you that FEMA is on the job.
Yesterday the Vice President mentioned national service. It is not a government bureaucracy; it is a movement that the government has made possible. None of this would have happened if we hadn't had a serious approach to Reinventing Government. And none of that would have happened if we hadn't reinvented the relationship between the President and the Vice President. (Applause.)
Dome people take it as a sign of weakness that I try to get the most out of everybody that lives around here or works around here -- (laughter) -- and that I try to find people who do things better than I do. I thought that was my job. The Vice President -- whether it is leading our efforts in the environment, to develop a clean car, or performing with such superb leadership to get a compromise at the very important Cairo Conference, dealing with Reinventing Government or difficult foreign policy issues -- is plainly the most active, productive, constructive Vice President in the history of this republic. And that is a very important thing. (Applause.)
Historically, this argument about government that politicians had was something designed to play into that feeling I just gave you when you all chuckled, when I said most folks think government would mess up a one-car parade. For example, when we had meetings on our health care reform initiative, people would come in opposition; and they would say, I don't want government getting into this -- I'm afraid government will mess up my Medicare. (Laughter.) We actually had people say this sort of visceral thing. So any politician worth a flip can figure out how to develop four or five one-liners that will make 90 percent of the voters shout hallelujah.
The problem is that this debate has normally stopped at the rhetorical level. Politicians garner the votes; government grows in a sort of piecemeal fashion; government employees and the citizens get more frustrated every year, and real problems aren't solved. We had an idea that we could make government smaller, but also different -- that we could do more and cost less; that we could have more responsibility with less bureaucracy if we empowered the people who work for this government and paid attention to the people who pay for it. We didn't see government as the savior of America, but we knew our government couldn't sit on the sidelines in a period of such profound change. So we tried to develop a partnership that makes sense.
This vision is at the heart of everything we're trying to do. It's at the heart of the National Service Program, it's at the heart of the Crime Bill that we signed yesterday where we made a pretty good swap -- we would take all the savings from reducing the size of the federal government and just give it to the American people to make themselves safer on their streets, in their homes, in their schools.
This has been a very important endeavor. (Applause.) A lot of people were very skeptical when we began. But if you just look at what's happened in the time we've been in office, as evidenced by those charts over there, since I became President, the size of the federal work force has been reduced by 71,000 positions; in three years we'll have the smallest federal work force since President Kennedy was here to go with three years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since President Truman was here. (Applause.)
The savings already enacted by Congress or undertaken by the Executive Branch will amount to $47 billion in this budget cycle, and we're on the way to saving $108 billion. Most of these savings will pay for the Crime Bill and help to put 100,000 more police officers on the street, 100,000 serious criminals behind bars.
There were those who said that these things would never pass through the Congress. But Congress has already enacted more than 20 bills that will save money and improve services by Reinventing Government, and 50 percent of the items needing congressional action are already pending in Congress, many with real bipartisan support.
I'm proud to announce some more good news today. At the General Services Administration, Administrator Johnson saved $1.2 billion by carefully reviewing construction projects that had been approved and not yet built; in other words, buildings we really didn't need. (Applause.) And just today, the GSA is announcing it saved $23 million simply by managing the government's motor pools more efficiently .
Today, the Secretary of Defense set a goal to cut in half the time it takes to complete internal business processes from hiring workers to building new weapons systems. This is very important. Senator Glenn has worked for years on procurement reform. If we are going to maintain the national security at a time when we have to impose budget discipline, we must find ways to make these dollars go further; we can't simply abandon our technological lead, our readiness, our preparedness -- all the things that have been so carefully built up over the last 16 or 17 years.
At the Office of Management and Budget, Directordesignate Rivlin tells me the federal government will offer buyouts to another 40,000 employees at the beginning of the new fiscal year next month. And next Tuesday the Vice President and I will release a report on the first-ever consumer service standards for the federal government. Over 100 agencies have prepared more than 1,700 specific pledges to the taxpayers of this country to improve the services that they provide. (Applause.)
I am more convinced now than ever that we have to keep doing this; that we have to make this Reinventing Government a permanent process; and that there are serious structural issues which still have to be addressed. Washington needs to work for ordinary, middle-class Americans. And in order to do that, we have got to find a way to open this process up so that the public interest can always overwhelm particular interest in matters of great importance.
That's why Congress must also finish the job it has begun -- passing a tough campaign finance reform bill, a lobbying reform bill, and the bill that requires Congress to live under the laws it imposes on the rest of Americans -- before the end of this session. (Applause.) All three of these actions have broad bipartisan support in both houses. Two of the bills have passed both houses and await conference resolution. The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the third one. We need to move forward. These are actions that Americans deserve and demand, and they will help them to believe that the rest of these things are also occurring, as well.
Meanwhile, I assure you that we will be unrelenting in our efforts to continue Reinventing Government -- to give you a government that costs less, does more, empowers employees, and listens to the people who pay for it. We will measure our progress not only in terms of bills passed and money saved, but in terms of people better served.
You met some of those satisfied citizens today. We're committed to making a lot more satisfied citizens in the months and years to come. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. I forgot to acknowledge the staff that's worked so hard at the NPR. And I won't acknowledge them all by name, but I want to acknowledge the leader of that organization -- Elaine Kamarck, who is right here. (Applause.)
Thank you all for coming.
END11:08 A.M. EDT