INTERVIEW: Morley A. Winograd, White House IT Thinker

Reinvention won't go out of fashion

Morley A. Winograd

Morley A. Winograd has been director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government and senior policy adviser to Vice President Gore since December 1997.

Despite the coming administration change, Winograd said, reinvention efforts will continue after President Clinton leaves the White House. Both Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush have included plans for electronic-government steps in their campaign stump speeches [GCN, June 19, Page 6].

There is an opportunity to have 'new and unheard-of levels' of citizen interaction with government, Winograd said. 'I think that drives the rest of reinvention.'

Before joining NPR, Winograd was vice president of sales for AT&T Corp.'s western region commercial markets division.

He has been active in Democratic politics for 25 years. In 1988, Winograd was chairman of Gore's presidential primary campaign in Michigan. And from 1973 to 1979, he was chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Winograd has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Michigan.

GCN:'There has been talk that the National Partnership for Reinventing Government is winding down. What is in store for the organization?

WINOGRAD: NPR is extraordinarily active. We've had some major accomplishments already this year with the release of the first customer satisfaction service survey in the history of the republic and the adoption of the balanced measure approach to linking pay and performance for senior executives. We're continuing to make progress in all those areas.

We are heavily involved in the Clinton administration's efforts to bring electronic government to the American people as part of our larger customer service initiative. And obviously we're working on individual agency projects as well.

GCN:'There have been suggestions that NPR will not continue in its current form into a new administration.

WINOGRAD: NPR was created by a decision of the president. It's not an entity that exists in any legislation. Clearly, the next president will need to continue the job of reinvention, and I know the vice president has indicated how committed he is to that task and how central to his administration that would be should he become president.

Whoever becomes president will want to think about this important task of reinventing our government and continuing to create a government that works better and costs less. They're going to have to come to their own conclusion about how to do that.

GCN:'NPR is more than 7 years old; what are its major accomplishments?

WINOGRAD: The most important accomplishment has been the focusing of government around serving customers and creating a customer service ethic throughout government. There's been a major change in getting people to think about customers as they do their day-to-day work on the front line of government.

A second area of major accomplishment has the savings we brought, both through procurement reforms and also in the streamlining of bureaucracy.

A third critical area has been empowering front-line workers to get the job done. We've only reached about 35 percent of the federal government work force. A little over a third of the people believe they work in areas where reinvention is a priority, where their ideas are taken into account, where they get the training they need.

Getting that in the hearts and minds of 600,000 people is a major accomplishment. That doesn't detract from the fact that we have another 1.2 million to reach, but it is still a major accomplishment.

Obviously the results and outcome focus that the Government Performance and Results Act promised is another area we continue to work at.

GCN:'There are some members of Congress'and even some federal workers'who have said that the push to do more with less had resulted in getting less.

WINOGRAD: I've heard the stories, but the facts would suggest otherwise.

In terms of personnel, we have the smallest government since John F. Kennedy was president. But the government is producing the kinds of results that the government has always wanted. We have crime rates that are falling, welfare rolls that are dropping; we have the longest economic expansion in our history. We're even beginning to see the first signs of educational improvement.

So in terms of delivering more with less, I think we're absolutely doing that.

GCN:'Some members of Congress have also argued that NPR takes credit for things for which it's not responsible'the expanding use of the Internet, being one example. What is your response?

WINOGRAD: What we've said is our role is to be a catalyst for the kind of change that is required.

As to the Internet, it was NPR, with the vice president's leadership, that published the Access America report in February 1997.

That was a time when most people weren't thinking about the impact of the Internet on government and when much of government wasn't online. That guidebook laid out a series of actions that caused agencies to begin to put their stuff online, which began to focus our efforts to create an e-government.

That's what NPR does: It continually prods and creates automatic systems inside the government that help cause these things to happen. So in that sense, we obviously take credit for the kinds of changes we have advocated when they occur.

GCN:'Another criticism is that although there are fewer government workers, the work has just been shifted to contractors.

WINOGRAD: The evidence there is quite to the contrary; there is numerical evidence.

Studies have shown that the amount of contracting revenue has decreased in the course of the Clinton-Gore administration at the same time as personnel reductions were occurring. There has been no replacement of government workers with contracting workers in that sense.

There may be specific cases where work has moved to contractors, but overall we have reduced the amount of contracting dollars and reduced the payroll.

GCN:'Let's talk about e-government. What are some of the obstacles?

WINOGRAD: Security and privacy is a big issue. We ought to create citizen digital certificates that will be each person's personal key to the information they need from government and for government to be able to know it is giving it to the right person.

We will probably have about 100,000 of these certificates issued in the course of this year'but mostly to businesses that need to have them to buy and sell on the Internet with government.

We need to extend that to every citizen, so as they gain access to the Internet they can be assured that their privacy will be protected and they can conduct business as if they were doing it in person.

GCN:'What about systems oversight? Many information technology executives suggest that although Congress has given them responsibility for making sure systems work, they have no budget authority to make sure the job gets done.

WINOGRAD: I think we need to enact some reforms that will allow IT appropriations to go forward in a more predictable and rapid pace.

We need to do two things. We need to make it clear that since there are such great returns and savings, we ought to have a process that fits into the appropriations process but lets agencies quickly reinvest those savings. We also need a fund that isn't by agency but rather will support those things that operate across government.

We need an e-government fund and a way of thinking about agency expenditures that is not tied to the appropriations cycle.

GCN:'So the government needs to change the budget process to accommodate interagency systems initiatives?

What's More

' Age: 57

' Family: wife, Bobbie; three children and one granddaughter

' Last movie seen: 'Bossa Nova'

' Last book read: You Say You Want a Revolution : A Story of Information Age Politics, the Story of Telecom Reform and Al Gore by Reed Hundt

' Motto: 'You must be the change you want to see in the world.'

' Hero: John F. Kennedy

WINOGRAD: We should take on the job of creating a digital government in an integrated fashion. We were able to do that in the area of Y2K, but there we were fixing individual agency computers.

In this case, I think Congress needs to respond imaginatively and create a fund that would be managed centrally but that would be available to all agencies that are participating in building the kind of interoperable infrastructure we need.

GCN:'Would a governmentwide chief information officer run that fund?

WINOGRAD: It certainly could be done through the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs or it could be done by the CIO Council as a coordinating body. What's paramount is that change is the overall priority, and individual agency issues are dealt with within that context.

GCN:'What are your thoughts about a federal systems czar?

WINOGRAD: What people are talking about is somebody with leadership and responsibility to make things happen, and I think we need to do that. Whether or not that is a federal CIO is another question.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected