Following is a White House document summarizing the contributions federal employees make to the nation.
“So whatever or whoever inspired you to join public service; whether you’re a young person who just signed up because you want to make a difference, or a career employee who has dedicated your life to that pursuit – I want you to know that it has been my privilege to call you my colleagues. This precious experiment in self-government only works when we have selfless citizens like you.”
— President Barack Obama
Our Nation’s civil servants are making Government smarter, faster, and more responsive to the needs of the American people. They’re partnering with leaders and advocates from State and local levels to help ensure the voices of the American people are heard. They’re finding ways to process health benefits applications for disadvantaged tribal populations more efficiently and effectively, and making important strides in ending veterans’ homelessness. They’ve worked to swiftly transport American aid workers with Ebola to the United States for life-saving treatment, and helped engineer a new spacecraft that could carry humans farther into space than we’ve ever seen before. They run airports and embassies, take care of troops and their families, defend the Nation’s borders, make sure roads and railways are designed and built safely, and advance the frontiers of science and innovation.
America’s Federal workforce relentlessly pursues the mission of bringing lasting change to the lives of ordinary people across America, often at great personal sacrifice and in the toughest of circumstances – including a politics that does not always fully recognize the value of their work.
Today, the President issued a video message thanking Federal employees for their service, and recognizing the enormous difference they make in the lives of Americans. To celebrate the accomplishments of the Federal workforce, today the Administration is releasing a list of examples demonstrating the impact Federal employees have had in making Government work better for the American people, whether by leveraging technology, helping local leaders realize their goals and visions, advancing the frontiers of science and innovation, increasing access to opportunity for all, or driving efficiency in Government operations. The list, while not comprehensive, shines a light on the some of the Nation’s civil servants great and most lasting achievements over the past eight years.
LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO DELIVER BETTER SERVICES FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Federal workers are leveraging technology to deliver a Federal Government that is smarter, savvier, and more effective for the American people. These efforts include:
Helping students choose the right college. Federal employees have built a new tool – The College Scorecard – to help students, families, and their advisers make better decisions about where to go to college. The new tool includes the most comprehensive, reliable data ever published on students’ employment outcomes and success in repaying student loans. More than 1.7 million people have visited the College Scorecard, and the data powering the College Scorecard has been accessed over 14 million times through the College Scorecard API.
Helping consumer shop for the mortgage that’s best for them. Through the Know Before You Owe initiative, Federal employees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau simplified the mortgage disclosures consumers receive when purchasing a home. The new forms replaced existing federal disclosures that often contained duplicative and sometimes confusing information. Millions of consumers are now receiving these forms when shopping for a mortgage and are receiving information to understand their options, choose the deal that’s best for them, and avoid costly surprises at the closing table.
Reducing airport security wait times. Business and leisure travelers seeking to move more efficiently through airport security and customs can apply to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Trusted Traveler programs, such as TSA Pre✓® and CBP Global Entry. Today, the Pre✓® program, which Federal employees at TSA began in 2011, has more than 4 million enrollees. Passengers enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs, who receive TSA Pre✓® expedited screening, save millions of hours annually in airport security wait times.
Making it easier for small businesses to get loans. Through its Startup in a Day initiative, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is cutting red tape to make it easier for more entrepreneurs to get started and grow their businesses. Over 100 cities, home to 38 million Americans, have taken a public pledge to streamline their business startup processes, allowing entrepreneurs to better navigate requirements, with the goal of making it possible to file everything needed within a single day. In addition, 52,000 small business borrowers have connected to lenders under a new online SBA tool called LINC, and another new digital tool, SBA One, is taking SBA’s lending process entirely online, saving hours of time and thousands of dollars per loan for entrepreneurs.
Making it easier to start a farm business. While just 500,000 Americans call themselves beginning farmers and ranchers, in just the first few months of launch, more than 600,000 individuals visited usda.gov/newfarmers – and many more have since – making it one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most visited new online services. Using the smart and responsive New Farmers Discovery Tool, users can generate tailored options based on where, when, and how they want to farm – what used to take days of research, multiple phone calls, and multiple emails, Americans can more easily start down the path of connecting with key resources for their farm business in less than a few minutes.
Modernizing export assistance for small business owners. A U.S. small manufacturer or service provider now can calculate tariffs applicable to their exports in 3 steps with the Free Trade Agreement Tariff Tool, access new export finance products with reduced application processing times, and use upgraded trade programs that have helped more than 6,700 businesses join the U.S. exporter ranks from 2010 to 2014.
Better providing critical safety information during a disaster. Individuals and families are better able to protect themselves from disasters and emergencies, thanks to a new App developed by Federal employees at FEMA. The app prepares individuals and families by providing access to safety tips, weather alerts, reminders of important actions to take to prepare before a disaster, and checklists of important supplies to have on hand. The app also provides lifesaving information when disaster strikes to assist survivors with maps of open shelters and recovery centers, and resources for additional assistance that might be needed.
Improving detection and tracing of foodborne outbreaks. The food supply is safer for consumers because of “GenomeTrakr,” a first-of-its-kind network of labs using whole genome sequencing to detect and trace foodborne outbreaks back to their source. Spearheaded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), GenomeTrakr promises to speed foodborne illness outbreak investigations and reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths.
Empowering customer access to energy use data. Today, millions of households and businesses can use Green Button to access their own energy usage data from their electric utility, and a growing set of companies are offering products, services, and applications that use Green Button data. The Green Button provides detailed customer usage information available for download in a simple, common format, helps to ensure that consumers have timely access to their information that can help them better manage their energy use and take advantage of opportunities to help reduce costs.
Ensuring More Americans Have Access to Their Own Health Data. The Administration’s Blue Button initiative helps individuals view, download, and send health data to applications and services they trust. In response to the President’s call to action, an estimated 150 million Americans now have the ability to access their health records online, and a majority of healthcare providers are now providing access to health information online.
ADVANCING THE FRONTIERS OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
America continues to be the world’s most innovative country, with the greatest potential to develop the industries of the future and harness science and technology to help address important challenges. Federal employees are making important contributions to advance the frontiers of science and technology, including:
Improving accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasts. There has been a significant improvement in weather radar, average tornado warning times across the country have improved threefold, and tornado warning accuracy has roughly doubled. For hurricanes, the National Weather Service is now using an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model that can now produce forecast guidance out to five days in advance for up to seven separate storms simultaneously.
Developing improved atomic timekeeping for advanced technologies. Americans rely on advanced technologies like cellular telephones, GPS satellite receivers, and the electric power grid, which depend on the high accuracy of atomic clocks. The civilian time standard is about three times more accurate today than in 2008, thanks to the work of Federal employees at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop the NIST-F2 cesium atomic clock, which debuted in April 2014 and would neither gain nor lose one second in about 300 million years.
Expanding the capabilities of robotic space missions. The aggressive pursuit of advances in Earth observations and long-term monitoring have led to a diverse array of space-based missions now providing new insights into Earth’s interconnected natural systems through studies of Earth’s atmospheric composition, carbon cycle, and climate. Federal employees worked to bring to fruition the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory in February 2015, which now resides one million miles away from Earth providing a unique, continuous view of our planet and serving as an early warning system for solar magnetic storms. In space science, in addition to the continued support of missions already underway—such as the Curiosity rover now exploring Mars, the New Horizons spacecraft that took the most detailed photos of Pluto in history, and the James Webb Space Telescope slated for launch in October 2018. Federal employees at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have also initiated work on the next generation of technologies to explore and understand the universe. The Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope and the first mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa are in early stages of development.
Improving accuracy and currency of weather forecasts. In October, 2014, Federal workers transitioned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) operations to its Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system, which helps forecasters manage the high volume of available weather data. The MRMS system generates products every two minutes, streamlining large amounts of data from multiple sources to provide more accurate and complete weather forecasts than traditional, single-radar systems. Using MRMS, NWS forecasters can pinpoint the location of severe thunderstorms, hail swaths, tornado tracks, and heavy rainfall. Because MRMS provides better depictions of high-impact weather events such as heavy rain, snow, hail, tornadoes, and other threats, forecasters can quickly diagnose severe weather and issue more accurate and earlier warnings.
Improving tornado forecasting. Due to investments made by the National Weather Service in its network of radars, average tornado warning times across the country have nearly tripled, and tornado warning accuracy has roughly doubled. In 2015, residents of Rochelle, Illinois had 27 minutes of warning prior to an EF4 tornado compared to 25 years ago when the same community would have had 5 minutes – or no warning at all – to find shelter.
PARTNERING WITH LOCAL LEADERS TO HELP REALIZE THEIR GOALS AND VISIONS
From Fresno, CA, to Detroit, MI, to Corbin, KY, Federal leaders are working hand-in-hand with local stakeholders to achieve meaningful progress in communities. Federal employees are coordinating behind the scenes, breaking down silos and building partnerships to meet communities’ biggest priorities — from creating community-built greenhouses that boost innovative agriculture, to re-lighting city streets and bringing new businesses to formerly vacant downtowns. Here are some examples:
Revitalizing downtown Fresno, CA. In Fresno, collaboration through the Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative helped cut the unemployment rate nearly in half and chronic homelessness has dropped by over 50 percent. Federal staff regularly attended meetings at City Hall, partnered with local community leaders, and worked across agencies to unlock federal funding, attract new resources to support downtown revitalization, and incorporate best-in-class city planning practices for Fresno.
Building a brighter future for Detroit through Federal-local teamwork. In 2011, President Obama charged an interagency Federal team with coordinating support for Detroit’s economic recovery. At that time, less than half of the city’s 88,000 streetlamps were operational. A member of the federal team recruited technical expertise from the Department of Energy to help Detroit’s new Public Lighting Authority consider long-term alternatives to replacing the outdated, broken lights. Working together, they used data on what worked to improve lighting technology in other communities, and brought together leaders from cities that had undergone conversions to energy-efficient LED lighting. Today, Detroit is 100 percent re-lit with new LED energy efficient lighting technology, saving the City 46 million kilowatts of energy every year, nearly $3 million in annual electricity costs, and reducing emissions by the equivalent of 11,000 cars.
Drawing businesses back to downtown Corbin, KY. Local leaders had a vision to bring the Whitley County Farmers market, vendors, and live music to downtown Corbin, KY. Federal employees from six Federal agencies came together through the Local Food, Local Places program to streamline assistance and help Corbin bring a new Whitley County Farmers market downtown. This move helped drive the downtown vacancy rate down from over 40 percent to less than 5 percent, as vendors graduated to storefronts, opening over 20 new businesses that now benefit from higher foot traffic downtown.
Ø Helping Little Rock, Arkansas realize its visions for a more prosperous future. Like many American cities, Little Rock’s Main Street experienced sharp economic decline over the last several decades. In 2010, Federal teams from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) came together and teamed up with Little Rock through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and Greening America’s Capitals Program to align transportation and affordable housing investments alongside environmental protection efforts. Federal, state and city leaders worked with Little Rock’s residents and businesses to turn downtown Little Rock’s vacant lots into pocket parks, line streets with mini gardens, and expand an existing trolley line. Federal employees from the National Endowment for the Arts helped the City continue making improvements to Main Street through the Our Town Grant Program. Today, the City has developed a brand new, award-winning ‘Creative Corridor’ along Little Rock’s Main Street, and has leveraged several million dollars in new funding for cleanup and green infrastructure improvements.
Working with local leaders to put Williamson, VA, on a path to creating a healthy, vibrant future. In 2012, local leaders worked with the Appalachian Regional Commission and Federal employees from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Livable Communities in Appalachia program. They formed a group called Sustainable Williamson to help turn around the future of Williamson, WV. With technical assistance from Federal employees and federal funding from across multiple agencies, a formerly vacant building on Main Street was renovated to create the Williamson Health and Wellness Center and provide health care services, nutrition education, and physical activity classes for residents who didn’t otherwise have access. The Center established a downtown farmer’s market and community gardens and a Health Innovation Hub to support new health and local food entrepreneurs. Now diabetic patients at the Center have access to health care, physical activity, and fresh food, and are seeing health improvements. New businesses are starting up in the downtown, bringing new energy and people to downtown. And Williamson is on a path to creating a healthy, vibrant future.
Assisting local leaders in Choctaw Nation to navigate various Federal programs. In 2014, Choctaw Nation was designated the first tribal Promise Zone, partnering with dozens of federal agencies to improve quality of life for its people. Federal leaders, including a full-time staff member assigned to the local community, have assisted local and tribal leaders in navigating Federal programs to help pursue projects such as community-built greenhouses and new kitchen equipment in public schools to offer healthier meals.
Streamlining Federal Engagement to address local crises. Teams of Federal employees have worked intensively in over 20 high-need cities, regions and tribal nations around the country. These teams align resources from across the Federal government and work behind the scenes to build local talent and capacity so that communities like Detroit and Baltimore can emerge from crisis. The Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative published a Federal-Local Partnerships Playbook, drawing on the experience of Federal teams in these communities.
INCREASING ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
Federal employees are finding innovative ways to ensure Americans have the foundation and opportunities they need to build a strong economic life. From opening up data to empower families to helping schools become connected to high-speed Internet, the work of Federal employees is helping increase access to opportunity for Americans nation-wide. This work includes:
Expanding STEM education for military families. With leadership from Federal employees at the Department of Defense and the National Math and Science Initiative, 60,000 military children in 200 schools around the country will get the opportunity to take STEM Advanced Placement courses, meeting the goal announced at the launch of Joining Forces in 2011.
Taking Steps to End Veterans’ Homelessness. Through 2010’s Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal strategic plan to end Veteran homelessness, Federal workers, working closely with State and local leaders, took action to prevent Veterans from becoming homeless, help those who are homeless become stably housed as quickly as possible, and give service members the supportive services they need to remain stably housed. The 2016 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count—a “snapshot” of homelessness on a given night in America – shows that homelessness among Veterans is down by nearly 50 percent since 2010.
Unlocking the talents of more high-skilled immigrant workers, scientists, and engineers. The Administration has strengthened and extended on-the-job training for international STEM graduates from U.S. universities. Approximately 34,000 individuals are participating in the STEM Optional Practical Training program at present, and with these improvements the total may expand to nearly 50,000 in the first year and grow to approximately 92,000 by the tenth year of implementation. The Administration has also allowed the spouses of certain high-skilled immigrants to put their own education and talents to work and contribute to the American economy during the time that these “Americans in waiting” are stuck in lengthy green card backlogs. From May 2015 to now, more than 35,000 spouses have obtained work authorization through this new policy.
Supporting millions of students with ConnectED. Over the last 3 years, an additional 20 million U.S. schoolkids have become connected to high-speed Internet, and the number of schools that lack high-speed connectivity has been cut in half. At the same time, more than 3,000 superintendents, representing over 19 million students, have signed the Future Ready District Pledge committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts. Federal employees at the Department of Education, in coordination with the Future Ready coalition of more than 50 national organizations, held 19 summits and workshops around the country to help teachers and leaders leverage digital tools and 25 states have launched Future Ready statewide initiatives. In addition, more than 5 million students are utilizing more than $2 billion worth of hardware, software, and mobile broadband resources provided by the private sector for ConnectED.
Accelerating efforts to meet the digital needs of low-income Americans. Through the ConnectHome initiative—led by HUD— Federal employees are creating platforms that will provide home-based Internet access, digital literacy training, and devices to families with school-age children living in HUD-assisted housing in 28 pilot communities to initially reach thousands of children low-income households. Under the ConnectALL initiative, the President issued a national call-to-action in March 2016 to connect an additional 20 million Americans to broadband by 2020. This initiative will bring together Federal agencies, the private sector, and non-profit organizations to help close the digital divide.
Expanding access to resources and services that families and communities need to thrive. The Opportunity Project is putting Federal and local open data and digital tools in the hands of families, community organizations, and local leaders to help them navigate information about neighborhood-level resources such as access to transit, housing, parks, and quality schools. Read more.
DRIVING EFFICIENCY IN GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
Building a Government that works smarter, better, and more efficiently to deliver results for the American people is a cornerstone of the President’s Management Agenda, and Federal employees are turning this vision into reality. By harnessing 21st Century technology and innovation, Federal employees are driving efficiency in Government operations and maximizing the use of each taxpayer dollar spent. Here are some examples:
Streamlining the Federal Government’s buying practices. Through the launch of category management government-wide, an innovative approach that draws on best practices in both the public and private sectors to streamline Federal buying practices, Federal employees are shifting the Federal Government from managing purchases individually across thousands of procurement units to buying as one. As a result of these efforts, the Federal Government has saved more than $2 billion through category management and is on track to save an additional $3.1 billion by the end of next year. Prices have dropped by as much as 50 percent since 2015. Federal agencies have seen the number of duplicative contracts drop by 25 percent. By the end of 2016, 45 percent of the civilian agency portion of the $1.4 billion spent in annual purchases for desktops and laptops will be consolidated into three government-wide contracts.
Optimizing the use of Federal real estate. Through the Administration’s Freeze the Footprint policy, Federal employees are “freezing” the Federal Government’s real estate footprint and restricting the growth of excess or underutilized properties — disposing of existing property to support new property acquisitions. Between FY 2013 and FY 2015, the government’s office and warehouse portfolio declined by 24.7 million square feet. Through full implementation of the National Strategy for the Efficient Use of Real Property and the Reduce the Footprint policy, Federal workers are on track to reduce the government’s real property footprint by an additional 61 million square feet between FY 2016 and FY 2020.
Saving time and taxpayer money by going paperless. Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service manages and operates approximately 85 percent of all Federal payments, and in FY 2010, 82 percent of payments and associated information were settled on paper. Treasury set a goal to transition to electronic transactions, and worked to modernize the payment and collection systems to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. By FY 2013, Federal employees at Treasury reduced paper benefit payments from 131 million in 2010 to 39 million in 2013 — more than 70 percent — saving nearly $500 million in taxpayer dollars. This year, paper benefits have decreased to fewer than 18 million.
Improving acquisitions for better technology. The TechFAR Hub, developed by Federal employees, provides resources to apply industry best practices to the world of digital service acquisition across the Federal Government. The module features tools, resources, and lessons for planning and executing a digital service acquisition and enables users to ask questions and share best practices with colleagues across government, improving the Federal Government’s acquisition practices for the benefit of the American people.