Saturday, January 16, 2010

【The White House Blog】 : by President BARACK OBAMA

The White House Blog

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    What We Saw and Heard at the Modernizing Government Forum

    In case you missed it, here is the video of the opening session with the President, as well as links to the video of the five breakout sessions and the closing session.  We also posted a sort of viewing guide to various videos for those who really want to dive deep.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (107MB) | mp3 (14MB)
    And of course since forum was about generating ideas and practices applicable to good government, we want to share our initial write-up of some of the best we heard and get even more input from the public (more to come on that next week):
    Ideas from the Forum on Modernizing Government
    1. Business process reengineering must be done first and then technology can be used as a tool to make it work.  Whenever technology leads efforts, the projects have failed.
    2. Senior management must continue to monitor progress through a project’s lifecycle.  If the boss starts every meeting by asking about a project, that gets noticed.
    3. To gain commitment, the leader must create a “burning platform” – the idea that change must happen and the status-quo is unacceptable.  In order to encourage new thinking, goals must be bold.  Modest goals encourage incremental thinking. 
    4. Detailed measurement and transparency of results can help focus efforts.  What gets measured gets done, especially when it’s shared publicly.
    5. Small focused teams –one from each functional area – often can break bottlenecks and get better results than larger group efforts.
    6. There is a critical need for standardization (software, data centers).  Focus for this must be from the top since functional teams and business units will not want it.
    7. Get to know the customers you serve and how every aspect of your work impacts them.  To engage employees, explicitly make the link for them about how their job contributes to overall customer service.
    8. Organizations can use transparency to create a culture of service, both by committing to better service publicly and by sharing customer feedback openly to boost accountability.
    9. Serve customers via the channels they prefer.  If the company wants customers to use self-service, it must make self-service the easiest way for customers to transact.
    10. With bad feedback data, organizations can fool themselves that they are doing better than they are.  Work hard to get authentic customer feedback to the people who can do something about it.  When asking for customer feedback, ask for free form responses, which are more actionable than basic numerical ratings. 
    11. Focus on improving and making consistent the whole customer experience, not just each part.  Create consistent service standards across channels to avoid disruption to the total experience you intend to provide. 
    12. Even when a customer suggestion runs counter to your business model, find out why the customer is giving you a piece of feedback.  Even if you can’t act on the specific suggestion, you are likely to be able to address the underlying motivation.
    13. The best way to reduce customer dissatisfaction is to focus on ease of interacting with you.  Equip your customer service staff with tools to solve customer problems, and empower them to make decisions that will reduce customer effort, even if occasionally that results in a bit of waste.
    14. Engage managers in customer service.  Require executives to put themselves in customer shoes by calling into call centers as customers, taking customer service calls directly, and consistently signaling that they pay attention to customer feedback.
    15. Reallocate service investments away from things customers don’t care about (e.g., brochures that contain mostly known information) and toward things that improve the customer experience.
    16. Use technology to empower customers to answer each other’s questions.  With proper guidance, they are likely to do this very well and at lower costs.
    17. Before making a new investment, make sure there is a clear purpose and that end user needs are properly aligned to the purpose.
    18. Break big projects into small chunks – no longer than 12-18 months.  If a project takes longer to complete, ROI decreases and obsolescence becomes an issue.   Successes along the way help build momentum and continued focus.
    19. Each milestone must have a customer benefit.  Otherwise, why are you doing it?  If no customer benefit can be achieved in a year, do not do the project. 
    20. Be wary of costly customization.  Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions are often sufficient.  Common solutions can be used to serve diverse needs of different business units.
    21. Put your best people on change efforts and dedicate 100% of their time– that means freeing them up from their day-to- day activities.
    22. Do not isolate employees working on long-term project efforts.  There is a natural tendency to put these efforts to the side as you focus on day-to-day business.  Make sure project teams are well-integrated into the actual business.  Clear communication is key.

    President Obama's Remarks After His Call with Haitian President Préval

    Posted by Jesse Lee on January 15, 2010 at 6:19 PM EST

    Earlier this afternoon the President gave another update on the situation in Haiti -- needless to say they still need help.

    Donate $10 to the Red Cross to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999." 

  • The President on a Call with Haitian President Préval
    President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Haitian President René Préval in the Oval Office January 15, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    As we noted this morning, the President had the opportunity to talk with President Preval of Haiti, and that informed his remarks:

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (110MB) | mp3 (5MB)
    THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I wanted to just make a brief statement on the latest situation in Haiti so that the American people are fully up to date on our efforts there.
    This morning I spoke with President Préval of Haiti, who has been in regular contact with our ambassador on the ground.  I expressed to President Préval my deepest condolences for the people of Haiti and our strong support for the relief efforts that are underway.
    Like so many Haitians, President Préval himself has lost his home, and his government is working under extraordinarily difficult conditions.  Many communications are down and remain -- and many people remain unaccounted for.  The scale of the devastation is extraordinary, as I think all of us are seeing on television, and the losses are heartbreaking.
    I pledged America's continued commitment to the government and the people of Haiti -- in the immediate effort to save lives and deliver relief, and in the long-term effort to rebuild.  President Préval and I agreed that it is absolutely essential that these efforts are well coordinated among the United States and the government of Haiti; with the United Nations, which continues to play a central role; and with the many international partners and aid organizations that are now on the ground.
    Meanwhile, American resources continue to arrive in Haiti.  Search and rescue efforts continue to work, pulling people out of the rubble.  Our team has saved both the lives of American citizens and Haitian citizens, often under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
    This morning, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived, along with helicopters that will be critical in delivering assistance in the days to come.  They are preparing to move badly needed water, food, and other life-saving supplies to priority areas in Port-au-Prince.  Food, water, and medicine continues to arrive, along with doctors and aid workers.
    At the airport, help continues to flow in, not just from the United States but from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, among others.  This underscores the point that I made to the President this morning:  The entire world stands with the government and the people of Haiti, for in Haiti's devastation, we all see the common humanity that we share.
    And as the international community continues to respond, I do believe that America has a continued responsibility to act.  Our nation has a unique capacity to reach out quickly and broadly and to deliver assistance that can save lives.
    That responsibility obviously is magnified when the devastation that's been suffered is so near to us.  Haitians are our neighbors in the Americas, and for Americans they are family and friends.  It's characteristic of the American people to help others in time of such severe need.  That's the spirit that we will need to sustain this effort as it goes forward.  There are going to be many difficult days ahead.
    So, so many people are in need of assistance.  The port continues to be closed, and the roads are damaged.  Food is scarce and so is water.  It will take time to establish distribution points so that we can ensure that resources are delivered safely and effectively and in an orderly fashion.
    But I want the people of Haiti to know that we will do what it takes to save lives and to help them get back on their feet.  In this effort I want to thank our people on the ground -- our men and women in uniform, who have moved so swiftly; our civilians and embassy staff, many of whom suffered their own losses in this tragedy; and those members of search and rescue teams from Florida and California and Virginia who have left their homes and their families behind to help others.  To all of them I want you to know that you demonstrate the courage and decency of the American people, and we are extraordinarily proud of you.
    I also want to thank the American people more broadly.  In these tough times, you've shown extraordinary compassion, already donating millions of dollars.  I encourage all of you who want to help to do so through where you can learn about how to contribute.
    And tomorrow I will be meeting with President Clinton and President George W. Bush here at the White House to discuss how to enlist and help the American people in this recovery and rebuilding effort going forward.
    I would note that as I ended my call with President Préval, he said that he has been extremely touched by the friendship and the generosity of the American people.  It was an emotional moment.  And this President, seeing the devastation around him, passed this message to the American people.  He said, "From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the people of Haiti, thank you, thank you, thank you."
    As I told the President, we realize that he needs more help and his country needs more help -- much more.  And in this difficult hour, we will continue to provide it.
    Thank you very much.

  • Demonstrate a Technologist’s Spirit of Generosity on Martin Luther King Day

    During my relatively brief tenure in Washington, I have had the privilege of working with technology professionals who share a sense of purpose that often extends beyond corporate walls and into their local communities. This year, the Administration wants to tap into that spirit of generosity by collaborating with the Corporation for National and Community Service during the MLK Day of Service to launch the MLK Technology Challenge (on Twitter: #MLKTech). Our goal is to connect technologically thirsty schools and non-profits with IT and web professionals, developers, graphic designers, and new-media professionals who are willing to volunteer their skills for the common good.
    As the nation’s Chief Technology Officer, I am posting this blog to encourage technology professionals to participate. Now is the time to take the MLK Tech Challenge and invest your talents in service to a local school or non-profit facing a technology hurdle.
    Find a technology need in your community. If you don’t see a service project in your area, this is a great opportunity to reach out and ask the leaders at your neighborhood school if they need some tech or online assistance. Thousands of schools and other organizations need your skills to train students to write HTML or update a Web site. As inspiration, I’ve shared a partial list of ideas that are surfacing from schools and non-profits in just the past few days:
    • Refurbish computers for schools
    • Teach students how to use popular software or online services
    • Build a database for a non-profit
    • Help out in your school’s computer lab
    • Become an online mentor for students across the country
    Some of these projects can be completed on MLK Day -- others might take longer. That’s perfectly ok; the heart and soul of this initiative is to start a dialogue around collaboration. Let’s use the MLK Day of Service as an opportunity to kick off this conversation with schools and non-profits to let them know you want to help.
    Your work can have a huge impact on kids and others in need across the country. Take the MLK Tech Challenge and make a difference in your community on MLK Day and throughout the year. Service is a solution, and together we can help overcome a technology hurdle for an organization built to serve others. Make MLK Day a day online, not a day offline.
    Getting involved is easy – to register your tech need or to find a volunteer opportunity in your community, visit
    A final word of thanks: Many in the tech community, personally and professionally, have graciously lent a hand to those struggling from the devastating earthquake in Haiti, from waiving text messaging fees to providing much needed tech equipment. We greatly appreciate your support.
    Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer 

    Twisted Logic and Fuzzy Math

    Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on January 15, 2010 at 3:00 PM EST

    This morning we woke up to a confusing contradiction.  Banking executives claiming that they simply can't afford to pay back taxpayers for their sacrifice in saving the industry while also increasing lending:

    "The money to be collected is capital being pulled out of the banking system that could support ten times the amount in new lending.  That's because $1 in capital supports $10 or more in lending.  So the tax will pull not $90 billion in lending capacity out of the banking system, but nearly $1 trillion in potential lending."

    On the same day, the front page of the Wall Street Journal blared "Banks Set for Record Pay," some $145 billion in bonuses and compensation at the very same firms.

    Are we missing something?

    Just to recap:

    For months, Wall Street has told the American people they can't increase lending because there aren’t enough good loans to make – even as business owners with good credit apply every day and are denied the credit vital to recovery.

    But now Wall Street executives and their special interest lobbyists have changed their tune: Now they say they won't be able to lend because they might have to pay the American people back for saving the financial sector from ruin.

    But why didn't that logic apply when they were sitting in corporate broad rooms adding zeros to their bonus pools?

    Let's do the math:

    $145 billion = Estimated Bank Compensation and Bonuses in 2009, as reported by the Wall Street Journal

    $1.45 trillion = the amount could hypothetically be available for lending based on the logic of the unnamed banking industry executives referenced above

    The new signal seems clear: Wall Street is more interested in paying itself billions of dollars in bonuses than in paying back the American people.

    There shouldn't be any confusion about where the President stands: The American people deserve to be repaid and that's exactly what's going to happen.

    When the President announced the Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee yesterday, he warned that we might hear these complaints of dire impacts from Wall Street  -- less than 24 hours later it is already ringing true.

    "We cannot go back to business as usual.  And when we see reports of firms once again engaging in risky bets to reap quick rewards, when we see a return to compensation practices that seem not to reflect what the country has been through, all that looks like business as usual to me.  The financial industry has even launched a massive lobbying campaign, locking arms with the opposition party, to stand in the way of reforms to prevent another crisis.  That, too, unfortunately, is business as usual.  And we're already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair -- that by some twisted logic it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the costs of the bailout, rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses."

    The taxpayers did not rescue the financial system because they wanted to.  They rescued the financial system because they had to stop its excessive risk and destructive power from pushing the economy from recession to depression.  Wall Street captured enormous benefits as a result of that rescue.  Now they are going to pay it back.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

    A Call with President Preval of Haiti

  • Posted by Jesse Lee on January 15, 2010 at 11:13 AM EST

    A description of the call between President Obama and President Preval of Haiti that was just released:

     President Obama spoke for roughly thirty minutes with President Preval of Haiti this morning. President Obama said that the world has been devastated by the loss and suffering in Haiti, and pledged the full support of the American people for the government and people of Haiti as it relates to both the immediate recovery effort, and the long-term rebuilding effort. President Preval said that he has been touched by the friendship of the American people, and expressed his condolences for the loss of American citizens in Haiti. He said that the needs are great, that relief is now flowing in to the people of Haiti, and noted the support that has come from both America and many other countries from the region and around the world. The two Presidents underscored the need to closely coordinate assistance efforts among the various parties, including the Haitian government, the United Nations, the United States and the many international partners and aid organizations on the ground. President Obama underscored his commitment to supporting the government and people of Haiti through his team on the ground. President Preval closed by passing a message to the American people, "from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the Haitian people, thank you, thank you, thank you."

    We're making sure the latest information on how to help is kept current at

    Learn more about Foreign Policy

    Economic Policy in the First Year of the Obama Administration

    Posted by Christina Romer on January 15, 2010 at 10:18 AM EST

  • Ed. Note: Join Romer for the last of our year-in-review online video chats at 12:00 PM EST.  Watch or join the discussion through Facebook.
    The past year has been one of enormous challenges for the American economy. President Obama took office at a time of economic crisis. The economy was losing jobs at a rate of close to 700,000 jobs a month, credit markets were functioning poorly, and real GDP was falling at a breakneck pace. The economy was at the edge of a cliff, and the possibility of a second Great Depression was frighteningly real.
    Thus, the first task of the new administration had to be to be to turn around an economy in freefall. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the President signed less than a month after taking office, was the boldest countercyclical fiscal action in American history. Together with Administration's Financial Stability Plan, its actions to aid distressed homeowners, and actions by the Federal Reserve and other regulators, the Recovery Act is generating one of the sharpest economic turnarounds since World War II. Real GDP, after falling at an increasingly rapid rate for three quarters, barely fell in the second quarter of 2009 and rose in the third quarter; and, it is widely expected that when the fourth quarter data are released later this month, they will show even larger growth. Job loss, which averaged 691,000 jobs a month is the first quarter of 2009, averaged 69,000 in the fourth quarter—one-tenth as much.  A new CEA report released Wednesday found that the Recovery Act has been instrumental to this change in trajectory, and that approximately 2 million people are employed who otherwise would not be, because of the Act.
    With the economy still losing jobs and unemployment at 10 percent, the economy is obviously far from healthy, and we have a long way still to go. That is why the Administration is committed to taking every responsible measure to spur job creation—measures ranging from the "Cash for Clunkers" program last summer, to the extensions of unemployment insurance and additional business tax cuts in the bill the President signed in November, to ideas explored at the Jobs Forum in December.
    But, the Administration always knew that stabilizing the economy would not be enough. The problems that led to the crisis were years in the making, and even before the crisis, we faced significant long-run challenges. That is why even as the Administration has worked to rescue the economy form the recession, it was also working to build a new foundation for stronger, more balanced growth. One key part of these efforts is financial regulatory reform that will protect the economy from actions that could threaten financial and economic stability, and protect ordinary Americans in their dealings with sophisticated and powerful financial institutions. Another key step is health care reform—reform that will not only make insurance more secure for those with insurance and expand coverage to those without it, but also slow the growth rate of costs while maintaining quality, and so benefit households, businesses, and governments at every level. The Administration is also working to improve our education system, to promote the transition to a clean energy economy, and to foster faster productivity growth through greater innovation. We will continue these efforts in the new year.
    It has been a critical year for economic policymaking and we have made significant progress. Despite this progress, there is much left to do. The President knows that the recession will not be truly over until the labor market has recovered. That is why he and his economic team are committed to bringing about strong employment growth and building an economy that is stronger and more secure for years to come.
    Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Eocnomic Advisers

    The President to Wall Street: "We Want Our Money Back, and We're Going to Get It"

    Posted by Jesse Lee on January 14, 2010 at 3:59 PM EST
    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (137MB) | mp3 (6MB)

    Discussing Wall Street executives' reaction to his proposed new fees on major banks, the President delivered a simple message: "Instead of sending a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal, or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibilities."

  • Specifically, the President was announcing a proposal for a new Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on the debt of the largest financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street -- read the full fact sheet.  Describing TARP as "a distasteful but necessary thing to do," the President explained that despite many dire predictions, most of that money has been recouped – but that "most" is not enough:
    My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed.  And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people -- folks who have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession.
    We want our money back, and we're going to get it.  And that's why I'm proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street.  If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers.
    He explained that the new fee would only affect the largest firms, those with more than $50 billion in assets, but that it would be in place as long as it takes to make the money back.
    He also explained how this fee ties into the larger new foundation he seeks to establish for our economy:
    We cannot go back to business as usual.  And when we see reports of firms once again engaging in risky bets to reap quick rewards, when we see a return to compensation practices that seem not to reflect what the country has been through, all that looks like business as usual to me.  The financial industry has even launched a massive lobbying campaign, locking arms with the opposition party, to stand in the way of reforms to prevent another crisis.  That, too, unfortunately, is business as usual.  And we're already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair -- that by some twisted logic it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the costs of the bailout, rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses.
    He closed on an underlying principle: "Ultimately, it is by taking responsibility -- on Wall Street, here in Washington, all the way to Main Street -- that we're going to move past this period of turmoil."

    Progress on Green Jobs from the Recovery Act

    Posted by Heather Zichal on January 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM EST

    Ed. Note: You may have missed yesterday's CEA report on the Recovery Act finding that it has saved or created 1.5-2 million jobs; Heather Zichal takes a look at the green jobs component of the data.

    report delivered by the Council of Economic Advisers today found that the clean energy investments of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)are not only creating jobs today, but for the future.  The clean energy provisions of ARRA alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 by 2012.   When we talk about clean energy jobs, we mean new work for skilled laborers who can install efficient heating and cooling systems and windows, who can retrofit homes to save electricity, who can build and install solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy technologies.  These investments are positioning the American workforce to remain competitive and keep our nation at the forefront of a new low-carbon global economy.  At the same time, these initiatives are changing the way that we produce, distribute, and use energy to reduce green house gas emissions and cut our dependence on foreign oil.

    As we have seen across the portfolio of Recovery Act clean energy programs, demand is in some cases exceeding expectations  with programs receiving far more qualified applicants than there is currently funding available.   That is why, as part of the jobs package on which the President is urging Congress to act, he has called for additional clean energy investments – including home weatherization and advanced energy manufacturing tax credits - which could put even more Americans to work right away.

    The global competition to develop the technologies of a clean energy economy is happening right now.  We do not want to lose that competition and see the technology and jobs of tomorrow built overseas.  The Recovery Act investments are a good start, stimulating the American innovation and investments necessary to be the leader of a new energy future, but ultimately, to ensure the U.S. leads the world in the production of clean energy and to induce the necessary private investment, we must also pass comprehensive energy reform.  This will help unlock the true potential of the millions of jobs needed for the clean energy economy of tomorrow.

    NOTE:  In case you missed it, this week Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, held a live chat.  You can watch the video here.  Also, get some additional perspectives on the President's record on clean energy and climate change from the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

    Learn more about EconomyEnergy & Environment

  • Ed. Note: We regret that Secretary had to cancel her chat yesterday due to an extended health reform meeting, but thank her for agreeing to draft a post summing up the year in health care from an HHS perspective:
    Last January, President Obama set a clear course for his administration when he said "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America." A year later, there’s a lot of work left to be done. But as we look back at last year, we can be encouraged by the significant steps we took to improve America’s health and strengthen opportunity for the people who need it most.
    Here are nine ways the Obama administration kept Americans healthy, delivered critical services, and began the work of remaking America in 2009.
    We brought the voices of everyday Americans to the health care reform debate.
    From the regional forums we held across the country last spring to our new website, the administration reached out to tens of thousands of Americans over the last year to get their questions, concerns, and ideas about how to fix our health care system. Whether it was the man who told us health care costs were a "noose" around the neck of his small business, or the father who explained that he was paying over $30,000 a year for health care because his son had a preexisting condition, these voices propelled historic health reform legislation through both houses of Congress.
    We helped contain the H1N1 flu pandemic.
    As soon as the H1N1 flu was identified in April, we sprang into action. We developed a safe, effective vaccine in six months – three months less than it usually takes. Working with state and local partners, we were able to vaccinate more than 60 million Americans in the three months after the first dose of vaccine came off the production line, the vast majority of them in high-priority, at-risk groups. We also launched an aggressive outreach campaign, using television, radio, print, and web communications to educate Americans about how to prevent the spread of H1N1. Last Sunday, we kicked off National Influenza Vaccination Week – and with more than 135 million doses of vaccine available across the country, we’re encouraging all Americans to go get vaccinated and help us save lives as we approach the worst months of flu season. To find out where vaccine is available in your neighborhood, visit
    We helped Americans weather the worst recession in 70 years.
    When President Obama took office, foreclosures were skyrocketing, credit markets were frozen, and the economy was shedding 700,000 jobs a month.  As America’s families have struggled to get back on their feet, HHS has reached out to give them a hand. Under the Recovery Act, we made almost $44 billion in enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding available so that qualified Americans could keep essential health services. And as part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, we released more than $2.6 billion to help low-income Americans pay their heating bills.
    We began the transformation to a high-quality, evidence-based, patient-centered health care system.
    It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: we spend twice as much per person on health care as other wealthy countries but only get average health results. In 2009, our department supported a range of reforms that will help Americans get more bang for their health care buck. For example, we invested $80 million to reduce healthcare-associated infections, the infections you get once you’re already in the hospital that kill tens of thousands of Americans a year. We also announced two new “medical homes” demonstration projects that will support the kind of coordinated care models where patients are treated by teams of health care providers. Doctors are more satisfied, patients get better care, and costs go down. Our goal is to spread these successes.
    We got serious about Medicare fraud.
    With more than a billion claims totaling $425 billion paid out each year, Medicare is an inviting target for criminals.   In 2009, HHS and the Justice Department created a new partnership dedicated to protecting our health care dollars: the Healthcare Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team or HEAT. Under HEAT, we’re attacking fraud with new resources, a new spirit of collaboration, new high-tech approaches, and most important, new urgency. We’ve also more than tripled the number of Medicare fraud Strike Forces around the country from two to seven. Later this month, our department and Department of Justice will host the first-ever national healthcare fraud summit in Washington, DC, a gathering that will bring together federal and state officials, private sector executives, and law enforcement leaders to share ideas about the best ways to keep our health care dollars safe.
    We focused on health outside the doctor's office.
    How healthy we are depends on more than the care we get from doctors and nurses. It also depends on the food we eat, the air we breathe, the neighborhood we live in, and how much exercise we get. Last year, our department got serious about promoting health outside the health care system. Under the Recovery Act, we invested $650 million that will support the most proven strategies for reducing obesity and smoking in communities around the country. To help consumers, we developed a new food-labeling initiative that makes it easier for shoppers to get quick information about how healthy a product is. And building off the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed in June, we’re establishing a comprehensive tobacco regulation program.
    We put kids first.
    One of the first bills President Obama signed after he took office was the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.  It gave more than four million previously uninsured children access to affordable health insurance.  But expanding access to insurance was just the first step. Since then, we’ve invested $40 million to reach out to eligible children and their parents and make sure they’re enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid, and have access to the care they need.  To give families relief, we also invested $2 billion to help states increase their number of child care slots.
    We made investments to create jobs today – and tomorrow.
    When President Obama signed the Recovery Act, he said there were two goals: to help America recover from the current economic crisis and to lay the foundation for future growth. Last year, we made several investments that served both purposes. For example, we invested over $1 billion in Recovery Act funds to help doctors around the country adopt electronic health records, which can reduce paperwork, medical errors, and health care costs. We also gave out more than $5 billion in new NIH grants to help bring us closer to the cures and treatments of the future for diseases from cancer to autism. And we invested more than $1 billion to expand community health centers around the country, add new services and providers, and give millions more Americans access to high-quality primary care.
    We found new partners inside the Cabinet.
    The President's Cabinet has 15 separate departments, but our country’s challenges can often only be addressed by partnerships. That's why in 2009, we made an unprecedented effort to build new, interdepartmental relationships that help us do our job more effectively. One example is our antifraud partnership with the Department of Justice. Another is the new Food Safety Working Group I co-chair with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, which is updating the rules that keep our food supply safe. A third is the early education initiative we launched with the Department of Education that will allow us to coordinate early childhood services across the federal government and make sure our kids get all the support they need during their most formative years.
    These are nine highlights from 2009, but it’s just the beginning of the list of investments and initiatives we began last year. Among other achievements, we taught Elmo how to sneeze, introduced the country to a rapping doc, and helped our Olympic athletes get ready for the Vancouver Games. And that’s just from our work on one issue.
    As we look forward to President Obama’s second year, we’re humbled by the significant challenges that remain for our country. But we’re also excited to build on the progress we made in 2010.
    Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services

  • The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge

    The Department of Labor has teamed with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a new website that brings together more than 600 online job search and career advancement tools.
    The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge is using the power of crowd-sourcing to get your input on what tools work best, and what you would like to see improved.
    During December we recruited businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profit groups and others to share their online job tools with us at And the response has been terrific.
    From national job boards, to industry and occupation-focused niche tools – the Challenge has attracted nearly resources from across the spectrum.
    Now, it's your turn.
    Through Friday, January 15, we are asking you to review the tools posted on our Challenge site, recommend the ones you like best, and give feedback on what works when it comes to online career resources.  But, just as important, use this site as a resource to apply for openings at companies and organizations that are seeking talented workers now.
    Also, pass the link on to others who might be interested in taking part in the challenge, or to those who just want a one-stop online resource bursting with useful job information.
    We are already seeing this become a great competition among a number of the sites, and are looking forward to seeing which tools rise to the top in the different categories.  At the end of January we’ll publish which tools received the most recommendations.
    And the best part is this website will remain active as a source for information about all of the resources that took part in the Challenge -- an easy-to-access online gateway to jobs in nearly every occupation and location nationwide.
    I encourage you to visit the site, try out some of the resources, and let us know what you think. Together we can help get America back to work.

    Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor
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