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November 4, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Prepared for
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
7th Annual DOL SES Leadership Training Conference
DOL Great Hall
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank you, Pat.

Welcome to our 7th annual all-SES training conference!

And thank you to everyone in OASAM for all your work in putting together today's conference. This is an opportunity to recognize the many contributions of the senior leadership team in the Department. It is also a chance to strengthen teamwork across the agencies, plan for the future, and celebrate some of the milestones we have achieved together.

Let me also thank our very special guests today. They are John Kamesky, our keynote speaker. Clay Johnson, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. And Dr. Don Kettl, who will discuss his new book "The Next Government of the United States." I hope you will enjoy their presentations and the breakout sessions we have arranged for you this year.

The theme of this year's conference — celebrating our accomplishments and planning for the future — is especially meaningful for me. This is my last year as Secretary of Labor. The past seven and a half years have been such a memorable time. Together, we have charted a bold course for this Department and have made a real difference for America's workers. And it would not have been possible without your leadership.

Here are just a few of the milestones we have been able to achieve together. Chief among them is putting the Department of Labor on a forward-looking path that confronts the challenges of the 21st century workforce directly. And I hope that when you look back on what we've achieved together, you will be as proud as I am of what we have accomplished on behalf of America's workers.

In this past year alone, the Department has:

  • Recovered a record $220 million for 341,000 workers who did not receive the wages they were due. This represents a 67 percentincrease since 2001.
  • Posted record results in enforcing equal opportunity rights for individuals working for federal contractors — with an increase in financial recoveries of 78 percent since 2001.
  • Achieved monetary results of more than $10 billion for retirees' and workers' health, retirement, and other benefit plans since FY 2001.
  • Reduced workplace fatality and serious injury and illness rates to record lows. Since 2002, the overall injury and illness rate has declined by 17 percent. And since 2001, worker fatalities have dropped by 7 percent. Most notable is the reduction in fatalities among Hispanic workers of 17 percent since 2001.
  • Paid over $3 billion in compensation and medical benefits to nuclear weapons workers and their survivors since 2001.
  • Launched the first national HireVetsFirst campaign to help our servicemen and women transition to civilian life. And in 2004, the Department created REALifelines to provide individualized job training, counseling, and reemployment and mentoring services to each and every soldier who was seriously injured or wounded in the War on Terror.
  • Continued to be a good steward of the taxpayer's money by meeting or exceeding the goals of the President's Management Agenda. The Department received its 11th unqualified audit opinion and our eighth consecutive Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Report Program Award.

And there are so many more achievements. These are just a sampling. All of you played a key role in these achievements. They would not have been possible without your leadership, your commitment to evaluating our progress, and your persistence in working toward clear benchmarks and measurable results.

Over the years, we have made significant progress together. And I hope that these annual conferences have made a contribution to your success as managers and leaders. I've said this many times — learning how to be an effective leader is not easy. In fact, it's one of the hardest things I've had to learn in my life. It's a lifelong process.

We have tried to open the door wider for all of you by providing the tools that can help you advance in your careers. So as you continue to move up the career ladder, I ask you to also look back and help mentor those who are coming after you. As you know, the government is facing a wave of retirements in critical management ranks over the next decade. And each of us can play a role in reaching out to the next generation of managers and letting them know about the great rewards of protecting and promoting the health, safety, retirement security, and competitiveness of America's workforce.

When President George W. Bush launched his Management Agenda in 2001, he said, "Government likes to begin things — to declare grand new programs and causes. But good beginnings are not the measure of success. What matters in the end is completion: performance and results. Not just making promises, but making good on promises."

As I look back on the past seven and a half years, we have been given a unique opportunity to create a new paradigm for the Department that reflects the new century — the 21st century.

Today, our nation is rapidly becoming part of a worldwide economy, and it is transitioning to a knowledge based economy, as well. Technology has transformed the way everyone works and has accelerated the pace of change. Even jobs that are characterized as skilled trades today require a knowledge of technology. So helping workers prepare for this changing environment is critical to ensuring that our nation remains strong and competitive in the 21st century.

That's why, in everything that we have done together over the past seven and a half years, the focus has been on empowering the individual worker to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We have completed major regulatory reforms reflecting 21st century workplace realities. We have expanded worker access to relevant post secondary education. And we have ramped up enforcement by focusing on bad actors and by emphasizing collaboration between workers and employers to strengthen our nation's culture of safety.

So thank you to each and every one of you for making good on our "promises." You have made these last seven and a half years the most rewarding and memorable years of my career.

I will miss you very much!

Now it is my great pleasure to introduce our next speaker, the Honorable Clay Johnson, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Clay is widely regarded at one of the most effective Deputy Directors ever appointed to OMB. He has focused the entire government on the President's management agenda. And in the process, he has become one of the most consequential OMB Deputy Directors in history.

Please join me in giving him a warm welcome!

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