Delivered Remarks of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the FY 2010-2015 HUD Strategic Plan Town Hall

Brooke-Mondale Auditorium
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Thank you, Estelle. First of all, I want to start by just saying thank you to the incredible number of people that were involved in making today possible. I want to start with my partner, Ron Sims, who opened us up. And Ron, you have been-I think-to over 50 field offices now around the country, listening to folks, driving the vision for this Strategic Plan. And I want to thank you for the passion and the commitment that you bring every day to the work that we do. Let's give him a round of applause.

I want to say thank you also to the Strategic Planning team that did just incredible work in putting this together. I'm going to talk a little bit about everything that went into getting us to this day. But I want to say a special shout-out to Pat Hoban-Moore and all the incredible work that you did, Pat, around the country - organizing all of the field work that we did. And I want to say a special thank you to Peter - for all of his incredible work.

Ultimately, the success of this plan is about being consistent with, working with the vision of President Obama, I have a little bit to do with it. Ron has a little bit to do with it. Each of the Assistant Secretaries has a little bit to do with it. But ultimately this plan's success is all about this reflecting your vision. Ultimately, we would not have gotten to this day without your incredible participation.

We tried to make sure you heard some of those voices today in questions, in videos. But that participation goes well beyond even what you heard today. So I want to just start by saying thank you to each and every one who participated in this. Thousands of people literally across the country with input in meetings, face-to-face, by email, and this would not have been possible without all of your work. So give yourselves a round of applause as well. Thank you.

So I want to talk for a little bit about why I'm so excited about today. Many of you know that I'm a planner. I like to know where we're going. I like to know what the strategy is. And I want to talk a little bit about why I think this plan is so important - not just to this agency, but to the country.

When we get to 2015, when we get to the end of the plan, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of HUD. We will be entering a second half-century of serving America's communities, and what does that mean?

That means that this plan must set out a vision for how this agency must be consistent, how we must carry on the traditions and stand on the shoulders of Robert Weaver-our very first Secretary-and the founding principles of the Federal Housing Act. Those words we have tried to echo and build on in the mission that we need to have a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American. But we have to recognize at the same time what has changed. What is different as we enter the second half century for HUD and what kind of agency do we need to be able to do that?

We have to recognize, first of all, that we are coming out of a moment when housing is as important as it has ever been to the economic future and survival of this country. We have entered an economic crisis deeper than anything we've seen since the Depression, driven by housing. We must emerge having learned the lessons of what needs to be different and how to have a balanced housing policy in this country. That's why the rental housing goal standing next to the first goal around protecting consumers, around rebuilding the economy, around ensuring we have the right kind of homeownership opportunities - those stand side-by-side in balance. That's the key vision that this plan has.

But it's more than about solving the immediate crisis. It's also about the longer-term challenges that this country has seen, the longer-term changes that HUD needs to adapt to, that we need to be a leader on as well. And so you see in the plan a vision of a number of those things.

We talk about new partners. What does that mean? Well, since HUD was founded in 1965, a whole range of new actors on the scene in housing and community development have emerged. Non-profit organizations have become some of our most creative and important partners. Local government, state governments that are doing, taking much more responsibility as they've stepped up their work through block grants, through tax credits and a whole range of new tools that we have. And new partners in terms of collaboration that you heard about across agencies. We know that to be successful, if we're going to build truly sustainable, inclusive communities, we can't do it alone. So we need to adapt the way that we work to the second half-century of HUD by bringing in new partners.

We know geography has changed as well in this country. When we were founded as an agency, our cities were literally burning. We had a long-term set of tensions between cities and suburbs. We had experienced white flight and so many other things that had driven so many of the fundamental problems in our cities.

But today we see a very different kind of landscape. We see urban problems that have affected suburban and rural communities in ways we never saw before. Suburban and rural family homelessness has risen by 56 percent in just one year.

We see, on the other hand, cities that have come back from the dead. I've seen it myself in the South Bronx, and in so many other communities that with the work of HUD, we've been able to revive neighborhoods to where today, those are neighborhoods that families are returning to and that are growing and thriving. So we have a very different geography out there. We know we have to create metropolitan partnerships and regional partnerships to be successful. So we have to adapt to that new geography as well. There are many ways in the plan that we're doing that.

Finally, we have to do business a new way. And you heard a lot about that today. But that is fundamental. We have an opportunity, given the advances in technology and so many other things over the last 50 years, to be a different kind of agency. Closer to the people we serve, closer to our employees, listening to you in different ways.

You heard about HUD Ideas in Action. A relatively simple tool, but a powerful one. One that allows you to go on the HUD and tell us what you think. We can do differently. All of you as employees and partners can vote and tell us what you think about them. We will use that access to technology to drive a different way of doing business and you heard about that today. So all of those are key changes that this Strategic Plan lays out for the second half-century of HUD's existence.

But I want to talk to you today - you heard it and I want to make sure you hear it again, that we know you have seen strategic plans before. I've seen strategic plans at HUD before. Many of our senior team has been here earlier. And perhaps Russell said it best - we don't want this plan to be a doorstop. We don't want it to sit on a shelf. We want it to be a living, breathing document that really drives the choices that we make at this agency.

So how are we going to do that? There are really two things. First of all, how is this plan created? How is it different? Well, it's different because thousands of you told us what should be in the plan. We met face to face with more than 1500 employees and partners around the country and thousands more through Ideas in Action. There were a whole range of different ways we connected. You and our partners told us what should be in here. So I think the first difference is that this is not my plan. This is our plan that reflects our vision for what this agency should be. And I hope that you have heard today a reflection of yourselves in the plan.

Second of all, how will be used? Well, first and foremost, it will be used. It will drive decisions that we make each and every day. And I hope you have heard in a whole series of examples that we've given today how this is actually happening. One of the things we heard most clearly from all of you-not just field employees, but headquarters employees as well and all of our partners-is that we need to do more to delegate authority to the field.

And so today, we've announced that whether it's on FHA hiring, non-contract carriers, and the 21 other changes that have come out of the teams that we put together of field employees and headquarters employees to look out where we could delegate authority. All of that is just the beginning of how we will get more authority out into the field to make faster, better, and more effective decisions.

Second, you heard about an emerging professionals program that will make sure this is an agency that values everyone and provides opportunity to everyone at this agency. From the Secretary's office to a new employee starting at whatever GS level it may be, there will be opportunities to grow a career and to advance here - to get the training and the opportunities that are needed to ensure that we develop not just the leaders of today, but the leaders of the future at HUD.

You've heard I'm a numbers guy. I think you'll see in this plan that we are absolutely committed to setting clear goals about how we achieve success. Too often, I think, government agencies-where we have complex missions, lots of programs-we lose sight often of what success looks like. What this plan tries to do is say “here is what success looks like.” Let's be clear about it. Let's agree on it. And then let's work together to achieve those clear goals. That means not just setting those goals on paper in the plan, that means ensuring that we connect those goals to performance evaluations to create real accountability towards those goals that we agree on. As Janie said, you will be hearing more about that in the coming days.

But let's be clear: ultimately what this means is each and every person in this agency should know how they fit into what we're trying to achieve. Too often we don't help employees say “how do I fit in the mission of this agency? How does what I do each and every day at my desk in whatever office it is around the country, how does it connect to what the President is saying about what housing and community development should look like in this country? How does it connect to the broader mission of this agency?

I think we can do that by setting clear, measurable goals and making sure each of you know how you are connected to those goals. That's what you have begun to hear about today as well.
And finally, we've got to get out of our own way and simplify, streamline the work that we do each and every day. You heard Linda Cruciani talk about that very well. We have not waited for this plan to be published to do that - we have gotten started.

Yesterday, I was at the Office of Personnel Management, where the President signed the most sweeping reform of hiring in the federal government in two generations. That included taking resumes from folks instead of getting long essays filled out for every single application.

They asked me to stand up as an example of the way change could happen in federal agencies on hiring. You know why that is? Because Janie Payne and a whole range of folks in our personnel office have just done remarkable work responding to what you asked for - which is a faster, more effective hiring process.

And I was able to stand up on that stage and show the most complicated flowchart that you have ever seen that described the old hiring process with 40 different steps. It took us 139 days on average to hire a new employee. I was able to announce yesterday that we're down to 15 steps in that process and an average of 77 days to hire an employee. We set a goal of getting under 80 days and we did it. That's what this Strategic Plan is about.

It's not about the words on those pages. It's about real results and change for this agency. We started and we'll keep rolling. So congratulations to Janie and your entire team. Thank you, all of you, for getting us to that goal as something that we focused on. We will keep going through our Transformation Initiative - through a range of things. We will get more flexibility. We'll be faster and better and we're going to bust some bureaucracy. So we are on our way.

Finally, let me just talk about next steps. We will be following up very quickly-starting tomorrow in fact-on how we take what is a broad plan and make sure it touches each of your daily lives and the work that you do every day in this agency, particularly through the goals that we have set and the metrics and the performance evaluations that I started to talk about.

The plan has 22 key measures that we've set to show what success looks like on the broadest level. Tomorrow we'll be launching a process with headquarters and field staff across the country to set annual targets for 22 measures. So that's the first step. And these targets will not only be national targets, they'll be consistent with our goal of having truly place-based strategies that touch each of your regions around the country.

Second, we're going to develop an action plan to reach every one of those 22 measures and the targets that go along with them. And so that will be a key part of what we're doing as well. We're going to link those plans to key support functions in HR procurement and I.T. Beginning this summer, Deputy Secretary Sims and I will start to meet quarterly with people across the agency, implementing those goals in a process we're calling HUD Stat, so that we know on an ongoing basis that we are achieving the success we laid out for all of us.

Finally, we are going to start a process to link these goals more closely to our budget process. Because ultimately, as you know, money drives so much of what we're able to do as an agency. And so we've got to make sure that we're putting our money where our mouth is. And that means aligning our budget process with the goals that are in this plan. So those are the next three steps that we're going to undertake starting tomorrow on implementing the vision in the plan.

You heard about a whole range of other steps we have already taken. And we're going to keep going, making sure that we get each and every one of you the tools, the information, and the power to be able to achieve the vision that we have laid out in this plan.

Let' s be clear, though. I've said it before, and I will say it again. This is not a Strategic Plan for the 10th floor. This is not a Strategic Plan for the 10 floors of this building. This is a Strategic Plan by and for every one of the 9,000 employees of HUD. And ultimately its success rides on every one of us being part of the solution for this agency and for this country.

Never have the American people needed HUD more, never has housing and community development been more important to the work that we do. Never have we had a President who understands the work that we do and is more committed to housing and community development than the President we have today - Barack Obama. I think he would be proud of the process we have gone through to create this Strategic Plan. We did a lot of community organizing to get to where we are today.

And I think if we deliver on the promise of this plan, we will make this President proud and we will all change the world. That's why you came to HUD - because the power of this agency to change the lives, to change the neighborhoods and communities for every American. We have the potential to do that. Never has it been more important to American citizens across this country. I want to thank you for your passion and commitment to the work we do. I want to thank you for getting us to this day. And I want to thank you for your vision and your assistance.


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