Texas Workforce Commission Veterans Conference - Speech
Texas Workforce Commission Veterans Conference
November 27, 2001
Good morning everyone. And thank you for that generous introduction.
I was sworn in as assistant secretary just three weeks ago at VETS' annual Salute to All American Veterans.
I am proud to accept the responsibility of leading VETS into the 21st century that President Bush and Labor Secretary Chao have entrusted to me.
Just as the President has gathered a powerful coalition of committed partners in the war on global terrorism, I intend to use the considerable resources of VETS' state partners to develop and deliver the best programs and services to our nation's veterans.
It was an especially poignant Veterans Day ceremony this year at the Labor Department.
I had the honor to share it with many service members, veterans, Labor Department staff and, most importantly for me, with my entire family. All of us have been changed utterly by the events of September 11.
Many military personnel from Texas are currently on active duty in or near Afghanistan and on the home front.
I know you join with me in wishing them good hunting, God speed, and a safe return to home and loved ones.
Texas has always been in the forefront when America calls her young men and women to the colors.
Just as this great state has been enriched by the diversity of cultures found within its borders, Texas military personnel mirror the face of our proud and diverse country.
Men and women; black, white, brown, red, and yellow. Our strength is rooted in our diversity.
And Texas is also known to value the contributions its veterans make after their period of military service is done.
So as a Hispanic American born in Puerto Rico, raised in Brooklyn, and educated in New Mexico, I find it particularly fitting that I make one of my first speeches as assistant secretary here. You are on the front lines of service delivery for veterans seeking employment and training assistance.
You get the job done day in and day out. You know your mission. You are committed to your mission. You live your mission everyday.
I want to express my sincere thanks for helping VETS work to the benefit of veterans.
Without your dedicated service, we could not fulfill our national mandate to provide our veterans with the programs and services they so richly deserve.
I want to take a few minutes to give you my vision of how we can work with you to make that relationship stronger.
The dedicated men and women who have served in our armed forces have given to this nation a high level of service as they have stood freedom's watch around the world.
In return, this nation must strive to provide them with the rights and benefits as well as the programs and services they have so proudly earned.
This means the best training for quality careers with excellent pay and benefits for veterans and their families.
I intend to make judicious and effective use of all our resources, involving all our stakeholders in all aspects of the agency's mission, and modernize and make the agency's operations, regulations, and programs more responsive to the needs of veterans. It will be my goal to keep the lines of communication open with our state partners so that together we can form the cornerstone of a quality service delivery system.
Finally, I intend to be candid and responsive to all our constituencies.
This philosophy mirrors the principles that have guided me throughout my professional career of serving America=s most deserving citizens: veterans and their families.
I believe every veteran who looks to the public employment service system to find a good job deserves to have a better life.
While this system has undergone many changes over the past few years, Texas' commitment to serving veterans has remained strong and steadfast.
The past program year saw more than 56,000 veterans enter employment through services of the Texas Workforce Commission.
I believe we can take homeless veterans off the streets of this great nation and put them on the road to self sufficiency and self respect.
Carlos Martinez and the American G.I. Forum have done great work with innovative programs here in Texas to help homeless veterans find good, unsubsidized, jobs.
I believe every reservist or National Guard member who leaves a civilian job to answer our nation=s call duty should be able to easily return to that job. That is the law.
And I want to express my appreciation to the employers of Texas who have strongly supported their National Guard and reservist employees.
During the current crisis, many Texas employers are going beyond the requirements of the law to help reservists and their families get through these difficult times.
We all have important jobs to do and, working together, we can do it and do it well.
But we cannot serve 21st century veterans with 20th century tools or outdated ideas.
To me, that means helping you achieve positive outcomes that accurately reflect your level of performance, and data systems that collect and analyze reliable data.
I have had positive discussions with Emily De Rocco, the new assistant secretary for employment and training, and Katie Cashen, to make sure we get off on the right track.
VETS is changing its focus from measuring process and volume to accurately quantifying the number of veterans getting jobs.
We want to know what the programs achieve rather than quantify the number of services they provide.
Terry O'Mahoney has long advocated that our task has been to develop performance measures that balance the local need for flexibility while, at the same time, fairly and accurately assessing system performance across states.
I couldn't agree more.
I agree with GAO that past administration and oversight of staffing grants has focused on prescriptive outputs instead of on a continuous improvement process.
That is why we are developing new guidelines for VETS staff that will stress teamwork, technical assistance, capacity building for staff and the system.
And part of their performance evaluation will include how well fulfill their partnership roles.
Beginning next January, VETS will negotiate with states to establish levels of expected performance for fiscal year 2003.
I want to emphasize the word NEGOTIATE. That means a respectful give and take with the goal of reaching a consensus agreement which will best serve veterans.
Together with the Employment and Training Administration, VETS has developed new data collection strategies based on Unemployment Insurance wage records.
UI wage records are a reliable source and will eliminate existing duplicate data collection efforts.
VETS is committed to striking the appropriate balance between its legislatively mandated requirements and the need for states to operate their programs in the best interests of their veterans.
In short, I intend to give VETS a renewed and invigorated commitment.
I hope this gives you a sense of where I am coming from; of how I intend to administer VETS and connect with our state partners.
I believe America's veterans mirror the face of America.
As veterans yourselves, you know that America's veterans have historically put the steel in America's backbone.
As we seek to work effectively in the new employment and training world in which we find ourselves, I know that working together we can successfully fulfill our mission to serve America's veterans. I want to thank you for having me here. I plan to come back to Texas as often as I can.
May God bless you and these United States of America.