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Memorandum From Attorney General Janet Reno-January 2001


Report To The President On The Interagency ADR Working Group

Civil Enforcement Section

Claims Against The Government Section

Contracts And Procurement Section

Workplace Section

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The Report of the Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) Working Group, which is hereby submitted, marks the end of
the first year of this government-wide effort to promote more
collaborative ways to handle disputes. The report, prepared
pursuant to your Memorandum creating the Working Group, was
written jointly by the Department of Justice and officials from
more than ten agencies, including the Environmental Protection
Agency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the
U.S. Postal Service, and the Department of the Air Force, whose
staff served as chairs of individual sections of the group. As
you will see from the report, there has been a great deal
accomplished during the past year, and we plan to do much more in
the months ahead.

In the past, the government has relied heavily upon
traditional, adversarial processes to resolve both internal
matters and disputes involving the public. Experience teaches
us, however, that there are many costs to this approach. Even
when the government wins a case, it can find that victory has
come at too high a price. Litigation can destroy the underlying
relationships between the parties, and this can be far more
harmful in the long run. In the workplace area, for example,
formal complaints often force employees working in the same
office to take sides against one another. During the months or
years required to process a complaint, and even long after it is
over, the dispute can be extremely corrosive to the productivity
of the office and the morale of its employees. Similarly, when
contract and other disputes arise involving outside parties,
previously healthy and productive relationships can be damaged if
formal, adversarial processes are used.

Our experience has shown that ADR can resolve disputes in a
manner that is quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial. For that
reason, I call it “appropriate” dispute resolution, rather than
“alternative” dispute resolution. In ADR, parties meet with each
other directly, under the guidance of a neutral professional who
is trained and experienced in handling disputes. They talk about
the problems that led to the complaint and the resolution that
will work best for them in the future. With the assistance of
the neutral professional, they are able to retain control over
their own dispute and work collaboratively to find creative,
effective solutions that are agreeable to all sides.

We believe that every well-run agency should have at least
one ADR program. Over the past year, the Working Group has worked
to make this a reality. The Group has sponsored programs in the
following areas: workplace, contracts and procurement, claims
against the government, and civil enforcement. There have been
more than 50 training sessions, meetings, and colloquia on all
aspects of ADR. More than 500 representatives from across the
government have been participating. We have created a Federal
ADR website that has received tens of thousands of requests for
information from across the country.

We have found many specific examples of time and money saved
through the use of ADR. The U.S. Postal Service, for example,
has one of the leading workplace mediation programs in the
country. It has mediated more than 12,000 EEO complaints under
this program. Its average mediation takes just 4 hours, and 81
percent of mediated cases are closed without a formal complaint
being filed. Participants in the mediation are twice as
satisfied with the amount of control, respect, and fairness in
the ADR process compared with the traditional adversarial process
(88 percent satisfaction rate versus 44 percent). The mediation
program has also increased communication in the workplace,
creating lasting and beneficial changes that help prevent future
complaints. In the first year after full implementation of this
ADR program, the number of new complaints filed by U.S. Postal
Service employees dropped by 24 percent compared with the
previous year. This translates into thousands of fewer
complaints per year, which represents a huge cost savings, not to
mention savings in morale and productivity.

In the contracting arena, the Department of the Air Force
has used ADR to resolve more than $1 billion in recent
procurement disputes. It has used mediation in more than 100
cases, and more than 93 percent have settled. Relations with
contractors have improved, and parties on all sides are very
pleased with the results. Due to the success of these programs,
the Secretary of the Department of the Air Force has now
committed to include ADR provisions in its contracts and ordered
employees to use ADR “to the maximum extent practicable.”

In addition to these savings in time and money, agencies
have reported other important benefits. By emphasizing
consensual resolution of disputes, these processes allow the
participants to retain control over the outcome of the conflict.
By moving away from winning and losing, and focusing instead on
problem solving, these programs encourage the parties to identify
what they really need to get the controversy resolved. We often
see parties jointly engaged in finding creative, mutually
acceptable solutions to disputes that no board, judge, or court
would have the authority or the knowledge to impose.

Over the coming year, we will also work with individual
agencies to assist them in developing ADR programs. While our
first year was devoted to offering a broad-based introduction to
ADR, we see our second year as requiring work with agencies on a
more individually tailored basis. We hope to draw upon the
expertise of agencies that have already been using ADR
successfully to persuade and assist agencies that are not as well
developed in this field.

As I wrote to you when I accepted the position of chair of
this Working Group, I believe that ADR has the potential to
transform significantly the way that Federal departments and
agencies resolve disputes. We look forward to a continuing
growth in the use of ADR and the establishment of new programs
that can provide our citizens with a maximum amount of respect
and a minimum amount of adversity. With your continued support,
we look forward to a future where all government employees facing
conflict will be able to act as peacemakers and problem-solvers.


Janet Reno

Attorney General


Janet Reno

Janet Reno was the 78th Attorney General of the United States (1993-2001) and was the first woman to hold that post. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993 and confirmed on March 11. MORE >

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