Federal Insider: The “Sammies” — therapy for feds’ during tough times under Trump

Federal Insider
The “Sammies” — therapy for feds’ during tough times under Trump

Winners of the 2016 Samuel J. Heyman Service To America Medals, also known as the Sammies, pose during a ceremony last year. This year’s finalists will be recognized with a Capitol Hill breakfast on Tuesday and the winners will be announced in September. (Aaron Clamage/www.clamagephoto.com) Federal employees could use some good news. With President Trump’s proposed budget cuts for many agencies and the planned elimination of 19 small agencies looming, the potential loss of thousands of jobs leaves feds anxious. So, the annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal finalists announcement comes at an appropriate time. While specific federal employees are nominated for the awards, they also point to the impressive work done by the workforce generally. Twenty-six finalists, including teams, will be acknowledged at a breakfast Tuesday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building as part of Public Service Recognition Week. The medal winners in seven categories, including federal employee of the year and the new “promising innovations” group, will be honored at a gala in September. “The federal innovators recognized for this years’ Service to America Medals represent the passion and hard work demonstrated every day by government workers throughout the country,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, the nonpartisan good government group that sponsors the awards. “Federal leaders must create a climate where talented people will want to serve in government and tap into the desire of young people to make a difference for our country. That starts by celebrating the many outstanding contributions that our nation’s civil servants are making for society.” But does that climate exist under Trump? “These are difficult times for civil servants as they adjust to a new administration that is altering the policies of the past eight years, planning to reduce spending and intent on cutting the size of the federal workforce,” Stier said. “While there is uncertainty, civil servants remain committed to their agency missions and meeting the needs of the American people … The administration’s plan to shrink the workforce and cut the budgets of some agencies could result in the loss of talented employees and make it harder for others, including the millennial generation, to enter public service. You probably can’t find a better recruiting tool for millennials and others than the notable work of the finalists. Their list of achievements should be required reading, especially for fed-bashers. All their accomplishments are too long to list in this space, so here is a taste:

  • Conducted lifesaving research on parasitic livestock diseases that sicken humans around the world
  • Helped secure a $17.4 billion settlement for car owners following Volkswagen’s scheme to evade emission standards
  • Generated $3.9 billion in private investments to rebuild or renovate low-income public housing
  • Led U.S. humanitarian relief efforts in war-torn Syria and parts of Iraq
  • Developed improved aircraft distress beacons to allow crash victims to be located more quickly
  • Designed innovative wheelchairs to help disabled veterans and others

The finalists are just a sample of a larger mission focused workforce, driven to serve the American public. Their categories and names are:

Career Achievement

  • Jitender P. Dubey, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Md.
  • Tedd V. Ellerbrock, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta
  • Joseph J. Seebode, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York
  • Hanwant B. Singh, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Homeland Security and Law Enforcement

  • Phillip A. Brooks, Washington, and Byron Bunker, Ann Arbor, Mich., both with the Environmental Protection Agency; and Joshua H. Van Eaton, Justice Department, Washington.
  • Timothy P. Camus and the IRS impersonation scam team, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Washington
  • Bryan Drake, FBI Detroit; Catherine Kuo Dick, Justice, Washington; Abhijit Dixit, Department of Health and Human Services, Detroit; and Kevin Nalu, Internal Revenue Service, Detroit
  • Nat Wood and the IdentityTheft.gov development team, Federal Trade Commission, Washington

Management Excellence

  • Elizabeth Angerman and General Services Administration team, Washington
  • Thomas R. Davis and the rental assistance demonstration team, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington
  • Courtney Lias, Stayce Beck and the FDA artificial pancreas team, Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring
  • John Pilotte and Heather Grimsley, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore
  • Brenda B. Smith and the single window team, Customs and Border Protection, Washington

National Security and International Affairs

  • Alex Mahoney and the Middle East crisis humanitarian response team, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington
  • Mark Skoog, NASA, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
  • Jon R. Smibert, Justice, Tirana, Albania
  • Vincent Tang and the SIGMA team, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va.

Promising Innovations

  • Flora M. Jordan, Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va.
  • Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey H. Donovan, Forest Service, Portland, Ore.
  • Lisa Mazzuca, NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
  • Paul R. Ohodnicki Jr., Department of Energy, Pittsburgh
  • Pamela L. Sheehan, U.S. Army Armament Research, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

Science and Environment

  • Rory A. Cooper, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh
  • David J. Lipman and team, National Institutes of Health, Rockville
  • Justin C. Sanchez, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va.
  • Surabhi Shah and the urban waters team, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington

All finalists also are eligible for the Federal Employee of the Year Medal. “If we are to get the best from our government,” Stier said, “we must follow the example of top private-sector organizations by identifying and celebrating employee achievements.” Read more: [‘We save people’s lives’: Sammies finalists show importance of feds’ work] [And the Oscars (for federal employees) go to …] [Despite rhetoric, Trump plan focuses more on staff cuts than good government]

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