Doubt that feds do great work? Here is proof they do

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal’s blog, ChiefHRO.com, and was republished here with permission from the author.

One of my favorite programs of the Partnership for Public Service is the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the “Sammies.” Here is what the Partnership says about the Sammies:

“The Sammies, known as the ‘Oscars’ of government service, are a highly respected honor with a vigorous selection process. Named for the Partnership for Public Service’s late founder who was inspired by President Kennedy’s call to serve in 1963, these awards align with his vision of a dynamic and innovative federal workforce that meets the needs of the American people.

The Partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help make our government more effective, and the Sammies honorees represent the many exceptional federal workers who are doing just that — breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results. Whether they’re defending the homeland, protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, making scientific and medical discoveries, or responding to natural and man-made disasters, these men and women put service before self and make a lasting difference.

Samuel J. Heyman believed that “the future of our nation quite simply depends on the quality of our government.” The Sammies are the Partnership’s way of showing the world the many ways our government is making our country better, safer and stronger.”

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In addition to seven award-winners chosen by the Sammies selection committee from 26 finalists, the Partnership is also recognizing a “people’s choice” honoree. That means you get a chance to vote on your favorite. Click here to go to the Partnership’s Sammies page to vote for your choice. You can vote once per day, and you can vote for more than one finalist.

There are 26 finalists from which to choose. Their accomplishments are remarkable, and are superb examples of public service. Following are the finalists, a link to a full description of their work, and a brief excerpt from the Sammies site. I encourage you to read all of them to see the amazing work being done by our civil servants.

Thomas R. Davis and the Rental Assistance Demonstration Team generated $3.9 billion in private investments that have been used to rebuild or renovate public housing to make it safe and affordable for tens of thousands of low-income individuals and families across the U.S.

Jon R. Smibert helped Albania revise its constitution and reform its criminal justice system to rid the country of decades of corruption and organized crime, and set a path for this strategic U.S. ally to gain membership in the European Union.

Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey H. Donovan led the first-ever study using tree moss to detect air pollution in a major city, including cancer-causing heavy metals, prompting enforcement actions and offering a new, cost-effective way to identify threats to public health.

John Pilotte and Heather Grimsley improved patient care and saved $1.3 billion through a new health care delivery system that compensates doctors and hospitals for the quality of medical outcomes as opposed to the quantity of patient services.

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Justin C. Sanchez oversaw research to develop life-like prosthetic arms with near-natural dexterity that enables amputees to pick up small or fragile objects, and is managing efforts to restore the ability for brain-injured soldiers to form new memories.

Elizabeth Angerman and the United Shared Services Management Team created standards and methods for federal agencies to consolidate common administrative functions more easily, allowing government leaders to focus more of their time and resources on mission-related responsibilities.

David J. Lipman and the GenBank Team built and head the world’s largest and most influential repository of genetic sequence data now being used by biomedical researchers around the world, including those studying infectious, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases.

Bryan Drake and the Fata Investigation Team investigated and prosecuted a doctor who is now serving a 45-year prison sentence for giving false diagnoses and unnecessary cancer treatments to hundreds of patients in order to steal millions from Medicare

Surabhi Shah and the Urban Waters Team created public-private partnerships to clean up and revitalize urban waterways and surrounding lands, spurring economic development and reversing decades of neglect.

Courtney Lias, Stayce Beck and the FDA Artificial Pancreas Team paved the way for the first artificial pancreas device to receive FDA approval faster than expected, helping transform the lives of Americans with Type 1 diabetes.

Alex Mahoney and the Middle East Crisis Response Team led U.S. humanitarian relief efforts in war-torn Syria and parts of Iraq, delivering food, medicine, safe drinking water and other assistance to millions of people in desperate need of help.

Tedd V. Ellerbrock played a vital role in building, expanding and improving the U.S.-led program that provides medicine and assistance to 11 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.

Brenda B. Smith and the Single Window Team led the development and implementation of a single, electronic portal for exporters and importers to submit information on shipments that cross U.S. borders, saving government and businesses time and money.

Phillip A. Brooks, Byron Bunker and Joshua H. Van Eaton halted a scheme by Volkswagen to evade emission standards, and helped secure a record $17.4 billion in legal settlements to compensate car owners and fund projects that will reduce harmful pollution across the country.

Pamela L. Sheehan discovered a safe, environmentally friendly way to recycle aging, demilitarized munitions by converting a nitrogen-rich propellant into biofuel, which will reduce air pollution and save millions of dollars in disposal costs.

Flora M. Jordan designed new, lighter body armor that is just as protective as existing equipment and can be adjusted for smaller physiques, giving warfighters greater mobility and reducing long-term health effects.

Nat Wood and the IdentityTheft.gov Development Team created an easy-to-use online resource to help victims of identity theft quickly report the crime, stop additional fraudulent activity and begin the recovery process.

Hanwant B. Singh pioneered research for more than 30 years that revealed harmful pollutants in the atmosphere, how long they last, how far they travel and their impact on the climate and human health.

Mark Skoog spearheaded the development of a revolutionary flight control system the Air Force uses to prevent ground collisions when pilots become disoriented or lose consciousness, saving lives and the loss of fighter jets.

Lisa Mazzuca developed a new generation of aircraft distress beacons that are more likely to survive a plane crash and aid rescuers in finding victims faster.

Rory A. Cooper designed innovative wheelchairs and other assistive technology equipment that has greatly improved the mobility and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans and other Americans.

Paul R. Ohodnicki, Jr. created advanced sensor technology to monitor the nation’s energy generation, transmission and distribution systems, improving their reliability, efficiency and safety.

Vincent Tang and the SIGMA Team developed an innovative, mobile and low-cost system to detect the smallest traces of radiological and nuclear materials, offering cities worldwide a new tool to identify and stop terror threats.

Joseph J. Seebode oversaw the $2.1 billion deepening of navigation channels for the Port of New York and New Jersey, as well as restoration and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Timothy P. Camus and the IRS Impersonation Team led a multiagency investigation and public awareness campaign to stop a massive fraud that conned thousands of Americans into paying millions of dollars in bogus tax bills.

Jitender P. Dubey for more than three decades has led life-saving research on parasitic diseases that devastate livestock and sicken millions of people around the world.


Jeff Neal is a senior vice president for ICF and founder of the blog, ChiefHRO.com. Before coming to ICF, Neal was the chief human capital officer at the Homeland Security Department and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency.