Feds on the Rise
his year's 12 recipients of the Arthur S. Flemming awards for achievement in public service are up-and-coming innovators, visionaries, leaders and entrepreneurs from across the spectrum of government-bound together by a passionate commitment to making people's lives better.
The awards are named in honor of one of the premier public servants of the 20th century. Arthur S. Flemming served presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; director of the Office of Defense Mobilization; head of the U.S. Commission on Aging; and chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, not to mention many other positions throughout government and academia.
"He was one of the great intellects of social policy, combining extraordinary knowledge with a rare gift for policy-making," Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala has said.
The Flemming awards were established in 1948 by Washington's Downtown Jaycees, when Flemming was just 43 years old and still had a long and prestigious career ahead of him. The awards honor federal officials early in their careers who exhibit the same leadership and dedication to public service excellence that Flemming embodied.
Government Executive became a partner in the Flemming Awards program in 1999, along with The George Washington University. This year's recipients will be honored at a ceremony sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers and SAIC in Washington on June 8. More information on the awards is available at www.gwu.edu/~flemming.
Michael R. Berman has been the senior adviser to the Air Force on chemistry for the past eight years, managing the service's internationally renowned program in molecular dynamics and theoretical chemistry-a program that culminated in the 1999 Nobel Prize for chemistry for a member of his research team.
Berman's research has advanced the areas of rocket propulsion, hypersonic engine combustion and chemical lasers, leading to the development of a laser system that is lighter and better suited to space operations than existing systems. Berman also demonstrated in a series of field studies and lab-based research by another scientist that rocket exhaust does not have a significant impact on ozone depletion.
Berman's extraordinary abilities in chemistry are complemented by his skills in forging partnerships among scientists and bringing together multidisciplinary teams focused on Air Force issues. Berman's passion for science extends beyond his career: He spends a great deal of time developing science programs and lesson plans for public school students. He also has a penchant for the stage, helping out behind the scenes at a local children's theater group.
Coleen B. Vogel's keen business sense is helping transform the U.S. Mint's procurement program into a model for the entire public sector. As staff director to the Mint's deputy director, Vogel has led a number of reform initiatives, assisting with organizational, technical, leadership and policy issues.
In 1999, Vogel oversaw the purchase of more than $700 million worth of contracted goods and services, and her business savvy resulted in more than $1 billion in savings returned to the Treasury's general fund. She has redefined the Mint's procurement process into a results-oriented, customer-driven operation, with internal customer satisfaction at an impressive 86 percent. An effective communicator, Vogel has also been instrumental in strengthening the agency's relationship with industry.
Lt. Cmdr. Paul F. Thomas has taken the helm of a highly successful effort to reinvent key operations of the U.S. Coast Guard. He developed quality and risk management models for the Marine Safety Office in Jacksonville, Fla., a four-time winner of the Coast Guard Commandant's National Quality Award. He has been a consultant on quality management issues, sharing best practices with other Coast Guard offices and governors, mayors, directors of public safety and chief executive officers nationwide.
Thomas' innovative risk management program has resulted in a more efficient use of resources and a reduction in marine accidents and pollution. His risk measures, designed to identify potential disasters before they occur, have proved successful: The number of oil spills during oil transfers has dropped from more than 30 in 1997 to zero in 1999. When he's not troubleshooting, Thomas is involved in the Jacksonville Special Olympics and participates in a community program that builds playgrounds.
David M. Stevens brings health care to those who need it most. As a branch chief in the Community and Migrant Health division of the Bureau of Primary Health Care at the Department of Health and Human Services, Stevens worked with health care clinicians to develop a new set of performance measures emphasizing disease prevention and health self-management.
Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he has increased immunization rates in nine states by 50 percent. Stevens has also focused on improving diabetes care for underserved populations in the United States. In less than a year, his team used health center registries to track the care of more than 15,000 people with diabetes, tripled the rate of screening for blood sugar levels and formed key partnerships with the CDC and state diabetes control programs.
Ronald P. Christman Jr. has earned a reputation throughout the U.S. national security establishment as one of the premier strategic thinkers on China. A senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Christman has knowledge that runs the gamut from Chinese military readiness to the country's political strategy.
During his 13 years with the federal government, Christman has had a major impact on shaping U.S.-China policy. His studies on Sino-Soviet military relations prompted President Bush to voice concerns with Mikhail Gorbachev on Soviet-Chinese arms cooperation. Another study on Chinese policy-making played a key role in the Clinton administration's decision to develop a new U.S.-China policy.
Christman has served with the U.S. Defense Attache Office in Beijing and the U.S. Defense Liaison Office in Hong Kong. In 1996, he led a team that assessed the potential Chinese response to a Korean War. When he's not shaping national security policy, Christman coaches youth soccer and basketball in Springfield, Va.
Maria C. Freire makes sure people have access to the best health-care products on the market. As the director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the National Institutes of Health, she has revolutionized the patenting and licensing processes for products such as AIDS test kits and the cancer drug Taxol.
Freire believed the government system of granting broad exclusive rights for new technologies to private companies could inhibit the tradition of information-sharing in biomedical research in government and academia. She devised a system, in place at NIH, that uses nonexclusive licensing strategies in most cases, enabling companies to compete against one another to develop the most effective products.
The new system has resulted in more and better health products on the market and a royalty income to the government of nearly $45 million in 1999, a 237 percent increase from 1995. Freire also has been active in her Baltimore community, sitting on committees for the Baltimore Opera and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and chairing the United Charities Campaign at the University of Maryland Graduate School.
Fern Y. Hunt has been a gale force in the field of mathematics, affecting everything from the complex models used in weather forecasting to the type of kitchen sinks we buy. For almost a decade, Hunt has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, doing extensive mathematical research on subjects ranging from probability to computational geometry.
Hunt has led efforts to develop probability methods that have helped scientists and engineers working on a variety of information storage devices, including disk drives and ATM cards. Working with engineers, she developed a statistical model measuring the durability of organic coatings that are critical in everyday consumer products such as cars, kitchen sinks and computer screens. Along with a team of physicists and engineers, Hunt pioneered a system for rendering computer images that could have a major impact on the movie industry.
Hunt also has delved into the field of genetics, creating software that measures and characterizes genetic sequence complexity. She is actively involved in the mathematical and scientific communities and has served as a mentor for summer students in the science magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md.
Griffin Platt Rodgers has devoted more than a decade to studying treatments to combat sickle-cell anemia and other genetic blood disorders. His research resulted in the FDA-approved drug hydroxyurea, touted as the single most important improvement of the decade in the treatment of sickle-cell anemia.
Currently chief of the Molecular and Clinical Hematology Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Rodgers also helped develop an NIH-funded training initiative offering top college, medical and graduate students short-term research opportunities in African biomedical research labs.
Paul David Lett, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has picked up where Einstein left off. Lett has been a pioneer in the field of laser cooling-using the pressure of laser light to slow and cool an atomic gas-and photoassociation spectroscopy. His discoveries in laser cooling demonstrate Einstein's prediction of a new state of matter, known as Bose-Einstein condensation. Lett's research on the subject has created a whole new subfield of physics known as the study of coherent matter waves.
In 1997, the Nobel Committee on Physics cited Lett's work in laser cooling as an important background to the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. He has been published numerous times in the prestigious Physical Review Letters and is the co-director of a NIST-National Science Foundation partnership encouraging outstanding physics students to pursue scientific careers.
Isabel P. Arrington is a crusader for food safety. For more than a decade, Arrington has been the Agriculture Department's point person for food safety regulations in slaughter operations, maintaining cost-effective policies without compromising public health standards. She combines a strong background in veterinary medicine with pragmatic leadership skills in formulating food inspection guidelines to protect consumers from disease.
In 1993 and 1994, Arrington served as the national leader of the Cattle Clean Meat Correlation Program, and was instrumental in setting safety standards for poultry and in training inspectors to implement the program nationwide. As a technical expert for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, she is currently revamping a nearly 100-year-old post-mortem inspection system. Arrington is an avid horse enthusiast who dedicates her spare time to teaching young equestrians leadership skills and respect for animals.
Alan Kirk Dowdy has found a way to kill bugs and keep environmentalists happy at the same time. As an entomologist at the Food and Drug Administration, Dowdy has developed environmentally friendly alternatives to using methyl bromide in fumigating insects in food-processing plants.
Dowdy has demonstrated how a combination of temperature and a nontoxic natural product can combat pest problems in food-processing operations. Food manufacturers are refining their heat treatment programs based on his research. Dowdy and his collaborators have also developed an insect monitoring program that targets the exact sources of infestation in food-processing facilities, food warehouses and grocery stores. When he's not waging war on insects, Dowdy is a debate and forensics judge at Manhattan (Kan.) High School.
Steven M. Huybrechts is a real-life rocket scientist. As a deputy at the spacecraft technologies branch of the Air Force, Huybrechts and his team worked long hours building and launching a flight structure based on a technology that had been studied in the United States and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years with no significant progress.
Huybrechts' structure was 61 percent lighter, 50 percent cheaper and 300 percent stronger than the aluminum structure it replaced. His continued efforts in this area as well as the field of space optics will reduce the cost and enhance the durability and capability of future launch and space systems. Huybrechts' groundbreaking work has already resulted in six pending patents. He is active in the aerospace community and was involved in the 1999 Space Technology Conference and Exposition.