The awards, which honor outstanding contributions to public service in eight categories, recognized federal programs operated by the Air Force, Education and State Departments. Judges chose eight government programs out of about 200 nominations from the federal, state and local levels.
The panel of judges added a new category this year--for the most outstanding public-private partnership--to the list of awards.
The awards are sponsored by Public Employees Roundtable, a nonprofit group committed to promoting civil servants and public service careers, and recognize innovation and excellence in federal, state and local governments. The winners were honored Monday at a "Breakfast of Champions" sponsored by GEICO insurance company.
President Bush sent his greetings to the group in a letter praising public servants for their dedication and commitment to the country, particularly during and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "America is blessed with dedicated public employees who keep our country strong and ensure that our government functions effectively," Bush wrote.
Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James, who spoke at the ceremony, praised the "absolutely brilliant" winners, saying "there has never been a better time for public service."
"Civil servants got up on Sept. 12, returned to their desks and got down to the business of government," James said. "On Sept. 12, the terrorists failed."
The 2002 federal award winners, who picked up the top prizes in the federal, international and public-private partnership categories, are:
- Federal: The civil service aircraft maintenance team at Laughlin Air Force base near Del Rio, Texas won in the federal category for saving the agency approximately $127 million in payroll costs over the last five years by using fewer employees to perform its operations. The team, selected through the competitive bidding process, serves the 47th Flying Training Wing. The group's work has produced more than 550,000 flying hours free of maintenance-related mishaps.
- International: The cultural affairs office of the State Department's U.S. Embassy in Mexico City strengthened public administration in Mexico through education, faculty exchanges and support of professional associations and conferences. As a result of these efforts, U.S. consultants frequently work with Mexico's high-ranking government officials and advisers to President Vicente Fox.
- Public-Private Partnership: The Education Department worked with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, a private philanthropic group based in Flint, Mich., on a project that uses public schools for after-school programs that benefit children. In the last five years, federal funding for the program has increased from $1 million to $1 billion. Approximately 6,800 centers in 1,600 communities now serve more than 1 million children.
Other winners included New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection; the county-sponsored education and employment program in Lee County, Fla.; the Los Angeles County Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force; and the New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management.
Monday's award ceremony kicked off this year's Public Service Recognition Week. Federal agencies will exhibit their programs for the public on the National Mall in Washington from May 9 to May 11. For a full schedule of events for Public Service Week, click here.