Washington Toasts Top Feds Amid Shutdown


If anyone in Washington needs convincing that shutting down the government is a bad thing, head over to Constitution Avenue on Thursday evening in black tie attire.

That’s where government and business leaders along with journalists and academics will honor nine outstanding public servants at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium -- three days after the first government shutdown in 17 years.

The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service hands out the annual awards, known as the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, to career federal employees who have contributed to the health, safety and well-being of Americans through government. Winners receive cash awards ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.

A team of doctors at the National Institutes of Health led by Drs. Julie Segre and Tara Palmore will receive the top honors, Federal Employees of the Year, for using genetic sequencing to transform how the medical community identifies infections contracted in hospitals.

“It is a groundbreaking advance in one hospital that will now have an impact across the world and will become the standard,” said Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, in a Partnership profile of the 2013 winners. The group of doctors used genetic sequencing to discover the source and transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

An estimated 100,000 U.S. patients die annually from hospital-acquired infections.

The accomplishments of the other Service to America Medal winners range from eradicating polio in India to catching child pornographers through innovative police work to leading the development of NASA’s Curiosity rover to explore life on Mars.

“We will never get what we want out of our government if its successes aren’t identified, celebrated and replicated,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. “Smart, dedicated public servants are making contributions that change the world for the better every day, and it is especially meaningful that we happen to be recognizing them at a time when Congress has closed the doors on their great work.”

More than 800,000 federal civilian workers are on furlough right now because of a government shutdown.

The Partnership will present a new award in 2013, the Honorary Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, to Antonio J. Mendez, a former member of the CIA who operated the covert mission that secured the return of six American diplomats in 1980 during the Iran hostage crisis, and inspired the Oscar-winning movie “Argo.”

The remaining recipients of the 2013 medals are:

  • Orice Williams Brown of the Government Accountability Office (Career Achievement Medal)
  • Daniel Madrzykowski of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Citizen Services Medal)
  • John MacKinnon and the Operation Holitna Team of the Homeland Security Department (Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal)
  • David Lavery and the Mars Science Laboratory Team of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Science and Environment Medal)
  • Hamid Jafari of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (National Security and International Affairs Medal)
  • Kevin T. Geiss of the Air Force Department (Management Excellence Medal)
  • Andrew Rabens of the State Department (Call to Service Medal)

The 2013 winners were selected from among more than 300 nominations by a committee that includes 15 leaders in government, academia, the private sector. Click here to read their profiles.

(Image via hin255/Shutterstock.com)

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