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  4. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Recognizes 56 Employees at Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Recognizes 56 Employees at Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Release Date: July 27, 2023

WASHINGTON – On July 27, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosted an awards ceremony at DHS Headquarters to celebrate the workforce. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas officiated the ceremony, where 56 employees received a Secretary’s Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the mission.

“Every day, the men and women of the Department respond to cyberattacks; save lives by sea and air; secure our nation’s borders and critical infrastructure; and deploy across the country to help Americans recover from disasters; and so much more. Their achievements aren’t only on the front lines, but also extend behind the scenes to modernize and streamline the Department’s processes in order to better relationships between the Department and the people we serve,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “It is the honor of my life to lead this Department and to recognize some of the extraordinary public servants who safeguard our nation and keep us all safe.”

The DHS Secretary’s Awards are an annual program that recognizes the extraordinary individual and collective achievements of the workforce. This year’s award recipients improved the efficiency of processing noncitizens at the Southwest Border, deployed across the country to respond to natural disasters, investigated cybercrime, created a new streamlined process for adjudicating asylum applications, safely and securely resettled nearly 90,000 evacuated Afghans in the United States, provided resources for organizations to enhance their cybersecurity resilience, established a process for Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge, secured the 2022 midterm elections, and demonstrated heroism by acting quickly and courageously to save lives in harrowing circumstances.   

This year, DHS is holding eight ceremonies across the country, honoring over 1,300 employees. Earlier this year, Secretary Mayorkas unveiled 12 priorities for the Department, including a commitment to champion the workforce and transform the employee experience.

"I am incredibly humbled to receive the Secretary’s Meritorious Service Silver Medal Award for all of the work that I do every day really trying to represent and bring to the forefront the phenomenal men and women of the Federal Protective Service and their incredible actions they take every day to protect the federal facilities that we’re responsible for and the millions of people that enter them over the course of a year,” said Federal Protective Service Chief of Staff Jennifer Beasley.

The below 56 DHS headquarters employees were presented with awards at this ceremony:

  • Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal Award
    • Mr. Shockey’s involvement with the interagency Afghanistan Crisis Action Group helped to streamline and maintain a vetting process that satisfied the emerging needs of DHS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Counterterrorism Center, and the US Intelligence Community. Scott’s leadership of the Office of Biometric Identity Management enabled the successful analysis of 55,000 Afghan evacuees over a single month, and the success of one of the largest evacuation vetting operations in United States history.
      • Scott Shockey
    • Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) Safe Haven and Point-of-Entry Leadership Team: The OAW Safe Haven and Point-of-Entry Leadership Team worked on-the ground efforts to welcome and resettle Afghan refugees following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The teams at the Safe Havens and Points-of-Entry helped to coordinate the Department’s approach to supporting OAW and worked outside their day-to-day responsibilities to integrate other key Federal Departments and Agencies. In an operation that frequently went beyond the normal mission of the agency, they went above and beyond to serve those who stood alongside the United States.
      • Lucian Sikorskyj
  • Secretary’s Meritorious Service Silver Medal Award
    • Haris was instrumental in the evacuation and resettlement of Afghans in the United States. He was one of the first to volunteer to go abroad to Doha to interpret the needs of the families and identify areas for improvement to ensure cultural and religious sensitivities were considered. After returning to the US, he served as the Chief Cultural Advisor to the Unified Coordination Group. He continues to leverage his skills and experience as the co-founder of the Afghan American Foundation. His leadership has distinctly improved the operation and the Department’s mission.
      • Haris Tarin
    • Jennifer’s 30 years of federal service have developed her ability to lead and advance the Federal Protective Service (FPS) as the Chief of Staff to the Director. Ms. Beasley uses her mission-focused attitude and her ability to inspire and champion her team to advance the Director’s initiative in various ways, including leading the messaging on COVID response and requirements, all process improvement and standardization efforts across the office, leading to a more communicative and efficient FPS.
      • Jennifer Beasley
    • William “Bart” Bush has created an innovative workplace for employees with his stellar leadership and customer-oriented approach. He has led his team in recognizing the importance of workplace in the design of spaces, resulting in environments that are conducive to teamwork and collaboration across the National Capital Region. Bart has led his team to provide new and innovative opportunities to meet DHS needs, increase morale, and without adding to the cost of programs.
      • William “Bart” Bush
  • Secretary’s Award for Leadership Team Excellence
    • DHS Volunteer Force: Volunteers served temporarily in support of Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome, as well as in support of U.S. Custom and Border Protection to help manage the greatly increased flow of migrants crossing the Southwest Border.
      • Kimya Lee, Mayela Delatorre, Michelle Nordman, Sandra Taylor, Teresa Gurnard
    • OGC Workforce Team Nomination: The Office of General Counsel (OGC) workforce team was directed to review the employee discipline policies and processes used throughout DHS components and offices to recommend improvements, ensuring that the processes align with best practices and applicable legal requirements. After five months, the Secretary approved OGC’s proposed improvements and began to implement them. OGC’s work on this reflects the Department’s continued commitment to ensuring accountability, integrity, and fairness.
      • Andrew Cannady, Angela Williams. Carley Drzayich, Diane Steele, Edith Moore McGee, John Koerner, Josh Shuey, Joshua Stanton, Lorna Jerome, Michael Saltalamachea, Neal Swartz, Peter Gregory. Phillis Morgan, Stephanie Sawyer, Suzzane Courtney
  • Secretary’s Award for Leadership Excellence
    • Donnesha plays an integral role in the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ (CRCL) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention oversight work. In 2022, she led a large-scale investigation in the New Orleans Area of Responsibility (AOR), managing the investigation that spanned four facilities. In addition to this, she investigated systemic cross-cutting issues that impact DHS practices, activities, and programs across the AOR. Donnesha continues to lead recurring engagements with ICE colleagues, and provides guidance and mentorship to team members, including training new advisors. By consistently giving her time and talents, she ensures that the activities of the Department are conducted in a manner that protects, promotes, and ensures the rights and civil liberties of detained non-citizens.
      • Donnesha Correll
  • Secretary’s Award for Innovation
    • Burden Reduction Team: At the direction of the Chief Information Officer, staff from the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), Office of the General Counsel (OGC), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) partnered to eliminate 4 million burden hours imposed on the public by the Department. This initiative is the start towards a total burden reduction on DHS paperwork, which will save 20 million hours across our enterprise. The team has been able to achieve this in a way that enhances interactions between the Department and its customers.
      • Christina McDonald, Dana Chisnell, Dawn Barton, Holly Allen, Jeff Mitchell, Michael McManus, Rita Young, Robert Dorr, Tyrone Huff, Yvette Jenkins
    • Migrant Model Integration (MMI) Team: The Science and Technology Directorate’s MMI team developed a statistics and analysis tool that has enabled decision makers across DHS to evaluate scenarios and make better policy and resource decisions regarding immigration and humanitarian aid. The MMI Tool provides analyses of immigration scenarios at the Southwest Border and evaluates policy and resource options. The MMI team collaborated to develop the Enforcement Throughput Model (ETM), which allowed DHS and White House leadership to understand the impact of proposed changes to migrant policy and operations.
      • Justin Schon, Laura Chewning, Marc Rosenblum, Nadwa Mossaad, Sara Lettie, Scott Meeks
    • PREA Team: CRCL successfully completed a pilot project called the “Periodic Review”. The review was designed to assess whether systemic civil rights and civil liberties gaps exist in a Component’s implementation of an established Departmental policy or program. CRCL completed its review of the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2022 and has since institutionalized over 100 recommendations to ICE to enhance their compliance with regulatory requirements and strengthen protections against sexual abuse for individuals in ICE custody.
      • Annie Wong, Elena Feroz, Tammany Kramer, Thomas Sharp
  • Secretary’s Award for Team Excellence
    • Ethos Training Development Team: The Ethos Training Development team was integral to designing and producing the Professional-Public Service Ethos program, the first program of its kind in DHS. The program delivers on the Secretary’s intent to ensure the foundation of our workforce development focuses on what it means to be a public servant. By the end of CY2022, nearly 12,000 employees have completed the course.
      • Deborah (Dawn) Corley, Mark Denis, Patrick Newman
    • Hack DHS Bug Bounty Team: In FY22, DHS launched the Hack DHS Bug Bounty Event, a vulnerability assessment of five of the Department’s most critical systems. The program directly led to the discovery of more than 180 vulnerabilities in public-facing DHS systems, which if were used by an adversary, would severely hinder the DHS mission and cause significant reputational harm.
      • Amanda Day, Lawrence Knachel, Martha Palacio
    • Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative Team: In 2021, the DHS and Veterans Affairs Secretaries jointly announced the Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI), which was established to demonstrate our support of our country’s service members, veterans, and their families. The IMMVI team assisted previously removed US veterans with their return to the US, established DHS policies that recognized the significance of military service, improved access to naturalization services, and engaged with the advocacy community. The IMMVI team answered the Secretary’s call and built trust in DHS within the veteran community.
      • Anil Dewan, Nina Cardwell
  • Secretary’s Champion of Equity Award
    • Cybersecurity Internship Program: Elizabeth Lawler and Camille McFarlane are being recognized for their efforts with DHS components and OCIO to launch the first ever Cybersecurity Internship Program, as part of OCIO’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program. Both Mrs. Lawler and Mrs. McFarlane worked to build partnerships that allowed recruitments across the country, doing so in a remote environment.
      • Camille McFarlane, Elizabeth Lawler

DHS has the third largest workforce of any federal department, behind the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department is home to more than 92,000 sworn law enforcement officers, the greatest number of law enforcement officers of any department in the federal government. DHS has committed to increasing the representation of women in law enforcement or related occupations at DHS to 30% by 2023. Over 54,000 veterans, or nearly 21% of the workforce, continue serving their country by working at DHS.

DHS operational components interact more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other federal department, from travelers moving through air, land, and sea ports of entry, to businesses importing goods into the country, to immigrants applying for services. To learn more about the impact DHS makes every day, visit: DHS.gov/TodayDHSWill.

Last year, DHS launched a hiring initiative recruiting hundreds of experts in digital user experience and design for the Customer Experience Program. DHS is working to improve the overall experience for those accessing government services and benefits by accepting mobile driver’s licenses, reducing processing times for immigration benefits, and simplifying FEMA policies when applying for assistance.

For the full list of awardees, visit DHS.gov/2023-Secretarys-Awards.  



Last Updated: 07/27/2023
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