As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, we pause to pay our respects to those who faithfully served this country.
If you talk to a veteran, you’ll learn there were many, many reasons they raised their hand and pledged to protect our country from all enemies – both foreign and domestic. Growing up, I spoke to my dad at length about this – he was a World War II paratrooper with the U.S. Air Force. What interests me, though, is why they stayed in, sacrificing time away from their families, putting themselves in harm’s way, and standing at the front lines to ensure our freedoms and way of life were protected.
Many times a veteran will tell you they became very protective of the men and women to their left and right. They felt part of something so much larger than themselves, as well as a sense of obligation and service to continue to protect our nation and their brothers and sisters in arms. This sense of service—of needing to support our nation—didn’t go away when they took off their uniforms. Many of them just traded a military uniform for a suit and joined the federal workforce. Others traded one service uniform for another and joined the ranks of our responder community, or a DHS component like Customs and Border Protection or other homeland security organizations.
Currently, here at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, we employ more than 1,300 veterans. And we’re not alone. In 2005, DHS issued a Management Directive that reiterated its commitment to veterans by providing employment opportunities and benefits to those returning from active military duty. Like DHS, I believe the expertise and experience veterans offer DHS and its organizational elements is of significant value to our mission, and I fully support the laws and regulations providing for veterans’ preference in federal employment.
The federal government has been doing its part to pay homage to our armed services by employing more veterans across the government. More than 290,000 veterans our currently working for the federal government—at all levels and in various capacities. In fiscal year (FY) 2012, 29 percent of all new federal employee hires were veterans. That number increased to 35 percent during the first half of FY 2013. In FY 2014, the number of total veteran hires increased again—one in three new federal hires were veterans—marking the highest-ever hiring rate for former military personnel, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
The traits the military espouses—commitment, integrity, duty, service, and so many more—are exactly what we need within our workforce. And they add depth and a boots-on-the-ground viewpoint here at S&T as we develop and deliver effective and innovative insight, methods and solutions for the critical needs of the Homeland Security Enterprise.
I like how Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Bob McDonald put it when he said, “We know that veterans possess character, team-building skills, and discipline. Those traits don’t stop when we take off the uniform.”
I am honored to work amongst so many veterans here at S&T and throughout DHS. This Veteran’s Day, I want to thank all our veterans across the nation for their service, their sacrifice, and their continued commitment to the security of our nation.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology