Homeland security luminaries celebrated shining stars in the community and the 10th anniversary of the Government Technology and Services Coalition on Wednesday evening at the Homeland Security Today Awards gala.
Marking a return to the annual event after last year’s pandemic hiatus, the celebration at The River View at Occoquan in Lorton, Va., honored those who have made lasting contributions to our nation’s security and risen to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, an evolving terrorism landscape, cyber threats, migration surges, and more.
“We are honored and humbled to recognize all the amazing people who dedicate their lives to protecting our people and nation. Above the politics, pragmatists, patriots, and realists gathered to reinforce the need to solve problems and continue to move the mission forward,” said Kristina Tanasichuk, founder and CEO of GTSC. “We are just happy that GTSC could facilitate such collaboration.”
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, founder of The Chertoff Group, attended to receive HSToday’s inaugural Homeland Security Lifetime Achievement Award for his career dedication to shaping the homeland security enterprise and working to make our nation safer.
Many Department of Homeland Security officials including CBP Acting Chief Operating Officer Benjamine “Carry” Huffman and Assistant Commissioner/CIO Sonny Bhagowalia were on hand to honor the National Homeland Security Person of the Year: the entire workforce of more than 60,000 men and women who comprise U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
CBP was bestowed the award for steadfastly focusing on mission under the most arduous of conditions, excelling through the pandemic and record migration as well as intercepting the flow of illegal narcotics and keeping legitimate trade flowing.
Recently sworn-in U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell joined the celebration to award District Fire Chief Robert Palestrant, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, State Homeland Security Person of the Year for a career of coordinating multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional responses to disasters and large-scale emergencies, and guiding planning for emergency mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts for natural and manmade disasters.
Local Homeland Security Person of the Year was presented to Commander Robert Glover of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, who was honored for his career of strong leadership through both planned national security events and incidents that have shaken the nation’s capital, such as his role as the MPD incident commander responding to the U.S. Capitol Police’s request for help on Jan. 6, 2021.
The HSToday Awards recognize not only those who have dedicated their careers to making our nation safer within the homeland security enterprise, but people who have used their talents, determination, or platform to contribute. This year, the Citizen of Mission Award went to Emmy Award-winning documentarian Christopher Allan Smith, whose home was destroyed in the devastating 2018 wildfire in Paradise, Calif.; he has since studied the lessons learned to promote disaster preparedness and recovery.
The awards pay tribute to those who work on the frontlines and behind the scenes to further the mission:
- Homeland Security Person of the Year – National: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Homeland Security Person of the Year – State: District Fire Chief Robert Palestrant, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services
- Homeland Security Person of the Year – Local: Commander Robert Glover, Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department
- Homeland Security Lifetime Achievement Award: The Honorable Secretary Michael Chertoff, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Founder, The Chertoff Group
- Federal Small Business Champion: Anna Urman, Senior Procurement Analyst, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. State Department
- Market Maven: Luke McCormack, Former Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Acquisition Excellence – Federal: Heather M. Santiago, Director, Subterranean Portfolio, United States Border Patrol, and Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
- Acquisition Excellence – State: Elizabeth Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
- Most Innovative Campaign to Increase Security: Dereck Orr, Division Chief of the Public Safety Communications Division, Communications Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Citizen of Mission: Christopher Allan Smith, Emmy-Award Winning Director, Writer and Director of A High and Awful Price: Lessons Learned from the Camp Fire
- Most Valuable Player: Ben Wenger, Acting Assistant Associate Director, Field Operations Directorate, Program Management Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Most Valuable Player: President’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families: DHS, HHS, DOJ and State Department
- Excellence in Outreach: LCDR Anthony Borruso, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Admissions Recruiting Branch
- Excellence in Outreach: Michael Johnson, Division Chief, Digital Engagement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Public Affairs
- Excellence in Outreach: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Industry Partnerships
- Excellence in Outreach: Interagency Security Committee, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
The evening’s celebration of a decade of GTSC bringing together government and industry to further the homeland mission included honoring members who have devoted their time, resources, and dedication to mission to give back to the organization:
- GTSC Small Business of the Year: SharpEDG
- GTSC Mid-Tier of the Year: Excelicon
- GTSC Mentor of the Year: AT&T
- GTSC Strategic Partner of the Year: Hagerty Consulting
- GTSC Strategic Advisor of the Year: Debbie Dowling, Partner, Deep Water Point, LLC
Homeland Security Today also honors with the annual Mission Awards shining stars in the community who are making their own unique, invaluable contributions to advance the mission of keeping America safer from myriad threats:
- Greg Bird, Mission Systems Branch Chief, Office of Infrastructure Assessments and Analysis, Infrastructure Security Division, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
- Sheriff Mike Chapman, Loudoun County, Va.
- Boyd Dixon, Director of Emergency Management, Bellevue Hospital, NYC Health + Hospitals System
- FEMA COVID-19 Vaccination Team
- Cody Hogeboom, Chief, Counterterrorism and Special Training Branch, Federal Protective Service and Professional Development Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Heather Lynch, Branch Chief, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
- Anita Minaei, Federal Security Director, Burbank-Glendale-Pasedena Airport (BUR), SBA, SMX and SBP Airports, Department of Homeland Security
- Chris Moore, Chief, Distance Learning and Multimedia Branch, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Melynda Moran, Regional Training and Exercise Coordinator, Region 9, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Scott Nance, Former Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Staff Director, Vice President at A1.9 Strategies LLC
- John Picarelli, Director, Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), U.S. Department of Homeland Security
GTSC and Homeland Security Today congratulated all of the honorees along with thanking the entire homeland community for persevering and excelling through myriad challenges.