Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Miller leans out of a helicopter as it lands to pick up two patients from Onslow Memorial Hospital, N.C., after Hurricane Florence on Sept. 16, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Shannon Kearney)

Homeland Heroes: The 2018 Homeland Security Today Award Winners

The Homeland Security Today #HomelandHeroes awards are the most comprehensive recognition in the nation and are given to federal, state, and local people and teams for their dedication to the communities they serve.

Twenty-four recipients were selected for their roles in forwarding the homeland security mission “behind the scenes.”  Nominations were submitted from across the country by individuals in the homeland security community as a way of recognizing their peers as heroes diligently working toward mission every day to forward the security of their communities.

Award winners will be honored at GTSC’s annual event December 11 in Arlington, Va.

HST Person of the Year

HST Person of the Year is awarded to an individual who is serving, or has served, the homeland security mission in an exemplary fashion. This individual has directly improved, executed, and/or engaged the proper people, agencies, departments necessary to tangibly improve the nation’s prevention, protection, mitigation, or response capacity.

Christine Halvorsen, the recipient of the HST 2018 Person of the Year Award, has devoted her life and career to protecting the homeland. As the Deputy Assistant Director in the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, her strategic and innovative thinking has come into play more than once. Her leadership has most recently led to the development and launch of the Bureau’s first-ever cloud-based operational platform, which has improved response times to threats at home and abroad.

“As a result of her efforts, the FBI Counterterrorism Division has been better positioned to address the ever-changing and ongoing threat helping to save lives,” wrote the FBI colleague who nominated Halvorsen for the award. “For example, as a result of DAD Halvorsen’s innovation and development of technology advancements, several potential active shooters have been stopped before they were able to act.”

Halvorsen, who is a highly sought-after speaker on cybersecurity and cloud solutions technology, was a special agent in the FBI’s New York office at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and the event motivated her to address what she saw as technological gaps in the counterterrorism division. For the past two years, completing her mission successfully has meant having to form relationships with domestic and international law enforcement, the U.S. intelligence community and the private sector to collaboratively mitigate risks and disrupt cyber, terrorist and criminal organizations. She was previously the FBI’s section chief of international operations from 2014-2016, and during that time developed and implemented a corporate approach to the FBI’s international strategic planning processes with an emphasis on cybersecurity.

“Our budget people, our facilities people, those people that never get seen by anybody, they are the unsung heroes in a lot of cases in this organization,” Halvorsen said in an interview last year. “So, if you have a skillset, we have a place for you here in the FBI and you can serve the public.”

HST Person of the Year

We are proud to present Chief Charles L. Werner with the HST 2018 Person of the Year Award. His passion for homeland security runs deep. The former chief of the Charlottesville, Va., Fire Department might have retired in 2015 after 42 years fighting fires, but his service to communities around the country is just taking flight — literally. Werner is currently the executive director of the Albemarle County Police Foundation, chairman of the National Council on Public Safety for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and the public safety chief at DroneUp. As an FAA-certified UAS user and hobbyist, he is currently working to organize 21 state public safety UAS councils and serves on a number of UAS-related boards and commissions.

“When I was a firefighter, there were always hard-to-reach places we wanted to get to quickly, and we could’ve gotten there with a drone,” said Werner, who is also developing emergency drone response strategies to natural disasters with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Wildland Fire Coordinating Group. “From hurricanes to forest fires and other natural disasters, you want to be able to know where help is needed and respond within as short a period of time as possible.”

Werner is the former co-chair of the White House/DHS Incident Management Information Sharing subcommittee, and as chairman of the DHS SAFECOM Executive Committee led a delegation of representatives from across law enforcement and local elected offices around the country in their efforts to improve public safety interoperability. Additionally, Werner was awarded the National Career Fire Chief of the Year Award by Fire Chief magazine in 2008, and received four Virginia Governor’s Awards for Fire Service Excellence.

After his retirement from the Fire Department, Werner served as senior adviser and acting deputy state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, where he developed their UAS program. He is currently chair of the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee on UAS, chaired and founded the International Association of Fire Chiefs Technology Council and is the chair of the National Council on Public Safety UAS. He is also a contributing editor with Firehouse magazine, and writes for sUAS News, Fire Rescue 1 and Domestic Preparedness.

Why drones? Werner explained in a Firehouse magazine editorial: “The uses include but are not limited to structural firefighting, wildfire firefighting, hazmat incidents, search and rescue, damage assessment, critical infrastructure inspection, shore patrol, hostage/SWAT ops, civil unrest, fugitive apprehension, technical rescues, pre-incident planning, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, incident scene documentation, traffic forensics/accident investigation, bomb threat assessment, temporary communications and more.”

Most Valuable Player – 2017

The MVP is awarded to an individual or team who has contributed to a broader mission area to advance collaboration, safety, and mission.

In the homeland security community, Tom Homan is a giant. The former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has served with distinction through multiple presidential administrations and is being recognized for his unwavering commitment to the rule of law.

“The border is not under control,” he said in a July interview. “We’re a sovereign country, we have a right to control our borders. The same criminal organizations that smuggled these children, the same criminal organizations that smuggled these families are the same organizations that smuggle drugs, they smuggle guns, and… do harm to this country. So until we control this border and shut down these transnational criminal organizations, this country is at risk.”

Homan, a former police officer, joined the then-U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1986 as a border patrol agent. He was later promoted to be an investigator, and in 2013 was named the executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations. On Jan. 30, 2017, he was named acting ICE director — a position he held until his retirement a year-and-a-half later. He is a highly sought-after immigration expert, speaker and defender of a strong U.S. immigration system. Mr. Homan was awarded MVP in 2017 and could not accept at that time.  He will join us to receive this recognition in 2018.

Most Valuable Player – 2018

The list of nominees was impressive, and Shawn McDonald’s work as the program manager for the Apex Border Situational Awareness Program and the Integrated Maritime Domain Enterprise-Coastal Surveillance System (IMDE-CSS) makes him one of the most valuable assets in securing the nation’s border. McDonald was selected for implementing cutting-edge technology, such as the Android Team Awareness Kit (or ATAK), managing the evolving IMDE information sharing platform, and improving the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to achieve increased border and maritime incursion detection, interdictions and deterrence.

“Because both the USCG and CBP operate in the maritime domain, a clear opportunity exists for more efficient collaboration between the organizations,” said Shawn McDonald, S&T IMDE program manager. “Where they have mostly relied on their own exclusive information systems, the next level of information sharing will allow them to synchronize resources for planning and response as well as securely share sensor data across their respective networks.”

According to his nomination, “One analysis alone, sponsored by Mr. McDonald’s Apex BSA Program, resulted in helping a component re-align $50 million toward higher priority needs. The implementation of ATAK across multiple agencies, improving situational awareness, safety and mission effectiveness across multiple high-visibility national events, is garnering attention and praise across DHS.”

McDonald, who has worked in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate since 2014, previously spent 15 years as a senior systems engineer supporting the Naval Sea Systems Command. He is the recipient of the 2012 Navy Engineer of the year award and the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration technical manager of the year award by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He received his master’s degree in electro-optical engineering from the University of Dayton, and his bachelor of science in physics from University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.

Citizen of Mission

The Citizen of Mission is awarded to an individual who voluntarily, tirelessly supports the mission of homeland security. These are citizens who do not “have” to do anything, yet answer the call to support their communities with their time and talents.

Jim McLimans is the president of the Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management (AGREM) group, a nonprofit emergency management organization that provides emergency support to communities throughout Pennsylvania. Officials from AGREM approached Jim to help convert the trailers into Emergency Operations Centers. According to an interview, when asked, he said, “Why not? I’ll do it… I believe if you can give something back to the community then you should.” With that, he and his wife and children worked to completely refurbish the trailers, install communications centers, and meeting areas. They added large generators, battery systems, and propane tanks. They worked on these trailers in their “free” time. McLimans was selected as the Citizen of Mission because he didn’t have to do it. He didn’t have to spend his, and his family’s, time working on these trailers. But he did. And he continues to volunteer tirelessly for his community and for numerous local and regional emergency management groups. A graduate of the Williamson Trade School, he is also highly skilled at building incident command trailers and has helped numerous municipalities install power in emergency operation centers. McLimans also serves as the Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator of London Grove Township, Chester County, Pa.

Most Innovative Campaign to Improve Security – Private Sector

True security rests on each individual’s shoulders. This award recognizes the private-sector company that devotes considerable time and effort into assuring that their employees understand security, their role in it, and its importance to the overall mission.

This year, Duke Energy Corporation is being recognized for creating a physical security awareness program for its employees to reinforce and remind everyone of the risks of even small breaches to Duke Energy and, more broadly, the electric grid. The P.R.O.T.E.C.T program is an acronym for Prevent physical security compromises; Respond in an effective, tactful and thorough manner; Observe the environment and maintain situational awareness; Transparency in incidents; Engage employees to “see something, say something”; Compliance with all security regulatory requirements; and Train employees with awareness messages surrounding the changing threat environment. Duke Energy invests a tremendous amount into changing their cyber culture in response to the evolving threats. More recently, the $22 billion holding company operating in the U.S. and Canada wanted to remind employees about the continued physical risk to its facilities from even something small and insignificant. “We had always had a robust physical security program but we wanted to emphasize and increase awareness of the risks posed by even seemingly insignificant things like tailgating into the parking lot,” said Dawn Haley, lead cyber forensics investigator for Duke Energy. “Since implementing the program we’ve had a very positive response from employees on the posters, awareness training, and micro digital signage and have noticed increased vigilance across our enterprise.”

Most Innovative Campaign to Improve Security – Public Sector

The public sector also has a tough road ensuring the security of their systems. This award goes to the project, people, or program that has improved an aspect of the public sector’s security posture.

The Department of Homeland Security’s insider threat program is managed by the Office of Security. Led by Insider Threat Program Manager Sean Thrash, the program was established in 2011 and collects data from three main sources when protecting DHS facilities: software that monitors users’ activity on DHS computer networks, information supplied by DHS personnel and tips and leads received by other means. According to the nomination, Thrash has spent countless hours ensuring the successful implementation of the program and addressing any challenges with its execution.

Mission Awardees

Mission awardees are selected for their tangible achievements toward achieving their responsibilities and the overall mission of their office. These are the folks who are actually getting it done.

Kathleen Druitt, a program manager with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was awarded for reducing the amount of time it takes for Customs and Border Protection Officer to collect customs duties and fees through CBP’s Revenue Modernization program. Druitt, the director of the financial solutions Program Management Office for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the past four years, was previously a program manager at the Transportation Security Administration. The broad and complex program originated in 2014, and did not begin to pick up steam until Druitt was appointed to lead the program last year.

Warren Jones, the Northeast Colorado All Hazard Region coordinator with the Office of Emergency Management in Weld County, Colo., was awarded for support planning and grant management with 11 counties and management of homeland security grants for the region. His continuous work helping coordinate training and exercises with limited resources helps to manage the homeland security grants for the region.

Mayor Harry Kim, the mayor of Hawaii County, Hawaii, was awarded for his leadership in the wake of the life-threatening Kilauea volcano eruption in August. While there are many deserving of this recognition, few others have had to deal with a nuclear ballistic missile threat, a devastating earthquake, a volcanic eruption, tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding and carbon monoxide poisoning — while struggling though mild heart attacks and pneumonia. He continued to work throughout the eruption, which caused 24 injuries and $800 million in damages, while life-threatening emergencies occurred all around him.

Olen Martin, director of public safety and service for the City of Port Clinton, Ohio, was awarded for his law enforcement work on the Northern Border Initiative. Martin, a public servant for more than three decades, conducted numerous missions and operations along the U.S. border with Canada, which resulted in arrests for human trafficking, drugs and many other post-9/11-related issues.

Col. Robert Mauskapf, director of emergency preparedness at the Virginia Department of Health, was awarded for excellent leadership in public health emergency preparedness and response. A 30-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he joined VDH in 2002 and has built strong partnerships with all emergency response agencies and organizations in the state, leading responses to a number of emergency events including hurricanes, mass shootings and an influenza pandemic. Mauskapf has been instrumental in making Virginia a model for public health emergency preparedness and response.

Sean McAfee, the DHS staff director at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center, was awarded for driving change and leading performance successes. For the past two years, he has been integral in building and implementing an efficient and effective process to manage ongoing cyber events within the NCCIC to  ensure that relevant operational entities have the access to information from federal, state, local and international partners. McAfee has been the critical cog within the NCCIC that ensured proper allocation and preparation of space, IT support services and regular access to leadership that has moved NCCIC through a significant functional realignment and delivered vast improvement of its services.

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H. McDaniel, the associate dean of WMU-Cooley and director of the law school’s Homeland and National Security Law LL.M. Program, was awarded for his leadership and accomplishments at state and national levels in homeland security. McDaniel, a nationally recognized expert in homeland and national security law, has been a member of the Michigan National Guard for 26 years, and was integral in securing $170 million in federal funding to replace 18,000 hazardous metal water pipes in Flint, Mich. Before his recent turn to academia, he was the deputy assistant secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Prevention and Mission Assurance.

Steve Mucklow, special assistant to the assistant secretary of Defense in the office of Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities, was awarded for his work developing domestic policies for unmanned aerial systems to support civilian authorities and the National Guard for border security. He works tirelessly in organizing the effort to develop policies as they relate to domestic use of unmanned aerial systems in support of civil authorities and the National Guard for border security, firefighting, counter-narcotics, search-and-rescue and other missions. He also has been instrumental in organizing the Department of Defense implementation of authorities in close coordination with a number of federal agencies to counter the threat UAS pose to the homeland.

Battalion Chief Derrick Phillips was awarded on behalf of the St. Louis Fire Department for his work as commander of his department’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS). Phillips, a 24-year veteran of the department, has been the chief for the past five years, and took on the responsibility of managing the OHS office three years ago. The St. Louis Fire Department’s Office of Homeland Security coordinates action plans for all special events that occur in the city. The office also established an instant messaging system that relays real-time information to personnel operating on the ground, which has come in handy during several rounds of civil unrest.

Federal Small Business Champion

Federal Small Business Champion of the Year is awarded annually to the federal official(s) who show a distinct commitment and tangible results toward improving the environment and success for small businesses in the federal homeland and national security market.


In January, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) elevated its efforts to do business with small companies, launching its first Small Business and Industry Liaison Office. Leading the charge were Michael Derrios, USCG senior procurement executive and head of contracting activity, and Dwight Deneal, USCG director of small business and industry liaison programs. The pair are being recognized for their work developing USCG acquisition guidelines, policies and programs with business community stakeholders to enhance competition and develop better acquisition processes and strategies.

Acquisition Excellence

The Acquisition Excellence award recognizes a division, agency or effort that has improved the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of the acquisition of technology, products or services that support the front-line missions of homeland security. Projects must demonstrate tangible benefits and improved efficiency in the acquisition process.


The DHS Procurement Innovation Lab is a driving force in industry/government communications. The safe, virtual space is designed to encourage competition and experiment with best practices to streamline the acquisition process. The PIL, which was founded in 2015, focuses on providing educational opportunities to contractors and has hosted dozens of workshops and webinars, which have been attended by thousands of participants.

“We are the people that know our business processes the best. We must be thoughtful and tenacious in our business decisions to be successful in streamlining our processes and improving our procurement outcomes,” said Soraya Correa, the DHS chief procurement officer.

The PIL is designed as a safe space to test new ideas, share lessons learned and promote best practices within the DHS procurement community. The PIL program, which includes a one-day boot camp, leaves the organization’s contracting officer in the driver’s seat by supporting and encouraging that contracting officer and other members of the acquisition team as they conduct their own acquisitions.

Small Business of the Year

ICS Advisory was selected as Small Business of the Year because of one person: Patricia Todaro Bolin. As the leader of her firm, Patty still makes time to contribute significantly to GTSC’s programming and leads the extremely active Business Development Exchange. Under her leadership, the BDE began inviting guest speakers to their monthly meetings and she has greatly expanded the group. Her knowledge of the procurement and acquisition process is outstanding, as is her knowledge of “how things really work.” GTSC is extremely proud to have her among us.

Mentor of the Year

Since joining GTSC as a mentor, Northrop Grumman has made investments in our organization’s infrastructure, provided support for our programming and logistics, and worked with us to facilitate and execute our events. The NGC team has provided a second team for GTSC for assistance and support, and worked to expand its mentoring of GTSC small-business members. Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide, offering an extraordinary portfolio of capabilities and technologies for applications from undersea to outer space and into cyberspace. GTSC is extremely grateful for their support!

Mid-Tier Company of the Year

Sev1Tech was selected as our Mid-Tier Company of the Year because of the devotion of their CEO, Robert, and their staff to adding value to the organization and to the public-private partnership required for an excellent acquisition process. Bob participated on behalf of GTSC in the Reverse Industry Days hosted by the Internal Revenue Service, receiving universal accolades. He also took the helm of GTSC’s Lion’s Den to promote the needs and opportunities for mid-tier companies in government contracting. Additionally, Sev1Tech’s staff has been actively engaged in promoting GTSC, making introductions to new government partners and spreading the good work of GTSC in the contracting community. Sev1Tech is a program management firm founded in 2010 and provides IT support services to federal and commercial clients, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Army, the Transportation Security Administration and the Washington Redskins, Comcast and Verizon. GTSC is very proud to have Sev1Tech as a member!

Strategic Partner of the Year

The Strategic Partner of the Year is awarded annually to the strategic partner who demonstrates a clear commitment to GTSC, contributes significantly to the content and substance of the organization and provides GTSC members with counsel, insight and resources to perform exceptionally on behalf of the homeland and national security mission.

Global Security & Innovative Strategies (GSIS) is a Washington, D.C.-based security consulting and business advisory firm specializing in government advocacy and business advisory services. The firm focuses on aviation security, cybersecurity, major event venue and security planning, trade and cargo security, border protection and customs operations and security, threat and vulnerability assessments. In 2018 a number of GSIS principals have worked with GTSC to create programming, contribute to Homeland Security Today, and contribute to the value that we can provide to our members and our government partners.

Strategic Advisor of the Year

The Strategic Advisor of the Year is awarded annually to the strategic advisor who works on behalf of GTSC to increase our capacity, membership and opportunities to bring the innovation, creativity and solutions of small- and mid-sized companies to the homeland and national security mission.

In 2017, Earl Holland stepped up to take leadership over the Emerging Small Business Group of GTSC and has done a tremendous job focusing the group on important topics, relationship-building with critical government officials, and educating very small contracting firms on their path to success. After more than 20 years of working in corporate and government business development, senior management, marketing and sales, and more than a decade of computer technical systems experience, Holland is a highly regarded authority on achieving success. Prior to founding his own firm eight years ago, he was the vice president of Synova, Inc., where he led commercial corporate development within the Fortune 500 and 1000 business community. Holland also possesses a thorough knowledge of government contract vehicles and the procurement process, and has experience selling to the Defense Information Systems Agency and the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Agriculture and Commerce. 

Market Maven

Presented to an exceptional individual who contributes in a concrete and tangible way to the efficiency, productivity and effectiveness of the homeland and national security market. Proven as a thought leader with a belief in increasing individual opportunity, the power of free enterprise and the nurture of innovation to advance and support the homeland and national security mission.

Michael Smith, the executive vice president of federal contract performance management service GovConRx, is the former head of contracting activity and director of strategic sourcing at the Department of Homeland Security. Even though he retired from DHS with 34 years of federal acquisition experience under his belt, much of his time is spent advising procurement leaders on how to better partner with private-sector suppliers. He was selected as GTSC’s Market Maven because of his contributions to mutual understanding between industry and government to further better procurement and better results. Smith is also the former executive director of the DHS Office of Selective Acquisitions within the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer and head of contracting activity for OSA. His experience includes stints with the Army Corps of Engineers, Marine Corps Research Development and Acquisition Command, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Excellence in Outreach

Much of partnership requires knowledge and understanding. Communication between industry and government to achieve the best products and services requires outreach in all stages: requirements building, request for information, effective industry days, outreach through engagement and much more. The Excellence in Outreach award recognized the agency, department, team or individual who has excelled at engaging, explaining and educating to benefit the mission of securing our nation, and the American taxpayer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System is awarded this year’s annual Outreach Award for reconnecting Puerto Rico’s devastated communication systems after Hurricane Maria. The incident incapacitated or badly compromised the ability for the public, public safety, elected officials, first responders and even the military to communicate. The IPAWS team cobbled back the most fragile and basic communications networks, from restoring the island’s AM radio station networks to rebuilding phone and telecommunications networks. They represent the best that the homeland security community has to offer: innovative, quick thinkers who work hard to protect and restore the American way of life.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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