Partnering with industry on innovative solutions to advance the homeland security security mission has been the “most meaningful part of my career,” former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday evening when accepting Homeland Security Today’s 2019 Homeland Security Person of the Year award.
McAleenan, the former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection who stepped forward to lead DHS in April, resigned last month. He was among colleagues from the public and private sectors at HSToday’s annual holiday awards celebration held at the National Law Enforcement Museum, where he stressed it was “great to be among friends” as “I do miss the mission and the people immensely.”
He said the honor was “a really meaningful award” as “feedback that matters most to me is from people who actually get it.” He praised the employees continuing to protect the nation every day across all mission sets.
With threats ranging from IEDs to biological agents, McAleenan emphasized that public and private sector collaboration will be more important than ever in the coming years. “We need your help to figure those problems out, get in front of the threat,” he said. “…I know we can do that together.”
HSToday Executive Editor Kristina Tanasichuk, CEO of the Government Technology & Services Coalition, noted that McAleenan “took the reins at a very, very difficult time and calmed the seas, so to speak,” and “balanced the need for a secure border with humanity, humility and intelligence.”
While McAleenan was honored as the federal person of the year, the state/local Homeland Security Person of the Year Award went to James Featherstone, executive director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council at Pepperdine University.
It was a return home for the D.C. native, who served nearly two decades at the Los Angeles Fire Department, during which he was appointed general manager of the Los Angeles City Emergency Management Department in 2007 and served as interim fire chief in 2013-14.
Featherstone was appointed president and CEO of the Los Angeles Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2016, charged with uniting the public and private sectors behind the mission of transforming the preparedness picture of the nation’s second-largest city.
He was nominated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which praised Featherstone’s leadership to “catalyze and support a multi-jurisdictional and comprehensive approach to preparedness, security, and resiliency in the Los Angeles region.”
Featherstone said the award was a “total surprise.” The LAPD nomination, he added, was a “testament to cross-collaboration” and working together across entities “to make sure we have a safer, more resilient nation.”
Tanasichuk said she was touched at the grassroots nature of the nominations, with more than a hundred submissions for the different categories — people wanting to share the good news of the great work being accomplished by their colleagues. She praised the winners as “very unique, very special, really doing amazing things”:
Federal Small Business Champion: Katrina Brisbon, Assistant Administrator, Contracting and Procurement, Transportation Security Administration
Acquisition Excellence: U.S. Coast Guard AUXDATA Procurement Team — Brenda E. Oberholzer, Contract Specialist; Lt. Nicholas M. Fredericksen, Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) & Technical Evaluation Team Chairperson; Lt. Carl N. Stokes, Program Manager, AUXDATA system; Shandra J. Kotzun, Procurement Law Attorney, C4IT Service Center, U.S. Coast Guard
Innovative Campaign to Forward Mission: Narrative Strategies, Dr. Ajit Maan, Founder & CEO; Dr. Howard Clark, President; Paul Cobaugh, Vice President. “Nothing more rewarding than being recognized by colleagues for doing what you’re passionate about,” Maan said.
Kevin Metcalf, Founder & CEO, National Child Protection Task Force. “This is a group effort,” he said of his work against human trafficking and child exploitation.
Mark Ray, Director of Public Works, City of Crystal, Minnesota. Ray said he’s “very passionate about public works and the role we play in the homeland security enterprise.”
Citizen of Mission: Brady Snakovsky, Brady’s K9 Fund. “I am happy to help all the K9s,” the 10-year-old said when accepting his award. “I hope to see all the K9s on my waiting list vested and make Brady’s Fund a household name.”
Most Valuable Player: Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — Chris Krebs, Director; Brian Harrell, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection; Katherine Ledesma, Senior Policy Analyst; Matt Masterson, Senior Cybersecurity Advisor.
Excellence in Outreach: (Federal winner) Federal Emergency Management Agency Team — Dan Kaniewski, Deputy Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Lizzie Litzow, Press Secretary, Federal Emergency Management Agency. Kaniewski said private-sector collaboration and “strong leadership at the top” of DHS have been invaluable in advancing the mission.
(Federal winner) Stephanie Yanta, Behavioral Analysis Profiler, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC).
(State winner) Terry Hastings, Senior Policy Advisor, New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services. “Our business is all about relationships, so it’s really nice to be recognized by a program that’s all about relationships,” Hastings said.
(Local winner) Colonel David Hines, Sheriff, Hanover County, Va.
Mission Awards: Dan Albert, New York State, Red Team Program; Bernie Beier, Homeland Security Director, Allen County, Ind.; Roberto Campos, Program Manager, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Salah Czapary, Director, Office of Volunteer Coordination, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department; Kathy Dollarhide, Director, Disaster Resource Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Long Beach, Calif.; Gregory St. James, Program Manager, Montgomery County Maryland Community Emergency Response Team (CERT); Bridgett Lewis, Manager, Security Operations, Port of Long Beach, Long Beach, Calif.; Shaun C. Roach, Manager, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Tadgh Smith, Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) for Technology and Transformation, Law Enforcement and Systems Analysis (LESA) at DHS; Lt. C.D.S. Brian Vaughan, Threat Reduction & Infrastructure Protection, Physical Security, Counterterrorism Division, New York Police Department; Amy Wheelock, Senior Advisor, Field Operations Directorate, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. (Read about the Mission Award winners)
GTSC Small Business of the Year: Potomac Management Solutions, Diane McCain, CEO. “It’s really an honor to stand here, hopefully worthy among giants in this room,” McCain said.
GTSC Mid-Tier Business of the Year: Citizant; Alba Aleman, CEO. “9/11 touched all of us but it absolutely transformed why we do what we do,” Aleman said. “…All the stars that I admire are present here tonight. It’s not a glorious job, they don’t do it for the money; sometimes it’s hard to explain to folks why mission is more important.”
GTSC Mentor of the Year: Adobe
GTSC Strategic Partner of the Year: GovConRx
GTSC Strategic Advisor of the Year : Keith Jones, President and CEO, The Edgewater Group (Read about the GTSC award winners)
CISA’s Harrell lauded the evening as an “opportunity to reward and recognize some of the people who have done a lot of great work around the country,” as “protecting critical infrastructure doesn’t just happen one night one month — it really happens all year.”
“There’s a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears behind what we are doing to protect the nation,” Harrell said.