DoD Honors Employees with Disabilities
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 11, 2003 Paula L. Briscoe, guided by her faithful companion, a 7-year-old golden retriever named Jenny, confidently walked to the front of the Crystal Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel here Dec. 9. She smiled as she shook hands with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu and accepted her award.
Harvey T. Hale, a logistics officer with the Department of the Army, Wilmington, N.C., accepts the secretary of defense certificate for outstanding employees with disabilities from Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu. Cerebral palsy limits his ability to use the right side of his body, but difficulty walking does not deter him from daily tours of the premises to assure excellent service. The 23rd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony was held Dec. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Md. Photo by K.L. Vantran.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"It's nice to see the Department of Defense recognizing people with disabilities not specifically because they have disabilities, but because of what they contribute," said Briscoe, an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C. She was one of 17 DoD employees recognized as an outstanding employee with disabilities at the 23rd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony and 16th Annual DoD Disability Forum.
Other awardees are:
Gregory T. Burrell, Defense Logistics Agency, Richmond, Va.
Michael B. Dell Jr., DoD Office of the Inspector General, Cleveland.
Scott M. Deyo, Office of the Secretary of Defense/Washington Headquarters Services, Arlington, Va.
Alice E. Dickerson, Defense Commissary Agency, Fort Lee, Va.
Martha G. Fraier, Defense Security Service, St. Louis.
Harvey T. Hale, Department of the Army, Wilimington, N.C.
Charles A. Hoff, DoD Education Activity, Arlington, Va.
Gerald Mineo Isobe, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Raymond Dale Jenks Jr., Department of the Air Force, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Timothy C. Johnson, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
Xiu Hua Kwan, Defense Contract Management Agency, Boston.
Patrick J. McNally, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Lowell, Mass.
"Mr. R" (not fully identified because of the nature of his work), National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
Warren W. Russum, Department of the Navy, Stennis Space Center, Miss.
Ronald J. Siudzinski, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Reston, Va.
Johnathan D. Stone, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Fort Belvoir, Va.
In 1981, the secretary of defense began an awards program to honor outstanding DoD employees with disabilities. President Clinton signed an executive order in July 2000 directing the federal government to hire 100,000 employees with disabilities over the next five years. In response, DoD pledged to hire 32,000 candidates with qualified disabilities before September 2005.
"We have exceeded our goal and will intensify our efforts in the future," said Chu. "In particular, we want to focus on (hiring) individuals with severe disabilities. I'm proud to report we currently have more than 6,000 individuals with severe disabilities, which is about 1 percent of our civilian work force. While this percentage is higher than many agencies, we know we can do better."
Chu said the Census Bureau reports that 75 percent of people with disabilities do not have jobs. Although many want to work and could work, he said, most do not actively seek employment. "They are often too discouraged to try," he added.
"Most of us who are not so disabled can realistically expect to be employed," said Chu. People with disabilities can have no such expectation, he added. "This must change," Chu said, "and we want do to our part to change it."
In keeping with the goal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to increase the employment of people with disabilities to 2 percent of the department's civilian work force, Chu said one should look to the theme for the awards ceremony and disability forum: "America Works Best When All Americans Work."
"We need all Americans to join in the global war on terrorism," he said. "This war will be fought in many ways, in many places at our desks and on battlefields. As we fight this crucial battle, individuals with disabilities can be full-fledged members of the defense team."
Managers should hire people with disabilities not because it gives them a "warm fuzzy" and makes them feel good, but because of what that individual can do for the work force, said W. Roy Grizzard Jr., assistant labor secretary for disability employment policy.
The keynote speaker congratulated those who received awards. "You are the example of what people with disabilities can do when given the opportunity," said Grizzard, who has retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive reduction in vision.
"People with disabilities bring to the work force far more abilities than they do disabilities," he added. "People with disabilities, when given an opportunity can succeed, move forward and move on."
The ceremony also lauded three DoD components for outstanding accomplishments in their affirmative action programs for people with disabilities. The 2003 Secretary of Defense Trophies for Achievement in Employment of People with Disabilities went to the Department of the Air Force for best military department, the Defense Logistics Agency for best mid-size component, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense/Washington Headquarters Services for best small component. The trophies are brass cups that travel annually from one winner to the next.