With over 700,000 civilian employees, the Department of Defense employs more civilians than any other federal agency. As Deputy Secretary, part of my job is to help oversee the management of that workforce.
And one of the best things I get to do each year is to celebrate the achievements of our most outstanding employees.
Today, I am privileged to do just that, bestowing upon eight men and women our most prestigious civilian honor—the Distinguished Service Medal and Doc Cooke Award.
It is an extraordinary time to be at the Department. We face undeniable challenges—both at home and overseas.
But without question, you rise to that challenge—keeping those in uniform equipped and safe while protecting and defending the American people.
Today we have the opportunity to recognize accomplishments in many fields.
One of our recipients transformed the way we invest in information security, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Another helped strengthen our foreign language capability.
Others being honored today developed unmanned aircrafts, managed global posture reviews, modernized Air Force organizations, and enhanced our performance in combat zones as well as in space.
Each one of you helped the Department carry out its mission in more effective ways.
And by finding avenues of innovation in force protection that are now emulated globally, our Doc Cooke Award recipient exemplifies all the qualities Doc displayed over nearly five decades of service.
As someone who knew Doc well, I can confidently say this achievement personifies his legacy. It was a legacy built from years of tirelessly managing the department’s personnel policies and sprawling infrastructure. This lead to Doc’s nickname: “mayor of the Pentagon.”
And by mayor I mean in the Chicago sense of the phrase.
Many may not know this, but Doc always thought he was going to become a teacher. Both his parents were teachers. He entered college in order to follow in their footsteps. But World War II and then Korea intervened, and those plans were permanently put on hold.
Instead of walking school halls, for almost 50 years he helped to build these halls—the halls of the Pentagon.
Doc may have become a mayor. But he was without question a teacher.
He taught us how to advance Department objectives, grow as individuals, and not lose sight of what is truly important in life.
To positively influence colleagues, friends, family and strangers. To strive for greatness while embracing humility and humor. To be constantly concerned with the welfare of others.
The ultimate legacy of Doc’s distinguished career is the community he helped build here at the Pentagon— the community in which we work in everyday.
All of our honorees are helping continue that legacy.
Their achievements, innovations, and their initiatives reflect the very best of civilian service at the Department of Defense.
On behalf of the entire Department, I salute you.