DoD Disability Awards Celebration Reflects Progress, Official Says


The Pentagon’s annual awards ceremony that highlights the achievements of department employees with disabilities reflects the progress that’s been achieved, and also serves as a reminder that more remains to be done, Anthony M. Kurta, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said here today.

In the 37th Annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards ceremony held in the Pentagon Auditorium today, 21 DoD service members and civilians with disabilities were recognized for their outstanding contributions supporting DoD’s mission.

DoD components and military departments also were recognized for their exemplary efforts to adopt and put in place promising programs and practices to advance a diverse and inclusive total force.

“I commend you all on the phenomenal strides you’ve made to improve the state of disability employment,” Kurta said. “The mission of personnel and readiness is to enhance the readiness of the all-volunteer force. And one of our key strengths in that all-volunteer force is our diversity.”

‘Inclusion Drives Innovation’

In his remarks, Kurta kicked off National Disability Employment Awareness Month at DoD with a 2017 theme of “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

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“This theme underscores the value of inclusion of different perspectives and diverse abilities in the success of the total workforce,” he said. “Our service members and civilians with disabilities have driven DoD innovation in every capacity to include science, technology, medicine, readiness and much more.”

The awardees are integral to mission success and their perspectives and abilities are essential to the modernization of the total force, Kurta said.

The five components and military departments were recognized for increasing the employment of individuals with disabilities.

“The department applauds your efforts and encourages your continued progress in advancing opportunity in the DoD workforce, particularly for individuals with significant disabilities and our wounded warriors,” he said.

Inherent Dignity

In the words of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Kurta quoted, “‘We, in the Department of Defense acknowledge the inherent dignity of every human life. This dignity is bound by nothing beyond the simple fact of our common humanity. It belongs to us all. Nothing may add or subtract from it; no distinction may mar its inestimable value -- not color, creed, or any other category. No level of capability -- physical, mental or otherwise, whether the result of chance or design -- may alter it. The universal dignity of the human person persists.’”

In DoD’s celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the department reaffirms its commitment that a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to maintaining a strong Total Force, he said.

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“Strengthening our efforts to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities will ensure that DoD remains a model employer in promoting and maintaining equal opportunity,” Kurta said, noting its high priority for DoD and the federal government.

“So, today, let us renew our commitment to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities,” he said, “and pledge to continue to make our department increasingly more open and accessible to all.”

Award Winners

Five DoD components and military departments earned 2017 for Secretary of Defense Awards for Achievement in the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and 2017 Secretary of Defense Award for Achievements in Ensuring Accessible Information and Communication Technology in the Workplace.

Four awards recognize achievements in programs and practices promoting hiring, retention and advancement of individuals with disabilities. Since 2010, this has included recognizing a DoD component in the intelligence community. The fifth award honors one component or military department for achievements in ensuring accessible information and communication technology in the workplace.

The 2017 criteria used to determine the award recipients for the Secretary of Defense Awards for achievement in the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities include multiple measures to determine DoD's progress, officials said.

In 2017, components also could submit documentation of the following exemplary programs and practices as part of the criteria:

-- Developing and implementing a personal assistance services program;

-- Developing and implementing a strategic plan to ensure accessible information and communication technology;

-- Developing and implementing a disability mentoring program; and

-- Developing and implementing a comprehensive reasonable accommodation program.

The component or military department honored with the Secretary of Defense Award for Achievements in Ensuring Accessible Information and Communication Technology in the Workplace is recognized for demonstrating exemplary actions in one or all of the following:

-- Building a professional team to eliminate systemic barriers to information and communication technology;

-- Developing a proactive plan with dedicated resources to ensure the adoption and implementation of accessible information and communication technology; and

-- Developing an information technology acquisition strategy to ensure the adoption of accessibility standards for information and communication technology.

The 2017 award winners are:

Best Military Department - Department of the Navy

The Department of the Navy is recognized with the Secretary of Defense Award for Achievements in Advancing Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.

Among the military departments, the Department of the Navy achieved top scores in participation rate and permanent hire percentage of individuals with targeted disabilities. The Department of the Navy led all military departments by most effectively converting temporary internships from the Workforce Recruitment Program to permanent positions. Further, the Department of the Navy implemented a comprehensive operational plan for funding supplies, equipment, and services critical to providing reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.

Best Mid-Sized Component - Defense Logistics Agency

The Defense Logistics Agency is recognized with the Secretary of Defense Award for the Best Mid-Sized Component.

Among mid-sized components, DLA achieved the top score in advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities by effectively utilizing the Schedule A Excepted Hiring Authority.

DLA demonstrated strong employment outcomes, and among mid-sized components, converted the most Workforce Recruitment Program intern positions to permanent employment positions.

Best Small-Sized Component - Defense Media Activity

The Defense Media Activity is recognized with the Best Small-Sized Component Award.

Among small-sized components, DMA achieved the highest score by significantly improving its participation rate and permanent hire percentage of individuals with targeted disabilities. Further, DMA performed well in effectively utilizing the Schedule A Excepted Hiring Authority.

Best Intelligence Component - National Security Agency

The National Security Agency is recognized with the Best Intelligence Component Award.

Among the intelligence components, NSA stood out because of the participation rate and permanent hire percentage of individuals with targeted disabilities. NSA implemented an operational plan for funding supplies, equipment, and services for a comprehensive reasonable accommodations program, which is critical in providing reasonable accommodations.

 The National Security Agency also is recognized with the Secretary of Defense Award for Achievements in Ensuring Accessible Information and Communication Technology in the Workplace.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)