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Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks Remarks for the Presidential Rank Awards Ceremony

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining me, and my record of public service holds no candle to that of Honorable Mike Donnelly — a former Secretary of the Air Force, and DA&M now twice. The ultimate public servant.

I really want to welcome all the visitors who joined us- the distinguished visitors and guests all well.

We know, all of us, that these awards recognize superior individual accomplishment and achievement, but we also know that no executive achieves such a tremendous honor on their own. So, I would like to offer a special word of thanks to the family members, friends, and colleagues here today and those who are joining us otherwise, who have, in countless ways, contributed to the success of the honorees. I know I speak for the honorees when I say that without your support, they would not have been able to reach this pinnacle of success in their important work. So, we thank you for all you do to enable their continued pursuit of excellence.

It's my honor to host this year's ceremony. It has been three years since the Department last had one, and I'm glad to be with all of you here in person to acknowledge the contributions that each of the recipients before us today has made to national security.

To each of our 30 honorees, congratulations on this exceptional achievement. Being selected for the Presidential Rank Award is the most prestigious and highest possible award for civil service. Even being nominated for this award is a significant credit to you, and demonstrates just how much confidence your organization and your leadership has in you, and how much they appreciate all that you've done in defense of the nation.

The road to being selected as a Presidential Rank Award recipient is not an easy one, as Mr. Donnelly has pointed out.

Each year, the President recognizes and celebrates a small group of dedicated career senior executives and senior professionals across the government who consistently demonstrate outstanding leadership and accomplishments over multiple years of service.

Serving in a career leadership role here in the Department of Defense requires strength of character, integrity, resourcefulness, and a relentless commitment to public service. This is especially true in our dynamic operating environment, given our critically important mission for the American people, and with the unanticipated challenges we face. And to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic presented a novel set of challenges that no one could have predicted.

It is fair to say that the department's success during such challenging times is due, in no small measure, to the extraordinary leadership efforts of today's Presidential Rank Award honorees. As a former career SES, I know how hard those honorees work, how seriously they take their roles, and how deeply they care about the department and its mission.

Each of them has gone above and beyond to ensure the department advances its current priorities and builds a department that is ready and able to defend the nation.

They've transformed their teams and modes of operations to be more responsive and effective…

They're reshaping the workforce and pioneering new hiring and onboarding concepts to recruit and retain top talent…

They've ensured a safe workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic…

They're building coalitions and demonstrating outstanding leadership to advance innovative concepts and capabilities for deterring conflict…

They're instituting management reforms and launching new programs to ensure the department is prepared for the future…

And they're making sure we remain accountable to the taxpayers by leading the department to a clean audit, decreasing costs, and eliminating waste. And these are just some of the examples of the wide range and deep impact of our honorees' outstanding work.

For all of these reasons and many more, we come together today to honor all of those who were awarded the Presidential Rank Award.

To those here in person, as well as those who were unable to join today: Thank you for your service and dedication to the Department of Defense and our nation, and our congratulations to you for a job well done.