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Presented at the 2009 Linton Brooks Medal for Public Service Ceremony

November 09, 2009

Presented at the 2009 Linton Brooks Medal for Public Service CeremonyPresented by Thomas D'Agostino, Administrator, NNSA

Good afternoon.  Thanks to all of you for being here today as we award the second annual Linton Brooks Medal for Dedication to Public Service.  I am honored to be here again this year to present this award to an outstanding young individual in the NNSA family. 

I often say that the best part of my job is the opportunity I have to highlight the great work done across the nuclear security enterprise.  That is particularly true when I have the chance to meet and work with the young men and women working at our sites – our next generation of nuclear security and program experts. You have often heard of the phrase “Our people are our greatest asset”.  The danger in overusing such a phrase is that it can trivialize or make common the extra ordinary efforts that many of you do to get the job done. Well there is nothing trivial or ordinary about the work that all of you do to keep our nation safe and there is no better example of this than Travis Howerton, who is this year's Linton Brooks Medal award winner. 

This award was first presented last year to recognize those newer employees whose actions and deeds exemplify the spirit of public service commitment and achievement. The award is named after Ambassador Linton F. Brooks, whose own dedication, vision and grasp of NNSA’s unique national security mission were critical in successfully guiding NNSA during five years of organizational and mission transformation. 

Before we get to Ambassador Brook’s personal remarks and the actual award, I want to take a few minutes to thank Travis and talk a little bit about how important people like him are to the success of the NNSA. 

For decades, the nuclear deterrent has been the cornerstone of our national security strategy. The scientists and engineers at our labs and plants developed and sustained a very unique set of skills and capabilities that now service a broad array of nuclear security needs.  It is that scientific and technical expertise, combined with our proven track record of implementing a number of successful programs, both domestically and abroad, that has already made our national security programs a leader throughout the world. And, there’s much more to do in the future.

The men and women working throughout the Nuclear Security Enterprise are at the cutting edge of science and technology, working day and night to keep the American people safe and secure. When we talk about our nation’s investment in nuclear security, we are talking about them. We have built the fastest supercomputers in the world and developed the biggest, most powerful lasers. We have also built state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind facilities to handle special nuclear materials. But none of that means anything if we don’t attract the best scientists, researchers, engineers and program managers in the country to direct the enterprise day-to-day in meeting the mission effectively.  

Every opportunity I get, I constantly remind people of our need to ensure that we have in the NNSA the skilled people to support the full scope of NNSA missions — from weapons to nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and emergency response.  That includes the scientists, engineers, and all the other professional and technical skills behind the scenes that are needed to make sure our Nuclear Security Enterprise operates efficiently.

As I like to say, if we are going to shift from a cold war nuclear weapons complex to a 21st century nuclear security enterprise that can maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of our stockpile without testing, we need to develop world class scientists and engineers who will address future challenges.  We need to develop what I call the Varsity Team that this country needs to address dynamic 21st century nuclear security problems. 

As our security challenges grow more complex, I want the Varsity Team, on the field to de-fuse improvised nuclear devices and support our nuclear counter terrorism efforts. I want the Varsity Team to support the Intelligence Community on nuclear issues, and I want the Varsity Team to aggressively secure and detect nuclear material around the world. In this business, the Junior Varsity Team is just not good enough.  

This Linton Brooks award acknowledges the success of our NNSA offices across the country in developing that next generation of human talent. This award recognizes someone who has accomplished significant things in a short period of time. And this award recognizes an individual who sees a problem, takes the initiative and makes something happen. This award recognizes Travis Howerton who has made the Varsity team.

Mike Kane will tell you more about Travis’s specific accomplishments a little later, but I was extremely impressed by the drive and commitment Travis has shown in conducting his responsibilities more efficiently for the overall good of the entire NNSA complex. Here is what the citation notes, in part:

  • Travis provided the NNSA with an enterprise-wide issues and action tracking system through the design and development of the Pegasus system;
  • He demonstrated a clear willingness to accept responsibility and lead by example; and
  • Through his efforts, we were able to achieve of significant savings in government operations at both the Y-12 site and the NNSA enterprise

That initiative and creativity is the kind of thinking and work we need throughout our enterprise. We must continue to use innovation in conducting our missions more effectively and efficiently.

And that is why I am so proud to welcome Travis, and his wife Shannon, to Washington to receive this award. I know they want to return home quickly to their daughter Tyler Brooke, but this is an important day for them and for the NNSA. I appreciate everyone being here and taking the time to recognize Travis and all the other people who are making a difference in the way NNSA does its business.

Now, I am honored to turn the platform over to Ambassador Linton Brooks, who has some special remarks to make on Public Service.

Please join me in welcoming back, Ambassador Brooks.

NNSA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.