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Awards@FCC: Odd Ways of Recognizing Staff Excellence Continue

(The problems described below are not recent problems. They go back several decades in general. Certainly the Wheeler chairmanship has not been involved in any of them during their limited time in office at this point.)

Long time readers may recall that FCC recognition of staff excellence has been a recurring topic here. For example in an August 2007 post we discussed how the Senior Executive Service bonuses that are an integral part of the compensation package for senior managers at FCC have become hidden even though they were public at other agencies and were very visible during the Fowler chairmanship in the 1980s.

We also pointed out that the
Presidential Rank Awards, another integral part of compensation or senior federal managers have been rarely given at FCC since they were created in 1978. Until this year the only 2 FCC executives to be so recognized were James McKinney, former Chief of the Broadcast Bureau, and Jerry Vaughan, former Deputy Chief, WTB and a key figure in organizing the first spectrum auctions. (Mary Beth Richards who has worked several times at FCC received this award from the Federal Trade Commission for her work there before returning for another stint at FCC.)

Thus we were surprised to piece together recently the unannounced news that 2 key senior FCC staffers received the presidential rank awards, only the 3rd and 4th in 35 years, without any public announcement by FCC. Both are well deserved honors to long serving distinguished contributors to the FCC’s mission. FCC is now reviewing its administrative practices and has been “soliciting public input on improving the efficiency of how we conduct business here at the FCC”. We hope that the issue of award transparency will be considered in this review. The FCC blog recently stated

“We plan to remain engaged with the public on ways in which the FCC can be more efficient and effective, and we encourage you to continue to submit your ideas to innovation@fcc.gov. We are always open to your thoughts and ideas.”

We hope readers respond to this call and ask for more effective recognition of outstanding work by career civil servants.

While the FCC made no announcement of these awards, here is a statement from Rep. Anna G. Eshoo that was in the May 16, 2013 Congressional Record:

OET Chief Julius Knapp
Ms. ESHOO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Julius Knapp and Evan Kwerel on receiving Presidential Rank Awards. Every year the President confers these prestigious awards to a select group of career senior executives with the designation of Distinguished Executive, and Meritorious Executive.

Last month, Julius Knapp, Chief of the Federal Communications
Commission's (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology and a dedicated
agency employee for nearly 39 years, received the Distinguished
Executive Presidential Rank Award. This award recognizes Julius for his
ongoing work to unleash new technological innovation.

OSP Senior Economic Advisor Evan Kwerel
Evan Kwerel, the FCC's Senior Economic Advisor and a 30-year agency employee, received the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award. As the “father of FCC spectrum auctions”, Evan was recognized for his keen economic analysis that has made an extraordinary impact on modern communications policy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the entire House to join me in congratulating Julius Knapp and Evan Kwerel on receiving these very special awards and
for their dedicated years of service to the Federal Communications Commission and to the people of our nation whom they have served in an
exemplary fashion.

Now perhaps there was an understanding in the Administration to
not announce these awards officially for some reason, although lists of the awardees were obtained by various newsletters. In addition, DOE, Air Force, and Army have announcements on their own websites about their awardees.

At the Commission’s September meeting, the almost annual Excellence in Engineering Awards were given out. In a November 2010 post here entitled “FCC Excellence in Engineering Awards: The Continuing Inattention to Publicizing Excellence” and a March 2008 post entitled “Excellence in Engineering: Why the Secrecy at FCC?” we pointed out the lack of information about these awards and how the analogous Excellence in Economic Analysis awards have often been better publicized. Well this year both awards got no public announcement other than what was said at the meeting. For the record here are this year’s winners. First 2 individual awards and then 2 team awards:

  • Janet Young (WTB) - for  work on PCS H Block Proceeding
  • Timothy Harrington (OET) - for work on technical standards for cellular boosters (Docket 10-4)
  • John Healy, Julia Tu, Michael Caiafa, Jerome Stanshine (PSHSB) - for report on derecho storm’s impacts to communications
  • Gary Westby and Gregory Cunningham (EB-Detroit)  - for study of how to measure power flux density in 700 MHz band at US/Canada international border

Our congratulations to all the awardees mentioned above for their contributions to advancing the telecom industry through dedicated public service. Let’s hope that in future years FCC doesn’t have to wait for bloggers to ferret out such news of staff excellence and contributions to the telecom community.
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