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2014 FCC Excellence in Engineering Award

Readers may recall that FCC’s secrecy about recognizing the excellence of its engineers has been a recurring topic here. The Excellence in Engineering Analysis Awards were started in the Powell Chairmanship around 2003 to recognize high achievement and contribution to the FCC mission. However, until last week the awards were never publicly announced on the FCC’s vast website and only sometimes mentioned at formal Commission meetings. All that changed on 9/30/14 with this press release.

Janet Young of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is the winner of the 2014 Excellence in Engineering Analysis Award. Ms. Young, the sole FCC member of the first Technical Panel created under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, provided significant engineering analyses that shortened the transition timelines of Federal incumbents that will relocate or implement sharing arrangements with commercial licensees in two frequency bands that are part of the “AWS-3” spectrum. Her work will allow for faster deployment of new commercial services in this spectrum, which is scheduled for auction November 13, 2014.

Janet Young/WTB
Janet Young
Congratulations to Ms. Young for her achievement and its recognition!

(In previous years there were several awards to individuals as well as a group award, here is an example. This year FCC leadership apparently decided to give one big cash award rather than several small ones. Oddly in the same announcement they gave one award for Excellence in Economic Analysis even though there are a lot more engineers at FCC than economists.)

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.

FCC Acts on SpectrumTalk Criticism of Excellence in Engineeing Awards

In 2008, this blog had an item entitled “Excellence in Engineering: Why the Secrecy at FCC?” that asked why these awards recognizing excellent engineering work at FCC were given in secrecy while the parallel award for economists was usually announced publicly. In 2009 the awards were announced at a Commission meeting, but never released in writing. The secrecy for these awards has been a recurring theme here at SpectrumTalk. In some years, our spies inside FCC have leaked the names of award recipients and we have recognized them here.

It appears that finally FCC will give public recognition for outstanding work by its engineers.


The presentation took place at the 8/9/11 Commission meeting, but there was no written announcement of the 5 names. Since some of the names have unusual spellings, I am reluctant to give them here for fear of making an error. (The person doing the meeting video captioning apparently did not have a list either and just gave up when some names were announced.) The announcement starts at 49:00 on the video of the meeting and the names and nature of the award winning work are announced at 54:30-58:30 on the video.

An FCC source has provided the names of the award winners - exclusively reported here:
  • Chris Andes (WTB)
  • Palash Barua (EB)
  • Chris Miller (WTB)
  • Michael Mullinix (IB)
  • George Tannahill (OET)

Retired FCC/OET Staffer Honored by Industry for Contributions to Broadcasting Propagation Models

This week the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE) honored John C. H. Wang, an FCC/OET retiree, with this year's AFCCE E. Noel Luddy Award for outstanding technical contributions to the broadcast industry. John is one of the unsung heroes of the FCC technical staff who labor in obscurity - I doubt if anyone on the 8th Floor even knows his name - but who contribute greatly to the enabling of FCC-regulated services through putting FCC regulations on a sound technical basis. In John’s case this was a thorough understanding of skywave AM radio propagation that enabled maximum utilization of the AM band within the US and reasonable protection to and from stations in other countries. Prior to John’s work it was thought this this propagation was a solely a function of distance, john produced simple models that showed how north-south propagation was different from east-west propagation.

John retired in January 2010, after over 40 years of public service. He developed the AM skywave propagation model, which is now in Part 73 of the FCC Rules, and contributed significantly to ITU-R Rec. P.1147.

John Wang received his BSEE degree from the University of Maryland in 1959, and his MSEE degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968. He taught at Penn State before joining the technical staff of the FCC in 1969. His research interests include ionospheric propagation and has published more than 40 technical papers in different professional journals. His most important contributions to the telecommunications community include the development of a LF/MF sky-wave propagation model which forms an important part of the FCC Rules. His propagation model is now recommended by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for world-wide applications (Recommendation P.1147). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) - an honor given only to 2 other FCC engineers in recent memory.

John has been active in the Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R) since 1978. He also represented the USA to the 1980 and 1986 Radio Conferences together with several AFCCE members, and chaired the propagation groups. Although retired from the FCC, he currently still serves as the vice chairman of ITU-R Study Group 3 and the chairman of its working party on ionospheric propagation.

His avocations include astronomy, bridge and Chinese history. He has written several papers on the sightings of sunspots in ancient China and the Star of Bethlehem.

Here are John’s remarks at the award ceremony

Mr. President; Ladies and Gentleman; My former colleagues at the FCC: It is a greathonor to receive this most prestigious award. It is a great pleasure to see so manyfriends here tonight.

I was very fortunate because when I came to work for the FCC in 1969, there wasalready a very large databank in existence waiting for me to study. FCC skywavework started during WW II. Hundreds of engineers and technicians had alreadycontributed to it in the last sixty years. Tonight, standing here alone to receivethis honor, I feel somewhat guilty.

I am not going to touch the mathematics. That is left to Ron Chase and Bob Weller. I will only point out some future applications I was not able to pursue. As you areaware, the new skywave model differs from the old clear-channel curve in one majorarea. The new method contains a latitude term. Latitude is a very important factorin propagation. As a rule of thumb, skywave signal level increases by about 1 dBwhen latitude decreases by 1 degree. In other words, the old clear-channel curve,which is still the official method for ITU Region 2, over predicts field strengthsin the high-latitude areas and under predicts in the low-latitude areas.

If the new method is used between US and Canada, some existing stations may beallowed to increase power. Some stations may be allowed to extend operating hours. And there will be more stations allowed on the air. It would be a WIN-WIN situationfor both countries.

The situation in the southern hemisphere is more complicated. In US, the upper limitof power is 50 kW. In Latin America, the sky is the limit. There are many stationsoperating with 500 kW or more. In other words, their arms are longer. They cancause interference to us but not vise versa. On top of this, the skywave modelbeing used has a tendency to under predict interference levels in this part of theworld. US stations are thus in a highly disadvantageous position. By switching tothe new method, sources of interference will be more accurately identified.

The first regional broadcasting conference governing North America (or, NARBA) tookplace in 1950. Thirty years later, in 1980, another regional conference took place.It is time for the ITU to convene another round of broadcasting conferences. I amconfident when that time comes; you young engineers will be able to accomplish whatI have not been able to do. Thank you.

Congratulations, John, on this well deserved honor.

FCC Excellence in Engineering Awards: The Continuing Inattention to Publicizing Excellence

The Excellence in Engineering awards were begun under Chmn. Powell as part of a broader program of the same name. Recently we discussed how the Commission’s Gold and Silver Medals for excellence were awarded without any public announcement. At least these awards had once been publicly announced (last in 1998). But the Excellence in Engineering Awards have never been publicly announced for reasons that are hard to fathom except perhaps for the assumption that under Bush 43 no one wanted to acknowledge the excellence of career civil servants.

This blog alone announced the winners in 2007. Clearly the Commission does not intend these awards to be secret since the 2009 awards were announced at the 8/27/09 open Commission meeting although there was no written announcement. We hope that the Commission develops a more transparent process for announcing awards for staff excellence so that in the future so we will lose these annual items. We hope that outstanding FCC staffers get broader recognition than in this blog - even though we know the policy elite reads this blog.

Indeed, the only trace on the Commission website that these awards exist are the remarks of Comm. Tate at the 2007 ceremony that was not otherwise announced. Let me reprint here part of her gracious remarks:

The projects on which our engineers, scientists, and technical staff work cover – to mix metaphors a little – the full spectrum. They help ensure radio transmissions do not exceed safe levels. They help represent the interests of the United States in international negotiations.

This award recognizes engineers, scientists and other technical staff for outstanding contributions performed in the course of their work at the Commission.The engineers, scientists, and technical staff are truly the Commission’s unsung heroes. While the attorneys tell us how to follow the law, and the economists tell us what will or will not be efficient, our technical experts tell us ultimately what can and cannot be done. Without them, very little would be done.

To all recipients of the ... Excellence in Engineering Award, you have my deep respect and gratitude. The American people may be less aware of the good work you do, but they are no less indebted to you. Thank you.

But from a source deep within FCC, here are the winners of this year’s award. I have been unable to find the citations behind the awards and will add them if I get them:
  • Reuben Jusino (Enforcement Bureau)
  • Joseph Husnay (Enforcement Bureau)
  • Group Award: Jon Sprague, Greg Coons, Jay Hokanson (Enforcement Bureau)
  • Group Award: Behzad Ghaffari, Tom Peters, Pasquale Amodio, Ziad Sleem, Walter Johnston, Kurian Jacob, Yoon Chang, Jerome Stanshine (PSHSB, WTB, OET))

FCC Again Honors Top Performing Staffers in Secret

The FCC presents the Distinguished Service Award (Gold Medal) and Meritorious Service Award (Silver Medal) to employees whose accomplishments have had an extraordinary impact on the ability of the Commission to accomplish its mission. Previously these awards were publicly announced. However, the last such public announcement was in 1998. While I understand that the Republican leadership of the Commission in the Bush 43 years might have been reluctant to honor career civil servants publicly, it puzzles me why the current leadership continues the secrecy.

Nevertheless, from sources on 12th Street, SW I have the list of those who received awards on October 18th in the Commission Meeting Room:

Gold Medal

  • Val Brock, WCB
  • Bill Cline, CGB
  • James Higgins, EB
  • Michael Wagner, MB

Silver Medal

  • James Brown, WTB
  • Barbara Cutts, IB
  • Sandra Haase, OET
  • Kim Mattos, OGC

I do not know several of these people, but I worked alongside Sandra Haase and Barbara Cutts in OET (and also when Barbara moved to IB). Both are apolitical civil servants who have worked for decades improving the FCC and its role.

I also worked closely with Jim Higgins in many points in my career both when I was exiled to EB’s predecessor, FOB, and while I was in OET and its predecessor. We first met during the spread spectrum rulemaking - which is the basis of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth now. Jim helped perform an experiment that confirmed that spread spectrum that is strong enough to cause interference could also be located with standard FCC equipment. (At the time the opponents of spread spectrum were creating also sorts of specious arguments to stop it.)

Jim Higgins and you blogger ca. 1992 in Hong Kong
to measure Chinese jamming of VOA

Jim and I also worked closely on developing “fingerprinting” techniques to identify illegal transmitters and track Soviet Jamming of VOA, on the “Captain Midnight” and “Playboy” satellite jamming case. and on the first successful prosecution of a Coast Guard false distress case. Jim is now deputy regional director of EB although he is not well known on 12th Street, SW since he has always worked in Columbia MD.

My congratulations to all the award winners.
I only hope that FCC reverses course here and publicly announces these awards and gives examples of the excellent work these people have done in the public interest. We should all be proud of such excellence!


I spoke with someone who knows all the medal winners this year who confirmed that they are all mid-level long term career civil servants and that none of them are particularly close to political appointees. In the past, high level political people have sometimes received these awards. Indeed, former Managing Director Minkel received the very first “Gold Medal” “at the insistence of the commissioners”.

I am impressed that the new team focused on apolitical career civil servants exclusively.