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News Release

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director Acknowledges "Unsung Heroes" in IT for Improving Agency Operations and Increasing National Security

Director James re-states Administration’s support for veterans’ preference in employment for returning servicemen and servicewomen

Washington, D.C. -- Kay Coles James, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, today congratulated 10 award-winning civil servants from federal and local governments who were honored by a Washington media group for using information technology to improve their agencies'operations.

Speaking at the Government Computer News Management Leadership Conference, which sponsored the award, James called the honorees "unsung heroes" who often work behind the scenes but have gained the respect of the American public. She compared their dedication to public service to the first-responders and other federal employees who "committed a million acts of quiet defiance" when they returned to work the day after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"There is a new attitude out there since 9/11," said James. "People have come to respect our first-responders, as well as the rest of our hard-working and dedicated civil servants who are taking bad systems and turning them into better ones that deliver quality service to all Americans."

Award winners included a Department of Navy civilian who developed a web portal that senior Navy leaders can use from dispersed areas; a Social Security Administration employee who has brought agency services to more people via the Internet or automated phone systems; and, a National Institutes of Health employee who has helped connect a large community of federal researches through his work in enterprise architecture.

On the topic of America's debt to veterans, James repeated a theme that has held a prominent place in her remarks since becoming the OPM Director and which strikes at the heart of the Bush Administration's support for military fighters.

"I want to renew our commitment to veterans' preference, and I defy anyone to say that when our servicemen and servicewomen return after fighting on the front lines, they should not be eligible to work on the front lines of the civil service."

On a related item, James said world events require the federal government be positioned to offer competitive compensation to qualified job applicants.

"This is a time when our country needs its best and brightest, so it is incumbent upon us to have pay systems that reward people for doing stellar work. The system we have today doesn't honor the service of the individuals we recognize here today."

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