- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Secret Service agents who stopped an armed man trying to get onto the White House grounds in May were recognized Wednesday with Homeland Security valor awards, along with immigration agents who responded to the Sen Bernardino terrorist shooting and officers who rescued 19 illegal immigrants from the water after their smuggler’s boat sank near San Diego.

Also earning honors for customer service were the man who oversaw the surge of approvals for Syrian refugees and the team that reviewed the applications, helping the department exceed President Obama’s goal of 10,000 refugees over the last year.

The award winners — among the hundreds who received plaudits this year — are part of Secretary Jeh Johnson’s push to boost department morale by recognizing employees for their work on and off the clock.

“We have, I hope you will agree, built a better Department of Homeland Security that you deserve,” Mr. Johnson told the employees.

Employee satisfaction, which has been the lowest of any major government department, ticked up over the last year, halting a long slide as the sprawling agency was buffeted by political and operational headwinds.

The department’s immigration agencies have had to overcome hurdles put in place by Mr. Obama’s deportation, border and refugee policies, while the Secret Service has dealt with black eyes from White House intruders and bad behavior by its own agents.

Mr. Johnson has tried to focus on the more than 240,000 employees who do everything from cybersecurity and emergency management to airport screening and manning the cutters that patrol the nation’s waters.

He managed to get a number of vacancies in top jobs filled soon after he took office in late 2013, fought for pay reforms in the immigration services and brought back awards as a way of highlighting the work that goes on across the more than a dozen components that make up the department.

“We’re at the forefront of so many vitally important national security and homeland security missions, on the front page virtually every day,” he said.

At one point while congratulating a group of recipients, an employee’s cell phone went off. Mr. Johnson motioned for the phone and took the call himself, explaining to the person on the line the important business at hand.

The crowd erupted into cheers and laughter.

The awards spanned dozens of categories and were issued to hundreds of employees. Among them were:

- Jerome Bishop, the Custom and Border Protection employee who helped streamline the process for handling inquiries from members of Congress, culling the casework backlog by 89 percent.

- Steve K. Francis, who created the Middle Eastern Law Enforcement Officers Association to promote diversity among Homeland Security officers and agents.

- Mark E. Hughes, a Secret Service employee who along with his wife founded Pets Providing Pedals, which has raised money to buy more than 1,400 bicycles for students in Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe to be able to get to and from school.

Mr. Johnson recognized several of the components that helped the administration exceed its goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016.

The refugee analysis section in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ intelligence office was granted a unit award for laying the groundwork for processing applicants. And Frank Minnick, a USCIS employee, was given a special customer service award for developing the “surge” process that allowed the agency to boost capacity at a time when it appeared the agency would fall short.

Among those winning awards for valor were Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard A. Steidell, credited with apprehending an armed, suicidal person, and Secret Service Agent Kevin D. Moloney and two colleagues who stopped a Pennsylvania man carrying a gun from breaching a White House gate.

Three CBP officers were recognized for rescuing 19 of 20 illegal immigrants who were on a fishing boat, trying to sneak into the United States when they rammed the CBP patrol boat near San Diego. Homeland Security said the three men showed “selfless courage.”

The family of the one illegal immigrant who died ended up suing the three men for wrongful death. A federal court tossed the complaint.

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