U.S. Department of Homeland Security Recognizes 266 Employees at Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – On October 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosted an awards ceremony at DHS Headquarters to celebrate the workforce. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Kristie Canegallo officiated the ceremony, where 266 employees received a Secretary’s Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the mission. 

“Every day, the men and women of the Department respond to cyberattacks; save lives by sea and air; secure our nation’s borders and critical infrastructure; and deploy across the country to help Americans recover from disasters; and so much more. Their achievements aren’t only on the front lines, but also extend behind the scenes to modernize and streamline the Department’s processes in order to better relationships between the Department and the people we serve,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “It is the honor of my life to lead this Department and to recognize some of the extraordinary public servants who safeguard our nation and keep us all safe.” 

“From providing grant funding and prevention strategies to keep houses of worship and schools safe; to sharing information with state and local law enforcement and other partners about how the threat landscape is changing and how they can keep their communities safe; to facilitating the safe travel of American citizens and their families who might be fleeing the conflict – this is the work of our Department,” said Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Kristie Canegallo. “I am so proud to be part of this work alongside each of you, day in and day out.”

The DHS Secretary’s Awards are an annual program that recognizes the extraordinary individual and collective achievements of the workforce. This year’s award recipients improved the efficiency of processing noncitizens at the Southwest Border, deployed across the country to respond to natural disasters, investigated cybercrime, created a new streamlined process for adjudicating asylum applications, safely and securely resettled nearly 100,000 evacuated Afghans in the United States, provided resources for organizations to enhance their cybersecurity resilience, established a process for Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge, secured the 2022 midterm elections, and demonstrated heroism by acting quickly and courageously to save lives in harrowing circumstances.

This year, DHS is holding ceremonies across the country, honoring over 1,300 employees. Earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas unveiled 12 priorities for the Department, including a commitment to champion the workforce and transform the employee experience.

“Working at DHS means so much to me, primarily for two reasons. The first, the opportunity to work with great teammates on a daily basis; second, to work on some of the most challenging issues that face our country and to work with schools with schools on a daily basis to improve their safety and security,” said Deputy Associate Director for School Safety with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Don Hough.

The 266 employees presented with awards at this ceremony for excellence and heroic actions include:

  • Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal Award 
    • Shields Up Campaign: Safeguarding Americans against retaliatory or spillover cyber incidents stemming from Russia’s ground war in Ukraine, CISA started a campaign in late 2021 to warn critical infrastructure owners and operators to put their “Shields Up” and protect their systems from potential Russian cyber-attacks intended to deter the United States from assisting Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
      • Karen Attardo, Mary Blackmoor, Erin Buechel Wieczorek, Troy De Lucia, Adam DeLuca, Seth McKinnis, Ginger Norris, Jennifer Pedersen, Mark Stidd, and Connor Xavios
  • Secretary’s Meritorious Service Silver Medal Award 
    • DHS National Capital Region Security Team: Following the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, DHS played a central role in developing durable solutions that materially improve the security of the National Capital Region (NCR). The DHS team played a key role in improving information and intelligence sharing; finalizing an agreement to conduct annual joint enforcement exercises in the NCR with federal state and local partners; developing an action plan to improve wireless communications in the NCR for first responders during emergencies and creating an interagency federal “playbook” for responses to short/no-notice crises.
      • Scott Breor, Robert Dew, Thomas Gagnon, Heather Bartholomew, Holly Fuller, Matthew O’Shea, Teddy Robinson, Eric Soucie, MaryAnn Tierney, Richard Cline, Christopher Hayes, Clifford Hughes, Dontrice Parry, Gabriel Russell, James Dunlap, Trevor Wilson, David Ceasar, Patrick Bruce, Shawn Phillips, Jason Ackleson, Anne Armstrong, Edward Fluhr, Teresa Kennedy, and Matthew King
    • Ms. Kathryn Anderson: Kathryn played a key leadership role in executing Operation Allies Welcome and standing up Uniting for Ukraine. Ms. Anderson is a policy expert on temporary protected status, who is frequently called on by the Secretary. Kathryn received consistent recognition for her work across the department from USCIS and DHS leadership.
    • Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) Team: CRCL Programs and Compliance staff made substantial contributions towards ensuring that policies and programs relating to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) wind-down and court-ordered MPP reimplementation protected the civil rights and civil liberties of MPP enrollees. CRCL did this by closely collaborating with colleagues throughout the Department at DHS HQ, CBP, and USCIS, along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and innovating with new approaches to its oversight role to provide timely and actionable advice.
      • Elizabeth Dallam, Marian Drake, Regina Germain, Andrea McIntosh, William McKenney, Peter Mina, Jose Pitti, Victoria Porto, Victoria Porto, Natalie Prokop, Dana Salvano-Dunn, Carlos Tigreros, Rebekah Tosado, and Carol Wu
    • Operation Xeno: HSI Miami led a high-profile national security investigation involving a prolific Special Interest Undocumented Individual (SIUI) human smuggling network based in Pakistan that was deemed an Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) investigation. As a direct result of the investigative team’s tireless efforts, groundbreaking collaboration, and innovative investigative skills, the impending disruption and dismantlement of this Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) will directly and positively impact the National Security of the United States.
      • Samuel Assad, Steven Greskovic, Jay Bauer, Cynthia Parson, Kristina, Robinson, and Laura Peters
    • Unified Coordination Group (UCG): The Operation Allies Welcome Unified Coordination Group worked to coordinate the U.S. government’s effort to welcome and resettle Afghan refugees following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This team helped shift the U.S. government resettlement system from handling less than 10,000 refugee resettlement cases per year to a projected 100,000 in a year. The OAW UCG team went above and beyond to serve those who stood alongside the United States.
      • Maria Pastrana Lujan, Peter Mina, Haris Tarin, Maria Bailey, Keva Ballard, Dawn Bissinger Clark, Gary Butler, Kevin Coleman, Richard Douthit, Patrick Jameson, Jeffrey Knudson, Alicia Lee, Amanda Lemminga, Rachel Locke, David Morse, Jenna Nelson, Benjamin Redmond, Teagan Reese, Karen Shatin, Philip Shaw, Daniel Snedden, Eric Soucie, John Fabbricatore, William Kloiber, Hamza Rahman, James Stull, Beth Baden, Scott Brenner, Janel Cloutier, Polly Hall, Grace Lee, Katherine Mash, Shelley Mayo, Reginald McDonald, Raul Montilla, Jacob Braun, John Gereski, John Havranek, Kara Lynum, Herbert Wolfe, Angelo Fernandez, Scott Genzink, Karinda Washington, Nathan Adams, Shawn Phillips, Ivan Zapata, Nathaniel Snyder, Nicholas Hilarczyk, Lori Archer, Russell Booker, Kate Higgins-Bloom, Michael Keleher, Michael Molnar, Cayley Miller, Jeffrey Noyes, Michael Ruwe, Kevin Thornton, Nicolas Tymoczko, Ademide Adedokun, Eileen Earnhardt, Regina Garza, Lanny Hicks, John Lafferty, Elizabeth O’Brien, and Robert O’Malley
    • Uniting for Ukraine and Lawful Pathways Legal Team: The Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) and Lawful Pathways Legal Team rendered exceptional service to the Department and the United States in advising on, developing, and coordinating the lawful establishment of innovative processes by which Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion and certain other noncitizens may be vetted and receive advance authorization to travel to the United States.
      • Julie Koller, Louisa Slocum, Esther Allred, Nader Baroukh, Melissa Bauder, Rene Browne, Jennifer Daskal, Timothy Dodd, Danny Fischler, Julia Follick, Brian Kelliher, Kara Lynum, Christina McDonald, Cathy Ng, Dominique Park, Katherine Ruh, Mary Schnoor, Laura Smith, and Colleen Zengotitabengoa
    • Illegal Charters Enforcement Team
      • Jeremy Holman and Andrew Sanchez
  • Secretary’s Award for Leadership Excellence:
    • 2022 Election Security Team: CISA worked with all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to secure the 2022 election. This work included hundreds of election infrastructure security assessments and cybersecurity vulnerability scanning in hundreds of jurisdictions.
      • Kathryn Babbin, Sebastian Fischer, Mitchell Freddura, Anna Guiseppe, Erin Horbal, Scott Mcconnell, Michael Moser, Amy Nicewick, Adriana Stephan, James Tipton, Jason Wells, Scott Wetzel, and Alexander Zaheer
  • Secretary’s Award for Innovation
    • Addressing the Threats to HCBUs: In response to the threats to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) throughout 2022, CISA mobilized resources such as its Protective Security Advisors (PSA) to reach out to all 108 Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country to provide support. As a result, new relationships were created with 56 HBCUs and received requests for assistance from 37 HBCUs. Additionally, CISA conducted 27 courses in bombing prevention, trained more than 1,300 participants, and delivered over 1,500 products. CISA also conducted an active shooter preparedness webinar across the 16 affected states and communities with 348 registered attendees.
      • William Byrd, Sean Haglund, Guy Johnson, Richard McKee, Jason Stewart, and Curtis Tilley
    • CISA’s School Safety Task Force: CISA’s School Safety Task Force demonstrated exceptional leadership, innovation, and dedication developing two products to support K-12 schools strengthening of security against a range of threats. The team launched the K-12 School Security Guide Product Suite, and the Grants Finder Tool to address a critical gap to supply imperative resources to schools. The team went beyond normal job duties to integrate human centered design principals for both products wherein K-12 community members were directly engaged to help ensure both products met community needs, providing actionable steps and meaningful recommendations.
      • Lindsay Burton, Don Hough, Aimee Manjarres, Kaitlin Ross, Ryan Streeter, Julia Treanor
    • DHS Intelligence Mobile Application Team: In 2022 a multifaceted team of senior leaders, directors, IT managers, and technical experts in engineering and software were able to deliver a key homeland security information sharing tool, the DHS Intelligence Mobile Application. This new DHS (Intelligence) mobile device application provides vetted State, Local, Tribal,Territorial (SLTT) and federal partners an “on the go” capability to consume raw and finished unclassified intelligence on their professional iPhone and Android telecommunications devices. The DHS Intel App enables users to view and search for multiple categories of intelligence information.
      • Stevie Davis, Max Lassiter, Tony Sanchious, Benjamin Stefano, Lori Vislock, Anil Dewan, James Lanoue, Bruce Shortnacy, and Courtney Winship
    • HACK DHS Crowdsourced Vulnerability Assessment Services Integrated Program Team: The Secretary approved a multi-year program to execute bug bounties using proven crowd-sourced cybersecurity assessment methodologies. The relentless dedication and work of the HACK DHS Crowdsourced Vulnerability Assessment Services (CVAS) integrated program team (IPT) in advancing the DHS mission is serving as a catalyst for pioneering crowdsourced devices on an enterprise-wide scale within DHS.
      • Christian Cosans, Hemant Baidwan, Wendy Core, Amanda Day, Joan Dejesus, Anil Dewan, Sohl Han, Lawrence Knachel, Martha Palacio, Brenda Peterson, Matthew Ryan, and Kazankina Stewart
    • Homeland Security Start-Up Studio Team: The Homeland Security Startup Studio (HSSS) Team identified promising technologies from U.S. laboratories and research centers and matched them with top-tier entrepreneurs to launch new ventures aimed at commercializing OHS-relevant technologies. In doing so, the HSSS Team established partnerships and promoted entrepreneurship to enable the delivery of innovative technologies and other federally funded research and development (R&D) outcomes to homeland security end users to maximize their impact.
      • Benjamin Henry, Megan Mahle, Jennifer Peters, Kalpana Reddy, and John Rein
    • Base Galveston Family Assessment Support Tool (FAST) Implementation Team: The Family Assessment Support Tool Team developed, prototyped, and deployed an IT system to improve the Coast Guard’s ability to track and care for USCG families and personnel impacted by contingency events. This tool identifies and expedites initial contact with members/families in need and tracks the specific types of assistance needed. The information provided allowed the USCG to streamline support services and entitlement delivery while monitoring performance against service level standards.
  • Secretary’s Award for Team Excellence
    • Cyber Safety Review Board Team: This cross-Component team worked tirelessly to stand up a new board comprised of respected luminaries drawn from across the Federal Government and private sector, working through a range of novel policy, legal, and operational challenges. This team also supported the CSRB’s inaugural review of the log4j vulnerability–one of the most serious software vulnerabilities ever seen– and delivered a timely report to the Secretary and to the President. The results of the CSRB’s review have been widely praised across the international cybersecurity community and have helped drive actions to make our government networks and critical infrastructure more secure.
      • Dan Ahr, Elizabeth Gauthier, Helen Jackson, Stephen Jamrozy, Rachel Liang, Erin McJeon, Celinda Moening, Kaiya Pontinen, Megan Westmoreland, Kate Whitehead, Michael Goad, Brian Puchalsky, Abby Deift, Kimberly Gajewski, Gabriel Kohan, and Jonathan Murphy
    • Cybersecurity Performance Goals: In October 2022, CISA released a set of cross-sector Cybersecurity Performance Goals (CPGs) to establish a common set of fundamental cybersecurity practices for critical infrastructure, with a particular focus on helping small and medium sized organizations many of which form the supply chain of our major corporations to improve their cybersecurity efforts.
      • Daniel Bardenstein, Peter Colombo, and Rachel Russo Gaiser
    • Hack DHS Bug Bounty Team:  In FY22, DHS launched the Hack DHS Bug Bounty Event, a private, invitation-only vulnerability assessment of five of the department’s most critical systems. The “Hack DHS” bug bounty program has directly led to the discovery of more than 180 vulnerabilities in public-facing DHS systems. The Hack DHS Bug Bounty Team also represented DHS in interactions with the security researcher community and bounty program vendor.
      • Christian Cosans, Dave Mooney, and Shondalyn Smith
    • Stand Up of the CISA Contracting Office: This team lead the efforts to stand up CISA’s contracting office within the Office of the Chief Acquisition Executive and obtained delegated Chief of the Contracting Office (COCO) authorities within 10 months, instead of the 2+ years it was originally projected to take. The COCO authorities allowed CISA to support the DHS office of Procurement Operations (OPO) with some end of year contract actions, and for the first time internally supported more than 20 new contracting actions. It also allows CISA’s new contracting office to execute all new unclassified contracting actions within CISA beginning in FY23, a first for the agency.
      • Juan Arratia, Joanne Battaglia, Meghan Gilmore, and Amy Knight
    • Pay Parity and Workforce Enhancement Team: The TSA Pay Parity and Workforce Enhancements Team worked collaboratively analyzing and calculating the funds necessary to support pay parity. As a result, TSA’s funding requests were included in the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget and ultimately in the recently enacted fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending bill, allowing TSA to begin implementation of pay parity, expanded collective bargaining for non-supervisory screening workforce, and funding MSPB appeal rights for TSOs.
      • Elisabeth Ambrozaitis, Stephen Barker, Jennifer Ellison, Annemarie Juhlin, Tom Regan, Kimberly Rhodes, and Karen Terhaar
    • Unified Command Group: On the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the President directed the Secretary to lead the coordination of domestic preparedness and response activities associated with the crisis. The Unified Coordination Group established to fulfill this responsibility brought together individuals from across the Department and worked across the interagency to quickly put in place processes and plans to address potential threats to the homeland from Russia and its proxies.
      • Jacob Anderson, Lilian Colon, Scott McConnell, Heather Bartholomew, Anthony Battaglia, Katherine Peterlin, Emma Poon, Andrew Sabata, Keith Turi, John Havranek, Alfred Bender, Eric Falcon, Ilisa Weinberg, Jonathan Lesieur, and Andrea Molina
  • Secretary’s Champion of Equity Award:
    • DHS Equity Task Force Leadership Team (ETF): Thanks to the Equity Task Force (ETF) Leadership Team’s tireless efforts, the Department delivered impressive results in furtherance of the Biden Administration’s equity priorities. Adopting a strategic, enterprise-wide approach, the ETF Leadership Team demonstrated a consistent record of high standards of achievement and innovation, championing equity throughout the Department and enhancing the Department’s long-term capabilities to deliver equity for members of underserved communities.
      • James Allen, Kimberly Bandy, Amelia Demopulos, Nicole Enke, Sara Fernandez, Fatimah Mateen, Brian Parsons, John Sim, Rebekah Tosado, Veronica Venture, and Carolyn Washington
    • Gender Equity and Mobility (GEM) Team: The Gender Equity & Mobility (GEM) Employee Association officially established I&A’s first employee association focused on advocating for gender equity and equality in the workplace and driving a series of initiatives to champion these efforts. GEM sponsored Women’s History Month series of events, including a flag raising ceremony honoring the women’s suffrage movement, a panel presentation on the experiences of women in the federal government, establishing women’s senior leader mentoring sessions, and several networking socials. The GEM employee association has promoted awareness of gender issues and challenges, improved the working environment and leadership opportunities for gender minorities, and significantly boosted employee confidence and morale among underrepresented genders.
      • Tess Hyre, Elizabeth Almeida, Oliver Clark, Rose Herrera, Courtney Johnson, Nicole Leigh, Acadia Roessner, and Gordon Walker
    • Promoting Girls in Cyber:  Supporting the Director’s “50% by 2030 Challenge,” CISA created partnerships & supporting events to get more women & girls interested in cybersecurity. Efforts included a partnership with the Girl Scouts USA, and Girls Who Code, the Women’s History Social Media Campaign, which featured six women who work in the cybersecurity field, including the exciting work CISA employees are doing. The social media campaign had over 1 million impressions and almost 17,000 engagements across CISA’s social media platforms. The team also coordinated speaking engagements, conferences, and recruitment events with non-profit organizations targeting minorities, women, young girls, and STEM/tech/ cybersecurity. 
      • Kenneth Bradley, Ashleigh Hansen, Wendell Jose, Corliss McCain-Rouse, Marilyn Stackhouse, Ashley Truluck, and Wayne Williams
  • Secretary’s Award for Volunteer Service
    • Sunny Wescott: Sunny Wescott is the InfraGard Maryland Vice President, a volunteer position involving planning presentations, engaging stakeholders, hosting meetings, and managing the financial security of the chapter through donations. In her first year as a Federal employee, Sunny did an exemplary job representing CISA to the InfraGard community. InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. It is an association of persons who represent businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States.

DHS has the third largest workforce of any federal department, behind the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department is home to more than 92,000 sworn law enforcement officers, the greatest number of law enforcement officers of any department in the federal government. DHS has committed to increasing the representation of women in law enforcement or related occupations at DHS to 30% by 2023. Over 54,000 veterans, or nearly 21% of the workforce, continue serving their country by working at DHS.

DHS operational components interact more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other federal department, from travelers moving through air, land, and sea ports of entry, to businesses importing goods into the country, to immigrants applying for services. To learn more about the impact DHS makes every day, visit: DHS.gov/TodayDHSWill

Last year, DHS launched a hiring initiative recruiting hundreds of experts in digital user experience and design for the Customer Experience Program. DHS is working to improve the overall experience for those accessing government services and benefits by accepting mobile driver’s licenses, reducing processing times for immigration benefits, and simplifying FEMA policies when applying for assistance.

For the full list of awardees, visit DHS.gov/2023-Secretarys-Awards.



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