Excellence in Engineering:
Why the Secrecy at FCC?
Why the Secrecy at FCC?
The FCC has an Excellence in Engineering program to maintain and improve the quality of its technical staff. It began under Chairman Powell and apparently continues to the present. Former OET Chief Ed Thomas made it a highlight of his tenure. Chairman Powell told Congress
"I also pledged to enhance the Commission's independent technical and engineering expertise. The Commission dedicated resources to recruiting, training and retaining a solid technology-oriented workforce under our 'Excellence in Engineering' Program."OET made reference to the Excellence in Engineering program in its 2007 Annual Report to the Commission, so its continued existence must not be a total secret. (However, the fact that it is not mentioned in the recent FY 2009 Budget Estimates is a little puzzling.)
Part of the program was funding course work for FCC engineers to keep them up to date on the latest communications technology. This included paying for master's degrees for engineers who would commit to a continued study program and a postdegree commitment to work for the federal government. (Congratulations to John Kennedy of OET for being one of the first to complete such a degree!) Such financing of courses is very common in federal agencies with engineering as part of their mission and is necessary to help attract and keep good staff.
Another part of the program was annual Excellence in Engineering Awards to FCC engineers who did an outstanding job. This program has been shrouded in secrecy. But this year Commissioner Tate accidentally broke the veil of secrecy.
She apparently was the speaker at the 12/7/07 Excellence in Engineering awards ceremony that was not announced on either the FCC website or even in the FCC's Daily Digest. Is a Freedom of Information Act request needed to find out who the FCC honored for their excellence? In all fairness to the current commissioners, the recipients of these awards have never been announced.
However, in 2003, 2004, and 2006 FCC did announce the parallel Excellence in Economics award. Why engineers get the silent treatment while economists are publicly recognized is puzzling.
Comm. Tate's remarks that were published on her website:
"It is my pleasure to recognize the recipients of the FCC’s 2007 Excellence in Engineering Award. 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.I fully support Comm. Tate's remarks and hope that the rest of the Commission pays attention to them.
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. (Having recently participated at the World Radio Conference in Geneva, I know the importance of being supported with technical information when negotiating the U.S. position.) In addition, one cannot imagine our DTV transition succeeding without the expertise of many of the people in this room.
In my role as a Commissioner, I do not give a speech without telling my audience about the DTV transition and recommending they check out our website, www.dtv.gov (see, I just recommended it again). In so doing, I am directing the public to learn more about an important change that will make spectrum available for new and innovative commercial services as well as broadband for public safety service, all of which is a direct result of your efforts.
Finally, many of our fine technical staff from the Enforcement Bureau and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau were involved in Project Roll Call, which is a system that enables the Commission or FEMA to determine which radio-based systems in an area are operational and which are not. This can be a powerful tool in the event of a major disaster, attack, or power failure, because it enables federal emergency response personnel to maintain real-time situational awareness of radio communications systems.
To all recipients of the 2007 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."
After the first posting of this item, an anonymous FCC source came up with the secret list of award winners. They are
- Michael Mullinix (IB)
- Alison Greenwald Neplokh (MB)
- Kwok Chan (OET)
- James Roop (EB)
- Nazifa Sawez (MB)
- Richard Tseng (OET)
- Nathan Bohne (EB)
- Greg Hermes (EB)
- Chad Israel(EB)
Congratulations to all award winners! Sorry FCC is not proud enough about you to announce your names, but the public appreciates your achievement and I am glad to write about it here.