Jobs only the government can do — Federal Success Stories

It’s been a rough few months for federal employees, political season, conference scandals and budget cuts will do that. But there were some shining spots for some feds this summer.

It really was the summer for exceptional federal success stories. Successes that Tom Fox, the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at PPS, says only the government can do.

“There are some projects that are so cutting edge or have the scale of a natural disaster that require the size, scale and reach of the federal government. And it’s not just feds but the whole network of public servants,” said Fox.

Tom’s Moments of Federal Summer Success:

NASA’s rover Curiosity landed on Mars. The reaction of the staff at mission control during the “seven minutes of terror” was priceless, and helped remind Americans of the outstanding work, the passion and the leadership that federal employees bring to their jobs.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, Department of Defense and FEMA team up to fight wildfires in the West. When disaster struck, employees from these federal agencies responded under stressful and dangerous conditions to fight the fires, provide emergency assistance and protect lives, property and our natural resources. Specialists covered ground in Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada, and put their lives on the line in order to save the lives of others.

(Check out our interview on the new Wildfire app that firefighters out west are using.)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) improves hurricane forecasting. With hurricane season now in progress, NOAA has put to use a new statistical model to help predict the start of the “eyewall replacement cycle,” a key indicator that a storm’s strength and size is about to change dramatically. This new tool adds to a suite of forecast products NOAA uses to warn coastal communities of imminent threats.

Program exceeds hiring goals for veterans, spouses. The Department of Defenseannounced this month that a White House initiative to hire veterans and military spouses surpassed its goals, having led to the hiring or training of more than 125,000 veterans and spouses in the past year. Some 2,000 companies have hired 125,000 employees through their pledges to the “Joining Forces” campaign, and, of those, 140 employers have hired 28,000 military spouses.

The Department of Education improves student aid process. In July, the Department of Education launched a new Website and several social media tools that now make it easier for students and families to navigate the financial aid process and make informed decisions about paying for college. is the first step in a multi-phase project to provide individuals with a one-stop site where they can access federal student aid information, apply for federal aid, repay student loans and navigate the college decision-making process.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) combats Superbug .’When a deadly bacteria spread through the NIH Clinical Center last year, NIH researchers used advanced genetic technology to trace the outbreak. As a result of the attack, the NIH has put new surveillance methods in place, such as bi-weekly screenings of every patient in the intensive care unit, to help protect patients from future superbugs.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) develops new standard to provide evidence for crime cases. This new standard will allow law enforcers and forensic examiners to trace empty cartridge shells found at crime scenes back to specific firearms. According to NIST, 200,000 of these cases are recovered from crime scenes in the United States annually.

Also online

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  • Homeless veterans — it seems like an intractable problem, but VA and HUD are making a difference. We’ll talk to one of the people behind a program that has reduced veteran homelessness by 12 percent in its first year
  • In the past few years, the federal government has moved toward data transparency. And the Data Act would make federal budget transparency law. We’ll talk to the Data Transparency Coalition who says before we can have transparency we need uniform standards.
  • Find our e-mail newsletter, archives, discussions, resources.

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Dale M. Posthumus

These are great stories and deserved accolades for the agencies involved. However, I would also like to see more about the value of the public-private partnership that was likely the case in all of these successes. NASA is a good example. Only NASA could have planned, developed, prepared, coordinated, and executed this mission, but there were a large number of commercial, non-profit, and academic participants in the Curiosity mission.