Senior adviser, International Civil Emergency Preparedness, Office of Intelligence, Security and Emergency Response, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation.
Best known for: Being a go-to guru who provides strategic advice when major disasters strike around the globe. At 82, he has decades of experience in international emergency preparedness and response, particularly in civil aviation, and who assists the United States, the 28 NATO member countries and 22 other partner countries in crisis planning and training. Milburn retired from the Transportation Department in 1996 but four years later was back at his desk after being asked to return part time to manage a special NATO project. Twelve years later, he continues to work both as an adviser and mentor to agency employees and share his encyclopedic knowledge. When roads, bridges or other types of infrastructure are damaged, the Transportation Department works to provide transportation services to the affected areas.
Milburn helps transportation teams assess situations, asking about what solutions they’ve considered, whether they worked, and, if not, where and why problems arose. He traveled abroad recently to offer NATO input on conducting a major training exercise, revising crisis management arrangements and developing an electronic course on how to manage disasters. When there were catastrophic earthquakes in Pakistan two years ago, NATO provided humanitarian assistance and Milburn assisted with civil aviation efforts to make sure aircraft were available to deliver aid or provide other services. He also has advised military planners about resources that might be available for deploying international security forces in Afghanistan. His colleagues said his level of expertise and institutional memory are rare and invaluable.
Government work: After serving in the Army for 22 years, Milburn joined the Transportation Department in 1975 as a staff officer in the Office of Transportation Security. Three years later, he was transferred to the Office of Emergency Transportation and rose to the position of director for his last 11 years there.
Motivation for service: During his military service, Milburn was inspired to use his knowledge of transportation logistics to help the government better respond to emergencies.
Biggest challenge: While making U.S. interests the top priority, Milburn found it challenging to learn the nuances of international diplomacy when working with the many NATO countries and other partner nations, which often have had different needs and concerns.
Quote: “I feel very comfortable that we are being responsive to the needs of the public in assisting in recovery from crises or disasters, and I feel that my years of service made a positive contribution to the welfare of our nation and its people.”
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