Correction to This Article
The Federal Diary column in the Feb. 27 Business section incorrectly described an analysis of federal retiree health benefits by the Congressional Budget Office as a recommendation. The CBO presents options for altering federal spending and revenue but does not endorse policy changes or make recommendations.

Honoring the Stars of Government

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Oscars are over. It's time to pick up the red carpet and move on to the Sammies.

Nominations for the 2007 Service to America Medals, presented annually to honor government employees for their achievements and commitment to federal service, are being accepted at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

The deadline for submitting nominations, at, is March 8. The medals, which are presented at a gala dinner, are accompanied by cash prizes -- from $3,000 to $10,000.

Unlike the stars of the silver screen, most federal employees work behind the scenes and rarely on camera. Previous medal winners include the Federal Trade Commission team that created the National Do Not Call Registry, a federal scientist leading the effort to prepare for a catastrophic flu pandemic, and an Internal Revenue Service employee responsible for the e-file system that speeds tax refunds.

Nicole Nelson-Jean of the Energy Department won the award in 2004, when she was 28, for leading a U.S. delegation to negotiate an agreement with Russian officials to help secure Russian nuclear weapons. She went on to serve as director of the Energy Department's Asia office in Tokyo and currently heads the department's North and South American threat-reduction office.

Winning the award, she said, renewed her appreciation for government service and has brought her opportunities to speak up for public service. "It is an unfortunate image of federal workers, or the civil service, that you get stuck in a job that is bureaucratic, and not fun, and that you don't meet interesting people," Nelson-Jean said. "That is so untrue. It is so not that."

The partnership was founded by businessman Samuel J. Heyman in 2001 to call attention to the importance of federal service and to help improve the way the government works. Max Stier serves as the partnership's president and chief executive.

The group recently received a $4 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation to finance two projects over the next four years.

Stier said the partnership will launch the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Federal Leadership Institute, and the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Public Service Speakers Bureau this year. The late Walter H. Annenberg was an ambassador to London, and Leonore Annenberg was the U.S. chief of protocol during the Reagan administration.

The leadership institute will focus on mid-level federal supervisors and help build their management skills, while the speakers bureau will send federal employees to college campuses to talk up government careers.

The 2007 winners of the Service to America Medals will be honored at a Washington gala in September. Campbell Brown, a NBC News anchor and correspondent, will be the master of ceremonies, the partnership said.

Tempting Target

Federal retiree health benefits just keep showing up on budget-cutting tables.

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