E leven government employees will be cited for their extraordinary achievements in science and program management at the 56th annual Arthur S. Flemming Awards ceremony this evening.

The Flemming Awards recognize public servants with three to 15 years of experience for their contributions to the federal government. The award is named after the longtime public servant, Medal of Freedom recipient and president of three universities who died in 1996.

One of the award winners, Air Force Maj. Stephon James Tonko, said he was honored to have been selected and praised the program as "a great way to recognize public service."

Tonko was cited by the awards commission for leading an effort to use "key space capabilities" to support combat troops after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He was the program manager for 13 classified space and intelligence programs and a $4 billion global system while assigned to the Space Superiority Materiel Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base. In 2004, he used his program management skills to save the Air Combat Command more than $10 million and leveraged an additional $25 million to rescue an Air Force Space Command system from budget cuts, according to the commission.

Asked about his work, Tonko said his efforts have been directed toward looking for solutions in outer space than can help war fighters on the ground.

"Space is part of our everyday lives now," he said. "It has gone way past the moonwalks. There are a lot of different applications."

Tonko began his Air Force career 13 years ago as a missile launch officer and has worked in various fields, including satellite testing and space program acquisition, and as a staff officer focusing on programs and budgets.

"I've been fortunate to work with some sharp and smart folks in the space business," he said. In working on programs, he said, his philosophy has been to "be educated and stay engaged" and strive for smart decisions when using taxpayer dollars.

Tonko, a native of northern Minnesota, is the executive officer for the director of Air Force space acquisitions, based in Rosslyn.

This year's award winners are:

For scientific contributions -- Jose E. Barrera of the Air Force, Keith L. Cartwright of the Air Force, Daniel A. Fischer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Steven R. Jefferts of the NIST, Keith R. Lykke of the NIST, Gareth Wyn Parry of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Paul D. Schirmer of the Air Force and Jun Ye of the NIST.

For program management -- Jeanette Meixner Franzel of the Government Accountability Office and Daniel I. Gordon of the GAO and Tonko.

David M. Walker, the head of the GAO, will deliver the keynote address at the ceremony at George Washington University. The event is sponsored by BearingPoint Inc., Science Applications International Corp. and Touchstone Consulting Group.

Labor Talks

Closed-door talks between Pentagon officials and labor leaders over the Defense Department's plans to create a new personnel system have ended. The talks, which began April 18, concluded with a two-day session last week.

In a statement, Mark Roth, general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees, said of the talks, "I never participated in a greater exercise in futility."

A Defense spokeswoman, however, said the department "gained a great deal from the process and will make several recommended changes to the proposed regulation as a result of union input."

Union leaders will meet with Gordon England, the acting deputy defense secretary, and Dan G. Blair, acting director at the Office of Personnel Management, mid-month for a review of the talks, but a spokesman for a labor coalition said he doubted that the session would resolve major differences over collective bargaining rights and other issues.


John P. Cullen, a senior weapons test engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren Division, is retiring after more than 38 years of federal service.

Les Gray, deputy commissioner of the Federal Supply Service at the General Services Administration, retired June 3 after 34 years of federal service. During his career, he led a number of GSA organizations and was the first assistant commissioner for the Office of Vehicle Acquisition and Leasing Services.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com