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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KAUFMAN. Mr. President, I rise again to honor our Nation's great Federal employees and, in particular, to celebrate this year's Service to America Medal winners. These are the employees we recognized in the 111st Congress.

Last night, winners of eight awards were announced by the Partnership for Public Service, a wonderful leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. One year ago, when I rose from this desk to pay tribute to the 2009 winners, I spoke about the values Federal employees embody: citizenship, hard work, a willingness to take risks, perseverance, intellect, and humility. All nine of this year's awardees exemplify these qualities.

One important value all of this year's winners share is concern for others. Whether rescuing Haitian orphans from a deadly earthquake, fighting against trafficking of minors, or helping Native Americans get access to Social Security benefits, this year's medalists have dedicated their careers and their talents to helping others. They do it for less pay--yes, less pay--and often longer hours than at jobs they could have taken in the private sector. If they receive a large compensation, it is in the form of the satisfaction that their lives are serving a meaningful purpose in service to their Nation.

This year's Federal Employee of the Year Medal was awarded to a Citizenship and Immigration Services officer who helped expedite the adoption of more than 1,100--that is 1,100--orphans in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake in January. Pius Bannis was the only American immigration official in the country working on adoption in the first weeks following the quake. He got right to work organizing temporary daycare in our Embassy and ensuring the provision of emergency supplies to Haitian orphanages, including diapers, food, water, and clean clothes.

Pius, in the midst of this Herculean effort, also had to cope with the loss of Embassy staff and their family members.

A naturalized immigrant to the United States himself, he knows firsthand the complexities of the immigration process, which makes him an outstanding CIS officer.

A resource conservation expert at the Environmental Protection Agency, Saskia van Gendt won this year's Call to Service Medal for her work on fostering green building technologies. Millions of tons of materials used in construction are disposed of each year in landfills--a third of our Nation's total solid waste. At the EPA, Saskia has created an innovative program to help spur a green revolution in construction materials. In 2007, she developed the Lifecycle Building Challenge. This annual competition engages architects, students, and builders to develop new designs that reduce the impact of buildings on the environment. Since 2008, Saskia has been working with the StopWaste grant program to encourage businesses to adopt environmentally friendly equipment. The Call to Service Medal that she won recognizes those who have achieved early in their federal careers. Saskia is just 28 years old.

Honoring those who have spent many years in Federal Government, the Career Achievement Medal was won this year by Susan Solomon, a senior scientist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. In her nearly 30 years as a government employee, Susan has been at the forefront of pioneering research into the hole in the Earth's ozone layer. Her research was critical in determining how certain consumer and industrial gases were affecting the ozone, which helped spur the landmark 1987 Montreal Protocol. Last year, Susan led a groundbreaking study that showed how the effects of carbon pollution, such as altered temperatures and changes in sea level, can linger for over a thousand years.

This year's Citizens Services Medal was awarded to a pair of officials also from Colorado. Shane Kelley and Eva Ristow work in the Denver office of the Social Security Administration. They won for their work to expand access to Social Security benefits for those living in impoverished and rural areas using an online two-way video service. For years, the SSA has had difficulties reaching those living in remote areas of the West, in particular Native Americans living on reservations. As a result, many do not know they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits that could drastically improve their families' standard of living. Shane and Eva developed an innovative Internet-based video teleconferencing system to help connect these rural communities to Social Security representatives in Denver. For those whose annual incomes can be as low as $3,000, this new connection to the SSA--thanks to Shane and Eva--has had a gigantic impact.

As Deputy Director of Intelligence and Security and Chief of Innovative Technology for the Navy's Joint Interagency Task Force South, Sandra Brooks won this year's Homeland Security Medal. Drug smugglers are constantly seeking new ways to evade our border security and customs checks. Sandy is one of the highly dedicated Federal employees working to keep one step ahead of them. Her role is to analyze information from a stream of sources and make sure it is shared quickly with the military, law enforcement, and homeland security agencies in the field. Sandy's efforts have directly led to the capture of over 20 submersible vehicles used to bring illegal drugs into our country. Her work is breaking down barriers that in the past have prevented security agencies from sharing information.

This year's Justice and Law Enforcement Medal was won by Jamie Konstas at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An intelligence analyst, Jamie helped
create a national online database used in investigations into the trafficking of minors for sex. Before this database was created, local law enforcement officials had few resources to track child victims or information on suspects after they had crossed state lines. Jamie's role is to spot connections and cross-reference clues to break cases wide open. Her tireless efforts have led to the prosecution of over 500 child predators.

The winner of this year's National Security and International Affairs Medal led a U.S. Army team at Fort Detrick, MD, that developed a new kind of medical kit to help troops wounded by roadside bombs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, improvised explosive devices--or ``IEDs''--have been used to target our soldiers and have caused many casualties. Teri Glass and her team created a unique medical evaluation kit that has allowed medics in the field to transport wounded troops more safely and efficiently to hospitals. This has significantly raised the survival rate for soldiers wounded by IEDs. The kit Teri and her team developed can convert a range of non-ambulance vehicles into medical evacuation vehicles in less than a minute, using a foldable litter, a rear-facing attendant seat, and a lift system. When not in use, all of it collapses into a portable container the size of a suitcase and can fit in the back of a vehicle. Commanders in the field have credited this device as saving the lives of countless servicemembers.

Last, but certainly not least, the Science and Environment Medal for 2010 was awarded to the Department of Energy's Jeffrey Baker. As the Director of the Office of Laboratory Operations at the Department's field office in Golden, CO, Jeffrey has been the driving force behind the design and construction of the largest net-zero energy office building in the world. This means that the building generates as much or more energy than it consumes. Planning for the Research Support Facility began in the 1990s, when Jeffrey had a vision for a building that would not only house the Department's laboratories but also serve as an example of energy-efficiency. He oversaw the design process and construction, and the building was completed on time and on budget. Today, the General Services Administration is planning to replicate Jeffrey's approach for new federal buildings across the Nation.

All nine of these men and women are excellent examples of what government does right. They deserve our thanks and recognition. So do the 23 other finalists, as well as the thousands upon thousands of Federal employees who achieved great things this year as well.

I was proud to serve on this year's Service to America Medals Selection Committee--a blue ribbon panel that included my colleagues Senator Carper and Senator Voinovich as well as leaders from across the nonprofit and business sectors and members of the House of Representatives.

I hope all of my colleagues--and all Americans--will join me in congratulating the 2010 Service to America medalists and thanking them for their hard work on our behalf.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. KAUFMAN. Mr. President, I rise to congratulate President Obama for announcing today the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education or STEM. I rise to celebrate this incredible effort.

I have spoken many times on the floor, to outside organizations, and to a number of my colleagues individually about my passion for this issue. STEM education is a topic of personal importance to me, especially because I am the Senate's only formerly working engineer.

I truly believe, now more than ever, whether it is energy independence, global health, homeland security, or infrastructure challenges, STEM professionals will be at the forefront of the most significant issues of our time. That is not hyperbole; I believe that. STEM-educated graduates will hold the jobs of the future.

In fact, according to a study by Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce, by 2018, STEM occupations are projected to provide 2.8 million new hires. This includes over 500,000 engineering-related jobs. When I hear people talk about how we are going to create jobs and talk about the macroeconomic effects and microeconomic effects, eventually you have to have jobs. You have to have people who are ready to take those jobs. That is the only way we are going to make it through this economy. In the next 20 years, as the Georgetown study has said, there will be 2.8 million more good jobs to keep us competitive in the United States with overseas.

That is why I am so pleased that the business community has responded to President Obama's educate and innovate campaign to improve the performance and participation of American students in all the STEM fields. Launched last fall, the campaign aimed to create partnerships between Federal agencies, companies, foundations, professional societies, and other STEM-related organizations to help American students rise to the top of the pack in math and science achievements.

In response to the President's call to action, astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, along with support from the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation joined to form Change the Equation. With a membership of more than 100 companies, this nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative will replicate successful privately funded programs in 100 high needs schools and communities.

Change the Equation will be working toward three goals: One, improve STEM teaching at all grade levels; two, to inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities; and three, to achieve a sustained commitment to improving STEM education across the United States of America. I am so pleased because these are some of the same goals I have advocated for during my time in the Senate.

Many Change the Equation members, nonprofits, and foundations have already created new public-private partnerships and made commitments to meet these goals.

Public-private partnerships--that is what we need, and this is a great example.

For example, Lockheed Martin, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the National Math and Science Initiative will expand access to advanced placement classes in STEM subjects to public schools serving military families. What can be better than that? Talk about mixing everything together and coming out with something great.

HP is launching a U.S.-wide employee volunteering initiative with Donors Choose and National Lab Day. Other programs will improve professional development for STEM teachers, expand summer science camps for girls, and allow more students to engage in robotics competitions, to name a few.

If you have not seen a robotics competition, see one. It is incredible to see what these young people can do to make robotics. They can do something technologically difficult but have so much fun doing it.

All told, with the commitment made today by Change the Equation, the Educate to Innovate campaign has resulted in over $700 million in financial and in-kind support for STEM education. This is an incredible accomplishment and just the kind of public-private collaboration we need to bolster STEM education.

Yesterday I submitted a resolution commending the efforts of the entertainment industry to encourage interest in STEM, something with which our Presiding Officer is very familiar. Many in that industry have heeded President Obama's call to join the educate and innovate campaign. The key to this is to make people feel it is cool to be an engineer, a mathematician, or
scientist. What better way than to have leaders in entertainment encourage this kind of activity? It is a wonderful program.

Today, I could not be more pleased that so many of our Nation's CEOs have also paid attention to this call to action and joined together to form Change the Equation. This is wonderful news. Support for STEM education is essential--essential, essential, essential--for our economic growth and recovery. It is the future of our workplace. The American people deserve no less.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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