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The Importance of Resilience and Public Service

The Importance of Resilience and Public Service

After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, federal agencies scrambled to respond. Last night, I was privileged to be in the audience as Secretary Foxx gave one of the country’s most prestigious awards for federal service to a Federal Transit Administration employee who was instrumental in that response.

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Adam Schildge, who was awarded a Partnership for Public Service "Samuel J. Heyman Service to America" medal, or "Sammie."

Photo of Adam Schildge at the Sammies 2015 award podium
Adam Schildge accepting the 2015 Call To Service medal for professional achievements reflecting the contributions a new generation brings to public service.

Immediately after Sandy, transit systems in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, were in disarray. As Fast Lane readers might remember, the storm damaged tracks, rail yards, tunnels, power stations, bus depots and operations centers, disrupting travel for millions who were already reeling from hurricane-related losses.

At a time when restoring service and repairing systems was essential, FTA delivered emergency aid quickly and effectively. The agency set up from scratch a new program to deliver emergency relief and also look beyond storm response to improve the resilience of transit systems in the face of other future disasters. Using a new Emergency Relief Program, which Congress had approved just three months earlier, FTA formed a team to administer a $10-billion program to repair and protect America's transit infrastructure.

Once the recovery effort was underway, we turned to a young FTA staffer, Adam Schildge, to develop and execute a new grant program for resilience projects that would protect infrastructure and keep our transit systems running when the next disaster struck. To administer this new $3.6-billion resilience grant program, Adam had to go from 0 to 60.

Now, grant making is more complicated than writing a check. We disburse funds knowing that we answer to Congress and the public at large, which requires us to send open calls for applications, hold competitive reviews, and create oversight procedures.

Yes, he drafted policy guidelines and led the application reviews for the Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Resiliency program, but he took one giant step further. Adam introduced an analytic tool that compares the likelihood of an event with the potential benefits and costs of the investment. The tool helped applicants assemble better projects and it helped the Department to better evaluate them.

Beyond Hurricane Sandy, this tool will be a model for assessing resiliency benefits in transportation and, possibly, other infrastructure.

2015 Sammies winners
Our congratulations go out not just to Adam, but to all of the 2015 Sammie awardees!

This week, Adam's innovative work was recognized with the “Sammie,” which honors federal employees whose exceptional service has improved lives. The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals are known as the “Oscars of government service.” They're a huge point of pride for us Feds, and I'm thrilled to see Adam earn this honor.

This week, Adam was recognized for what I expect will be a career filled with advancing the public good. I’m also confident that the FTA grants he helped set up will result in more resilient infrastructure and safer travel for the millions who traverse the Northeast Corridor.

Adam’s award in the Call to Service category, which focuses on young federal employees, puts him in an elite group of Sammie winners that includes staff who led groundbreaking research on earthquakes, supplied people in developing nations with clean, efficient cook stoves, and helped companies and the government safeguard information systems, among other achievements.

Adam’s Sammie award is well-deserved and reflects the innovative and thoughtful work that our FTA team and public servants across the Federal government perform every day.

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