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1980 Presidential Rank Awards for the Senior Executive Service Remarks at the Awards Ceremony

September 09, 1980

Scotty Campbell and fellow Government employees, it's a pleasure to be with you. Also, I hope all of us have long years of service in the future in Washington. [Laughter]

I've just come back from a very fine visit to New Jersey to see a new steelplant that is exciting for an engineer and a President to observe. This is the most modern steelplant in the world. Each employee produces 1,340 tons of steel per year, including all the executive management. This is the highest productivity per steelworker in the world. They use 30 percent as much energy as the former steelplants used. They make steelrod of the highest quality, and 50 percent of it, you might be interested in knowing, is sold at this time to the People's Republic of China, successfully competing in price half the world away with the Japanese steelplants that are much closer. The dynamism and competence of our own Nation and its free enterprise system, in my judgment, is equaled by the dynamism and confidence and the competence of the public servants like you, who represent the American people in our Federal Government.

I came to the Presidency determined to make my own administration and the Government in general more responsive to the American public and at the same time more efficient in the delivery of services to those who look to us for leadership and for service. Since taking office, I have seen repeatedly that the key to the more effective Government, which we all desire, has been our creation of a more productive, more dynamic, and more cost-conscious Federal workforce.

In 1978, with the help of many of you assembled here, I was able to sign into law a bill which completely overhauled the civil service system of the Federal Government for the first time in a hundred years. It was a landmark achievement. It was Scotty Campbell's concept, which the Congress courageously passed for my signature. It was one of the most significant achievements of my own administration.

The Civil Service Reform Act gives Federal managers, like many of you, some of the same management incentives that have proved so effectively to make our private economy and its free enterprise system competitive and the pride of the entire world. It emphasizes performance, not just longevity. It lets us select individual public servants and reward them, and thereby in a positive way encourage others to excel.

Today's ceremony is unprecedented, and it's also long overdue, in my judgment. Too often we single out Federal managers only when there's been a problem. We focus attention only on the shortcomings of the Federal bureaucracy and our public servants. This is no way to run a government, nor any enterprise. Federal managers exert an enormous influence on us all. Your responsibilities are often staggering in their scope and complexity and difficulty. Some of you are the most important executives in America. Where we find excellence, we need to acknowledge and reward that 'excellence publicly.

I'm pleased to be present today for this distinguished executive awards ceremony to 49 men and women who've served our Nation so well. Let me say that your service to our country has been truly distinguished. You're the best of the Government's senior executives; in my opinion the best of the best. I know that the awards have already been issued to you, but I'd like to name just a few that have come to my attention personally and, I think, are representative of the entire group's achievements.

Harold Denton of the NRC has won wide praise for his performance following the Three Mile Island accident. I talked to Harold just a few hours after this accident occurred. When I went to the Three Mile Island plant the Sunday following the accident I went into the control room with Harold, and from then on I saw on television every night his calm, professional, reassuring voice letting the American people know that they need have no fear.

Chris Kraft of NASA made space travel the safest transportation in the world. He has directed, as you know, and was principal organizer of the Mission Control Center in Houston of Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo space missions, one of the most notable technological achievements in history.

Claude Farinha saved the United States Air Force $28 million through better logistics management, an achievement which would ordinarily not go recognized to the American people.

Charles Swinburn of the Department of Transportation saved taxpayers $100 million by restructuring the Amtrak route system.

I could go on and on. I'm sure that Scotty Campbell has already recognized individually what you all have accomplished. But on behalf of 240 million Americans, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, as President, thank you for what you've meant to our country.

These awards today are a solid investment for our country. The millions of dollars that you 49 people have saved, saved the taxpayer, could fund the senior executive bonuses for many decades in the future, even generations. In honoring you I hope to encourage others, all public servants, to higher levels of accomplishment. And I also want to make your excellence known to your employers, the people of America.

Thank you very much. God bless every one of you.

Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Alan K. Campbell, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, presided at the ceremony.

On the same day, the White House released an announcement on the awards for the 49 Distinguished Executives and 206 Meritorious Executives.

Jimmy Carter, 1980 Presidential Rank Awards for the Senior Executive Service Remarks at the Awards Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250828

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