Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Sen. Kaufman, on Floor, Honors Brian Persons, Executive Director of the Naval Sea Systems Command

June 10, 2009

Mr. President, I wish to speak about our excellent Federal workforce.

In my years of government service, I have met so many wonderful people who give so much of themselves for the benefit of us all. That is why I believe it essential for the American people to have confidence in our Federal employees.

Americans need to know that they can place their trust in those charged with carrying out the people's work.

Our government is filled with talented individuals performing their jobs with excellence.

I cannot count--I literally cannot count--the Federal employees who deserve to be praised here in this Chamber, because that number is so great. But I hope to share one story today that is exemplary of our civil servants overall.

The ancient philosophers used to compare the government of a state with that of a vessel at sea.

In order to keep the ship afloat, to keep it headed in the proper direction, it required a captain and crew who were disciplined and responsible. Moreover, everyone on board--down to the lowest rank--had a job to do, and every task was critical.

So it is with government.

Every Federal employee, no matter how large or small one's job, keeps our ship of state afloat and sailing ever onward.

I have not chosen to reference this analogy by chance. Rather, it fits well with the story of a hardworking and accomplished civil servant whom I wish to recognize today.

I spoke earlier about the effect of engineers on our economy and our communities. The Federal employee I honor today has spent more than a quarter of a century working as a civilian engineer for the Navy Department.

Although today Brian Persons has risen to become executive director of the Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, he began his public service as a ship architect at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. A Michigan native and graduate of Michigan State with a degree in civil engineering, Brian went to work in 1981 for the Navy Department, designing and maintaining the ships of our fleet. Brian distinguished himself in the design division at Long Beach, and he was made a supervisory architect within a few years. While there, he worked on overhauls of surface ships, including the great battleships U.S.S. New Jersey and the U.S.S. Missouri. In 1988, when the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine in the Persian Gulf, the Navy sent Brian to Dubai to provide analysis and repair options.

Although he was only asked to spend a week in the gulf, Brian remained with the stricken vessel for 45 days until it was again seaworthy.

Describing the experience years later, he said:

I am still amazed at the authority I was given to execute this project. I was lucky to have such an opportunity at such an early stage in my career.

I want our Nation's graduates to know that careers in public service are full of opportunities like the one given to Brian.

Federal employees at all levels get to work on exciting and relevant projects every day.

After his superb performance in Dubai, Brian was given a series of challenging jobs in the NAVSEA Commander's Development Program. Just 10 years after he first began his career, the Navy Department promoted Brian to be the director for maintenance and modernization under the assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition. In this role, which he held for 5 years, he was responsible for overseeing policy on ship maintenance and modernization as well as the Navy's nuclear, biological, and chemical protection programs.

Brian returned to NAVSEA in 1996 and has worked in various roles there over the past 12 years. For his dedicated service in government, Brian was honored with a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2004 and won the prestigious Distinguished Presidential Rank Award last year. This year, he was appointed as executive director of NAVSEA, its most senior civilian executive.

In addition to his work as an engineer and a manager, throughout the years Brian has served as a role model for those working with him, including a number of colleagues from traditionally underrepresented minority groups, whom he has mentored as they sought leadership positions in the Department.

This is truly the kind of service and mentorship we need to promote among engineers and other science professionals. Engineers can play an important role in bettering our communities and promoting education among our students.

I am glad we were able to include funding for service opportunities of this kind in the Serve America Act earlier this year. I call again on my colleagues and on all Americans to join me in recognizing the contributions of Brian Persons and all of the engineers, scientists, and technicians who continue to ensure that our ships of state remain seaworthy and on a forward course.

I honor their service and that of all our hard-working Federal employees.

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

Print this Page E-mail this Page