1. Imagine trying to respond to a natural disaster that was 100 times more deadly than Hurricane Katrina. Now you have some sense of what Mark Ward’s job is like. Ward is a Senior Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and he led the agency’s response to the Asian Tsunami of December 2004, as well as the South Asia Earthquake of October 2005. Against impossible odds, Mark Ward didn’t flinch, and the efforts he has led are rebuilding communities and restoring hope for people across the globe.

    The Asian Tsunami is one of the most devastating natural disasters on record. Almost 200,000 people in eight countries perished in a few hours, and more than 100,000 are still missing. Many more had their homes and livelihoods swept away. The coastal areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka and two Indian island chains bore the brunt of the calamity.

    In his role as the head of USAID’s recovery and reconstruction efforts, Ward and a dedicated team of USAID professionals in Washington and the field worked closely with the Indonesian government and non-governmental organizations on the ground, in addition to coordinating with personnel from the Department of State, the Department of Defense and the National Security Council. Ward also served as the federal government’s primary liaison to former Presidents Bush and Clinton, who led the effort to enlist support from the private sector.

    USAID was able to respond immediately, providing life-saving food, water, medical care and shelter. The agency’s cash-for-work programs are giving families incomes. Loans, business advice and job training are helping to develop new sources of income. Under Ward’s leadership, longer-term projects to reconstruct water systems, roads and other critical systems, and create jobs, are underway.

    More specifically, USAID has helped rehabilitate 50 miles of the major coastal road in Aceh, Indonesia. It has reconstructed the 160-meter Arugam Bay Bridge in Sri Lanka which was destroyed by the tsunami, and built playgrounds for children coming home to coastal villages. It has developed a tsunami early warning system designed to save lives across the region. In India, more than 50 children's day care, recreation and non-formal schools have been established to help meet the needs of 25,000 children.

    More recently, Ward led USAID’s reconstruction efforts related to the South Asia Earthquake, which claimed more than 80,000 lives, mainly in Pakistan. In the first phase, USAID has helped established 228 tent schools, improved shelter for 550,000 people, supported the food needs for 1 million people, and provided cash-for-work opportunities to 45,000 Pakistanis. Longer term, USAID is rebuilding schools, health clinics and vocational training centers.

    Ward has also employed some innovative strategies to provide relief for the earthquake victims, placing a strong emphasis on public/private partnerships. He has identified the Pakistani community in the United States as a critical potential source of support and has spoken personally at several outreach events with Pakistani business and community leaders to enlist support. He also serves as the U.S. government advisor for the South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund. The Fund is led by the CEOs of Citigroup, General Electric, Pfizer and Xerox, and the former head of United Parcel Service, who were asked by President Bush to raise private funding for relief and reconstruction. Ward has spent countless hours advising this group on issues such as current relief efforts by the U.S. and Pakistani governments, security concerns in the affected regions, and proper mechanisms the Fund should use for disbursing payments.

    Hopefully, we will never see another natural disaster on the scale of the tsunami or earthquake. But if we do, it’s good to know that Mark Ward will be on the case.

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  2. After years of neglect, an old warehouse in downtown Pottstown, Pa., had become an indoor dump crammed with aging and deteriorating chemicals that threatened the environment and safety of local citizens. “Floor to ceiling: flammables, carcinogens, heavy metals” was how the Pottstown fire chief described Pyramid Chemical Co.’s warehouse adjacent to a hotel and a community college. Federal environmental officials put it this way: “Thousands of containers of chemicals, some stacked on top of each other, with incompatible chemicals, including flammable and poisonous chemicals, stored together. Some of the containers were rusted and corroded metal drums, and others were damaged, crushed or torn.” Even more despicable than the deteriorating warehouse and its contents was the deliberate scheme by the owner, sixty-five-year-old Joel Udell, to delay cleaning up the warehouse while having others pay to get rid of his unusable chemicals. However, thanks to the dogged efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and one of its attorneys, Martin Harrell, Udell was brought to justice and forced to clean up his act.

    In early 2000, after two years of administrative and civil efforts to get Udell to repair and empty the warehouse, local and state agencies asked EPA’s Superfund program in Philadelphia to force Udell to take action. Udell finally started moving chemicals out in the summer of 2000, even disposing of some legitimately, but he also cut corners to minimize his costs. He “sold” thousands of pounds of unusable chemicals to unsuspecting companies across the United States at pennies on the dollar simply to get them out of Pottstown. In addition, he arranged to ship 29 forty-foot-long containers—roughly 300 tons of various chemicals—by freighter to an alleged buyer in Nigeria via the Netherlands without telling anyone. Upon discovering that some of the containers were leaking when they arrived in Rotterdam and being unable to locate the purported Nigerian buyer, the Dutch government—in accordance with international law—refused to allow the cargo to proceed.

    When Udell failed to retrieve the chemicals, they sat at the port in Rotterdam for three years while Dutch authorities sought assistance from the EPA Administrator to either dispose of the chemicals or return them to the United States. While civil EPA staff took administrative enforcement action, which Udell ignored, EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the shipments and the unsafe storage site in Pottstown.

    The criminal investigation ultimately involved more than 40 witnesses in the United States and abroad, and thousands of pages of documents. It also required close coordination among American, Dutch and Nigerian agencies, including joint EPA-Dutch sampling of the chemicals in Rotterdam. The combined civil and criminal federal response led to the removal of more than 600 fifty-five gallon drums of hazardous waste, plus other waste, from the warehouse, and the incineration of more than 300 tons of chemicals in the Netherlands.

    Martin Harrell, an EPA criminal enforcement attorney, led the prosecution team after being appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia. In late 2005, he obtained guilty pleas by Udell, Pyramid Chemical and another Udell subsidiary to 15 counts of illegally storing, transporting and exporting hazardous waste in the United States and overseas. On February 14, 2006, a federal judge sentenced the defendants to pay more than $2 million in restitution and fines, with most of the money going to Dutch authorities to repay them for the storage and incineration of the chemicals dumped on them. Udell was also ordered to perform 500 hours of community service in Pottstown, and placed on home confinement for six months.

    Martin Harrell was an ideal candidate to handle this multi-jurisdictional, international case, as he is one of EPA’s leading exporters of American know-how when it comes to criminal enforcement of environmental laws. As part of a multi-agency, international team since 2000, he has developed curricula and taught environmental law enforcement to police, prosecutors and regulators in seven emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and in South Africa. His efforts have helped multiple nations learn the fundamentals of using criminal enforcement to improve environmental regulation and compliance.

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  3. When you win NASA’s Invention of the Year, chances are you’re working on some pretty complex issues that anyone without a PhD might have difficulty understanding. That’s certainly the case with the 2003 award winner Dr. Norden Huang. But while the details of Dr. Huang’s work may be difficult to comprehend, anyone who sees the practical applications of his work can grasp its importance.

    Dr. Huang’s pioneering research led to the development of the Hilbert-Huang Transform (HHT) technology, a revolutionary, adaptive set of signal-analysis algorithms. Signal analysis is the extraction of information from a signal. Unlike precursor technologies, HHT provides an effective method for analyzing nonlinear and nonstationary signals (such as those occurring in natural phenomena) while improving the accuracy of linear and stationary signal analysis. Dr. Huang began developing HHT in 1995 and continues to improve the technology. HHT was the 2003 NASA Government Invention of the Year and was cited as “one of the most important discoveries in the field of applied mathematics in NASA history.”

    The importance of Dr. Huang’s research on HHT is well demonstrated by the benefits and versatility the technology offers to a wide variety of fields.

    Within NASA, Dr. Huang’s work with HHT is benefiting analysis of wing-flutter tests and the next generation of aircraft design. His research has also contributed to shuttle mission safety by using HHT to test the tiles that insulate the shuttle in space for the Shuttle Return to Flight Project. HHT also helps NASA look for additional planets and black holes.

    HHT also might become a useful weapon in the war on terror. Federal investigative organizations are working to incorporate this technology into systems to analyze speech patterns and identify individuals in recordings in forensic examinations.

    The Navy is using HHT in its research to improve submarine design and to more easily identify and locate different types of submarines.

    The Federal Highway Administration is using HHT in a variety of research areas, including monitoring the vibration of bridges to determine how safe they are and highway design and engineering studies. According to FHWA, HHT has been a critical element for accurate data analysis.

    For the medical field, HHT is helping researchers understand biomedical and physiological phenomena, which enables them to improve diagnoses and treatments, including drug design, sensors, devices, imaging, and tissue engineering. Specifically, Dr. Huang is involved in research at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, using HHT to better understand how a wide variety of diseases, including avian flu and Dengue Fever, are propagated. HHT is also being used at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to help sharpen the diagnosis of sleep apnea and to detect patients with impaired blood flow regulation in the brain, a condition that may increase the risk for stroke.

    Business and financial industries can use HHT to analyze complex trends and gain new insights into economic and market data.

    Looking at this list of ways that Dr. Huang’s work has the potential to improve the quality of life for all Americans and to meet critical national needs, there is one other thing that is easy for anyone to understand, Dr. Norden Huang is an extraordinary public servant.

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  4. On March 23, 2003, Pfc. Jessica Lynch’s convoy was ambushed in the Iraqi town of Nasaryi, and she was abducted by enemy forces. Seeing as how the U.S. military had not conducted a successful mission to rescue an American prisoner of war since World War II, her prospects for survival seemed far from certain. Fortunately for Pfc. Lynch, the U.S. military has unparalleled capability to locate and recover personnel who may become isolated or captured in enemy territory, a capability that is surpassed only by our military’s will to use every tool available to recover our young men and women. One of the chief architects of America’s personnel recovery operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is Ron McNeal. And thanks to McNeal’s leadership and the bravery of our troops who execute these recovery missions, our military has successfully retrieved not only Jessica Lynch, but more than 1,000 other U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

    A member of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), Ron McNeal is the primary advisor to the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Commander when it comes to personnel recovery matters, significantly contributing to USCENTCOM’s personnel recovery operations within the area of responsibility over the past four years.

    McNeal has prepared both commanders and forces for personnel recovery events through improved planning, training, education, and the development of theater policy and procedures. More specifically, McNeal authored or led the development of every USCENTCOM personnel recovery directive, plan, order, or other guidance document.

    McNeal has frequently deployed to the USCENTCOM region to lead the analysis and improvement of organizations, processes, and procedures. In 2005 he deployed into the theater seven times, totaling more than five months, to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, and Qatar, providing assistance to the theater’s 13 Rescue Coordination Centers.

    Of particular significance, McNeal’s recommendations resulted in the establishment of a Joint Personnel Recovery Center to coordinate and integrate military personnel recovery activities with the interagency and international organizations in Iraq. McNeal also authored the Concept of Operations that defined and codified personnel recovery procedures for the multi-national forces, as well as a synchronization matrix that succinctly established the command, control, and coordination responsibilities and processes for all personnel recovery events in Iraq.

    In short, Mr. McNeal has been the driving force behind the development and refinement of the personnel recovery system within Iraq.

    McNeal has made similar enduring contributions at the national level. He chaired a working group that authored the definitive analysis of Department of Defense-wide personnel recovery mission. The analysis formed the foundation upon which the JPRA Strategic Plan was built, a plan that will guide DoD personnel recovery for the next decade.

    When Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young, Jr. and David Williams’ Apache helicopter was forced down in central Iraq on March 24, 2003, they swam a quarter-mile in a canal before finally being apprehended by armed Iraqis. They would eventually be held captive with five soldiers who were in Jessica Lynch’s company. After three weeks of being moved from prison to prison, they were rescued by a Marine task force. Upon his rescue, CW2 Young said, “We felt like we won the lottery of life.” But it wasn’t luck that saved Ronald Young and the others. It was the extraordinarily talented and committed men and women in our armed forces who work on personnel recovery. And Ron McNeal has done more than any single individual to advance these personnel recovery capabilities. His analytical skills and judgment have significantly and indelibly contributed to one of the nation’s highest priorities—the safe return of our missing, captured, or isolated personnel.

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