WASHINGTON – Yesterday, on the eve of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) thirteenth birthday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor to highlight the work of Phil Nowack, Chief of Staff of the DHS Management Directorate Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer.
This speech is part of Senator Carper’s ongoing efforts to highlight the important work being done across the Department of Homeland Security and within each of its 22 component agencies. His speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
“Mr. President, last month, I came to the Senate floor to highlight the great work being done by the men and women at FEMA, one of 22 agencies that make up the Department of Homeland Security.
“Just a few days before my speech, much of the east coast was inundated by the largest snow storm we had seen in decades. FEMA was working around the clock to prepare for and respond to what could have been a much more devastating storm. We were hit pretty hard, but we would have been much worse off if not for the preparation and training FEMA had done in the days, months, and years leading up to the storm to make us better prepared.
“For more than a year now, I have regularly come to the Senate floor to highlight the great work done by some of the more than 200,000 people who work for the Department of Homeland Security around the country. These men and women perform a wide variety of vitally important work every day. They inspect fruits and vegetables that arrive at our ports of entry like the Port of Wilmington in my state. They patrol our borders, like the Border Patrol agents dealing with increased migration from Central America. They defend our computer networks in cyberspace, responding to a new and growing 21st century threat. And they keep the First Family and visiting foreign dignitaries safe from harm.
“The work of these DHS personnel deployed at the front lines is made possible, in part, because of the dedicated work of men and women behind the scenes at the Department of Homeland Security’s Management Directorate. As my colleagues have often heard me say, management matters. And there are few places where that is more true than at DHS.
“The Management Directorate works to support the missions and employees of all 22 component agencies. They rent field offices, they buy essential equipment and vehicles, and they help every Department employee get the paychecks and benefits they’ve earned.
“Within the Management Directorate, the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer works to ensure that the Department is doing what’s best for its employees, and provides Department managers with the guidance and resources they need to help DHS take care of their own.
“One member of the Management Directorate committed to DHS’s employees is Phil Nowak, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer. Phil grew up in San Francisco and joined the U.S. Coast Guard right after college. After serving in the Coast Guard for 20 years, Phil retired as a Commander in 2007 and joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help coordinate disaster response. In 2010, Phil moved to the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer. In 2013, he took over as Chief of Staff.
“As Chief of Staff, Phil supports the work of the Chief Human Capital Officer in managing the workforce of the third largest cabinet agency. With 22 component agencies and DHS employees stationed around the world, Phil and his team of 200 men and women certainly have their work cut out for them. Supporting DHS employees and providing them with the resources they need to excel and grow in their work is critical to maintaining a motivated, effective, and capable Department. Unfortunately, we know the Department has struggled with employee morale.
“Each year, the Partnership for Public Service releases its “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” survey, and each year the Department of Homeland Security usually ranks at the bottom of all agencies when it comes to employee morale. With Congress imposing short-sighted budget cuts across government, imposing pay freezes, and just last year threatening a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security in the middle of our fight against ISIS, it’s no wonder DHS employees feel unappreciated.
“Despite these setbacks, leaders like Phil are working every day to right the ship and improve morale at DHS. In providing leadership and direction for human capital management for the Department, Phil makes sure that the Department’s efforts to improve morale translate to each of the 22 different component agencies of DHS, and are felt by each of its 240,000 employees.
“To do this, Secretary Jeh Johnson has created a “Unity of Effort” initiative to bring DHS components together and make it greater than the sum of its parts. Phil leads one of the “Unity of Effort” initiatives — the Human Capital Leadership Council, which brings together human resources managers from across the Department. Through this coordination and other Unity of Effort initiatives, Phil’s team works hard to ensure Department employees feel like part of the larger DHS family.
“In such a large agency, with so many people with diverse talents and backgrounds, it’s easy to focus on the broader mission and lose sight of the individuals that help the Department achieve its mission, but not Phil. Phil and his team do yeomen’s work and focus on the value that each and every employee adds to the Department’s mission. It is fitting, then, that Phil’s colleagues describe him as caring deeply for them and the others throughout the Department. His commitment to his colleagues is truly extraordinary.
“In his own life, Phil values professional resilience, and in a job that is oftentimes overlooked – yet incredibly important – I think that is a necessary trait. It is also a fitting quality for a runner. Like me, Phil is an avid runner. He has completed both the Marine Corps Marathon and the JFK 50 Mile Ultra-Marathon twice. When he isn’t running, Phil is building or fixing something around the house, cheering on the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants, and spending time with his family, his wife of 26 years Cristy and their three children, Sam, Elizabeth, and Andrew.
“Phil is just one example of the thousands of men and women at the Department of Homeland Security who work behind the scenes every day to support their colleagues and make our country safer. Phil and his team focus on individuals, bring different components together through a unity of effort, and tirelessly work to improve employee morale. Management matters, and without Phil and his colleagues at the Management Directorate, the Department’s mission to protect the homeland would suffer.
“So to Phil Nowak and his team in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, to every hard working employee at the Directorate for Management, and to all the men and women of DHS, I say thank you. Thank you for all you do every day to protect America, and God bless.”