WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2016 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter today honored Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson with the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, the department’s highest civilian honor.
Carter presented the award to Johnson, formerly the Pentagon’s top legal official, during a visit to DHS headquarters, where Johnson was hosting a meeting of senior DHS leaders.
“Jeh is one of the finest, most capable, hardest-working public servants I have worked with,” Carter said. “From his time as a highly capable general counsel at the Pentagon to his leadership of DHS at a time of enormous homeland security challenges, Jeh has made every organization he’s joined stronger, and made our nation and our world safer.”
The Distinguished Public Service Award
The Distinguished Public Service Award is the department’s highest honor for private citizens and non-career public servants. This year, the defense secretary has presented the award to a bipartisan list of distinguished current and former officials, including former secretaries of state Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and former Sen. John Warner.
“Like Jeh, each of the public servants we have honored this year has a long record of service marked by competence, wisdom and self-sacrifice,” Carter said. “Each of them embodies the very best our nation has to offer.”
As DHS secretary, Johnson leads the federal government’s third-largest department, with 22 components including the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Before joining DHS in 2013, Johnson served for three years as DoD’s general counsel, where he played a key role in several important initiatives, including the nation’s counterterrorism efforts and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
He served from 1998 to 2001 as general counsel to the Air Force, and from 1989 to 1991 as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. A native New Yorker, he worked in the private sector as an attorney at the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison.