By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 16, 2009 - A senior Defense Department executive was honored for her superb leadership and professionalism during a ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes here yesterday. Gail H. McGinn, deputy undersecretary of defense for plans since 2002, received the DoD Senior Professional Women's Association's Excellence in Leadership Award, which recognizes exemplary leadership, professionalism and advocacy in breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for women.
"Being a leader means you get to do exciting things," said McGinn, noting that she was "very honored and humbled" to receive the award.
McGinn said she also is thankful for the counsel and assistance provided by mentors and colleagues she has worked with during her career.
"You don't become a leader on your own," McGinn pointed out.
The award ceremony was attended by Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III; Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy; David S.C. Chu, former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; and other senior officials.
Appointed a member of the senior executive service in 1992, McGinn also is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
McGinn oversees programs and policies that manage and support servicemembers -- including those wounded in war -- as well as civilians, military families and veterans. She also manages military policies that address sexual assault, gender and diversity issues.
McGinn also serves as the senior language authority for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She is responsible for improving foreign language capability within the department and also oversees policy development for the diversity and equal opportunity programs.
Lynn praised McGinn's efforts as "the top expert and advocate" for family and personnel support, including management of personnel programs that affect more than 2 million servicemembers and civilian workers.
McGinn also is "a tireless advocate of our wounded warriors and a leading liaison with the Department of Veterans Affairs to make sure the federal government provides world-class support to those who've served," Lynn said.
And McGinn's performance as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness over the past several months, Lynn said, has been "brilliant."
Flournoy, the department's most senior woman executive, noted that McGinn's exemplary achievements highlight efforts to place more women in senior leadership positions.
"Tremendous change" has occurred across the defense work force over the past 10 to 15 years, Flournoy pointed out. Women today make up about 37 percent of the department's civilian labor force and about 12 percent of active-duty military members, she said.
Women who hold senior defense posts as undersecretaries, deputy undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and agency chiefs, Flournoy said, realize that their opportunities came about because of "the grit and the determination and talent of so many women who've come before us." She predicted that more and more women will achieve senior civilian and military leadership roles in the not-so-distant future. Women, she said, are just as capable as men in just about every conceivable military setting.
"And, I think we'll eventually get to the point where we'll have a woman secretary of defense, a woman service chief, a woman combatant commander, and maybe a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, some day," she said.
McGinn's award is about leadership, Chu said during his remarks. It was a pleasure working with McGinn, he recalled, noting that during his tenure she demonstrated superb leadership and provided valued and trusted advice during discussions of important policy issues such as the prevention of sexual assault in the military and how to care for victims.
Chu also praised McGinn's trustworthy character and her ability to provide "a dispassionate and even-handed appraisal" of Pentagon policies and programs under her purview to the politically appointed leadership.
"And, no finer tribute, in my judgment, can be paid to a leader in our nation's civil service," Chu concluded.
Established in 1977, the DoD Senior Professional Women's Association is a nonprofit organization that seeks to expand opportunities for the personal and professional development, training and education of women in mid- and senior-level positions in the Defense Department. Toward these ends, the association supports opportunities to expand professional contacts, serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas across multiple disciplines, sponsors venues for personal and professional education and growth and, recognizes exemplary work in public service through its annual Excellence in Leadership Award.
Today, the association includes more than 100 members from across the Defense Department, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military departments, the defense agencies and the department's field activities.