Janet Rochester, President of the IEEE-SSIT Society on Social Implications of Technology, and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and were on hand January 28, 2008, to honor Michael DeKort with the IEEE-SSIT Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest.
In presenting the award at a ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, SSIT President Janet Rochester read from the award citation, noting that “Michael DeKort 's courageous and competent adherence to the highest ethical standards under difficult conditions set an inspiring example for his fellow engineers.” The Barus Award is presented by SSIT to engineers who demonstrate high ethical standards in protecting or promoting the interests and safety of the public.
Michael DeKort was a lead engineer working for Lockheed-Martin on the Deepwater Project, which was working to modernize the U.S. Coast Guard fleet. In 2005, DeKort discovered problems in an advanced state of a 123-foot patrol boat project that could endanger Coast Guard sailors, compromise their ability to carry out missions, and pose potential threats to national security.
DeKort made great efforts to correct the problems and bring them to the attention of higher ups working within his company on the project. However, his efforts were rejected. He continued to work through appeals procedures inside the company. Finally, he was fired from the project. Shortly before leaving Lockheed-Martin in August 2006, he made a final effort to bring attention to the situation by posting a ten-minute YouTube video.
DeKort’s original video is still accessible at YouTube.com. The posting finally brought immediate media attention to the Deepwater project problems. Soon, DeKort appeared on 60-Minutes and on other national U.S. broadcasts, and articles about the situation and issues he raised appeared in major U.S. newspapers. The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security initiated an investigation that is ongoing, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the U.S. Congress also initiated hearings.
“Through his actions, Mr. DeKort embodied dedication to excellence,” said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in presenting the award to DeKort. “A former member of the United States Navy,” Cummings added, “he exhibited a commitment to ensuring that the products … supplied to the U.S. Coast Guard could be relied upon by the 41,000 men and women of that service ….”
“Like previous winners of the Barus award,” Cummings continued, “Mr. DeKort’s commitment to excellence came at a cost to him personally, and yet it was a cost that he was willing to bear to do what he believed was right…. I also applaud IEEE for giving this award today, and for their work to recognize integrity in public service. … The central lesson of Mr. DeKort’s example is that one person committed to excellence and to demanding that commitment of those around him can make a difference.”
Michael DeKort speaking at a ceremony on January 28, 2008, in Washington, DC, where he received the IEEE-SSIT Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest. Pictured at left is U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the U.S. Congress; and at right is Janet Rochester, President of IEEE-SSIT.