When President Donald Trump recognized 141 members of the Federal Government’s Senior Executive Service by presenting them with the annual Presidential Rank Award on Dec. 17, 2019, Alvin “Al” Lee, the Transatlantic Division’s Director of Programs and Business, was among the list of 30 recipients earning the “Distinguished Executives” award – one of only four Department of the Army members receiving the recognition.
The Presidential Rank Award is the top award a civilian Federal employee can receive. Since 1978 it has been given to recognize exemplary federal leaders who have overseen successful federal initiatives with a sweeping impact. Executives are nominated by their agency heads and reviewed by a board made up of private citizens and approved by the President. The recipients are defined as “strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.”
Lee, who joined the Transatlantic Division in Winchester, Virginia, in June 2019, earned the award and recognition for work accomplished when he was Programs Director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ South Atlantic Division, a position he held since January 2014. During his time with the South Atlantic Division, Lee was responsible for the overall program management, integration, and execution of more than $8 billion in civil works program expenditures, including hydroelectric, navigation, flood damage reduction, recreation, ecosystem restoration, endangered species recovery, regulatory, regional safety and emergency response missions.
Maj. Gen. Diana M. Holland, commander of the South Atlantic Division, said the entire South Atlantic team is tremendously proud to see Lee receive this well-deserved recognition. "Whether as the Charleston District commander or as the Division Programs Director, he excelled and made a difference in delivering the program, developing future leaders, and sustaining the reputation of the Corps of Engineers in our region’s professional community. On behalf of the 3,500 employees of S.A.D., hearty congratulations to Al Lee!"
At the South Atlantic Division, Lee served as the Senior Program Executive responsible for execution of three mega-projects/programs totaling approximately $10 billion. These mega-projects included the Herbert Hoover Dike, the Savannah Harbor Expansion project, and the Everglades Ecosystem Restoration program. Through his effective engagement with senior White House staff, the Office of Budget and Management, and other political appointees, Lee accelerated full funding for the ongoing Hoover Dam construction program by three years, allowing the project to begin sooner and increasing public safety for the citizens of South Florida.
Lee’s transition to the Transatlantic Division is an incredible gain for the USACE mission across the Middle East, according to Division Commander Col. Chris Beck. “Al is an incredible asset to the Transatlantic Division,” Beck said. “It is expected that as a senior executive you maintain a strategic view of your organization and the USACE enterprise. Al embodies that every day. His ability to understand how to shape an organization for success today and relevancy tomorrow are unparalleled; but more importantly is how he shapes people. He coaches, teaches, and mentors his entire team in every engagement so they are better leaders, supervisors, and team members.
“Personally, his mentorship of me as the division commander has undoubtedly helped me better understand myself and our team,” Beck said.
While Lee’s career accomplishments are too numerous to mention, highlights consist of successfully executing emergency responses to numerous disastrous weather events, including Hurricanes Florence, Irma, Maria, Matthew, Michael, and Sandy, and epic flooding on the Mississippi River. He led a highly successful intra-agency team immediately following Hurricane Sandy in 2013, serving as the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency Hurricane Sandy Response Task Force that assisted in rapidly removing 275 million gallons of water from critical infrastructure in New York City and New Jersey in less than two weeks, enabling rapid local and state recovery.
His collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries led to the implementation of a pilot-study in 2016 that allowed projects to move to construction faster, cutting overall processing time in half. Lee also served as the regional functional champion for efforts to assist Federal, state and local emergency management agencies to respond to any emergency or disaster. He also served as Director of the Joint Programs Integration Office for U.S. Forces Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan from January - June 2013, where he was responsible for integration of Military Construction, Operational Energy, and Environmental and Real Estate Programs. And, from September 2011 to December 2013, Lee was the director of Regional Business for Corp of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division, responsible for a $3.5 billion in civil works programs expenditures including hydroelectric, navigation, flood damage reduction, recreation, ecosystem restoration and endangered species recovery in an area that handles over 40 percent of rainfall runoff of the continental U.S. via the Mississippi River and Tributaries project.
Significant awards and recognitions earned by Lee include the Joint Meritorious Civilian Service Award, given in 2013 for conspicuous meritorious service and exceptional accomplishments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he and his team provided improved infrastructure, schools, and clinics to U.S., Coalition and Afghan forces, as well as improving opportunities for the Afghan people to live better lives. He also received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2015 and again in 2017 for strengthening relationships with key stakeholders that resulted in agreements that greatly expedited review time in key Civil Works infrastructure programs for the nation, and for consistently demonstrating exceptional leadership, professionalism, vision, integrity, and a strong commitment of excellence and significant contributions to the citizens within South Atlantic Division.
Various additional awards earned by Lee to include the Superior Civilian Service Award in 2016 for outstanding service and leadership in delivering a high quality USACE 2018 national Civil Works budget to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works); the Superior Civilian Service Award in 2013 for significant accomplishments following the 2011 Mississippi River basin flood and corresponding extreme drought in 2012; and, the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service in 2012 for exceptional support in direct response to Task Force Sandy efforts in New York and New Jersey for the accomplishment of the USACE mission during the declared natural disaster.
“Obviously, through his background, he has the technical skills required [to do the job] but more broadly, his strategic vision and team-building leadership approach – both internal and external to the Corps of Engineers – are critically important,” Beck said. “He constantly challenges our team to deliver our program efficiently and effectively, while ensuring we never lose sight of increasing our organization’s value to the enterprise and our stakeholders.”
Upon hearing of his selection for the prestigious award, Lee said it was an honor to be recognized. In keeping with his low-key, modest manner, he deflected his achievement onto the men and women who worked for him, saying: “I would like to thank the teams that I have worked for over my career that assisted me in achieving this level of success. I am very humbled and grateful to lead and represent these outstanding teams in receiving this award that have accomplished great things that bring value to the U.S. taxpayer and reduce risk and save lives.”