At the Department of Energy, We Know the True Value of Veterans in Our Workforce

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette speaks
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette speaks Tuesday, Sept. 29 2020, during a press conference outside the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

Dan Brouillette is the United States Secretary of Energy.

Monday marks the conclusion of the annual observation of Veterans Month. This year, perhaps more than any other, it is important that we pause to recognize how truly fortunate we are that so many men and women of various backgrounds and beliefs are willing to volunteer to serve, protect our country, and put themselves in harm's way if necessary. That example of servant leadership is one from which we can all learn.

Over the course of my career in government and the private sector, I learned from many great individuals and mentors. But none had a greater impact on shaping my view of leadership than my first company commander in the U.S. Army, Capt. Thomas Sommerkamp. Tom led by example. Despite the myriad of responsibilities that came with running our unit, Tom would never ask anyone to do a task that he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- do himself. Knowing that he could do anything I was asked to do (and probably better than I could) pushed me to give my best effort. I witnessed how he generated tremendous respect from the unit for his humility and hard work despite his rank.

I try to carry his lesson of "leading by example" with me today as I serve as secretary of the Department of Energy. One thing for which I am grateful and that makes my job a little easier, is knowing I can count on more than 4,600 veteran colleagues here at the Department. That number represents 35 percent of our federal workforce, and it continues to grow.

Under the Trump Administration, DOE consistently exceeded hiring goals for veterans, with one in three new hires in 2020 having worn the uniform. In addition, the Department has received multiple "exemplary" ratings from the Interagency Council on Veterans Employment for hiring and retaining veterans.

But my veteran colleagues are more than numbers on a page. They play an integral role in advancing DOE's mission to ensure America's security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

That is because veterans come to DOE with the background, skills, and experience to make an immediate positive impact across the enterprise.

There is no better training ground for success than our nation's military. New recruits in every branch of the service learn that there is a right way to do things and to "salute and execute," when working towards a mission.

In addition, our service members receive the very highest level of training in leadership and teamwork, absorbing important lessons from their commanders just as I did years ago. Many service members also learn skills in mechanics, engineering, and science, particularly nuclear science, which is a critical component of DOE's responsibility for overseeing and securing the Nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.

Most importantly, while the United States military is a diverse organization, much like our federal agencies, military service is rooted in the idea that everyone, regardless of race, gender, or religion, serves together. The color of your uniform --your branch of service-- is more important than the color of your skin and being an American supersedes all other identifiers.

Military service truly embodies the founding principle of our nation: e pluribus unum, or "out of many, one." In the Army, everyone came from different backgrounds. But we supported and protected each other out of a shared desire to ensure the well being of our fellow soldiers. We did that because the only thing that mattered was the mission. Our DOE veteran colleagues bring this same outlook to work every day and our enterprise is all the better for it.

In short, the Department -- and all federal agencies -- know exactly what they are getting when they hire a veteran: quality employees with a proven track record of achievement.

In the years ahead, the priorities and direction of the Department of Energy may change. But one thing that will not change is that veterans will always have a place in our workforce to drive our mission for the benefit of the American people.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to for consideration.

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