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U.S. AbilityOne Commission

James M. Kesteloot, Chairperson
Tina Ballard, Executive Director

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Learn more about notable happenings within AbilityOne®, including the two central nonprofit agencies - National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica® (formerly NISH) – that help facilitate the Program and create employment opportunities for nearly 50,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

August 3, 2016

Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy Sworn In as Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Washington, D.C., August 3, 2016 – Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, was recently sworn in as a member of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. She was appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama.

"I welcome Jennifer Sheehy to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission," said Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. "Her knowledge and expertise about the population we serve is invaluable. I look forward to collaborating with her as we transform the future of the AbilityOne Program."

Prior to her current position, Sheehy spent 10 years at the U.S. Department of Education in roles including Director of Policy and Planning in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), acting Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, acting Deputy Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of OSERS.

Sheehy came to the Department of Education from the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities where she was Senior Policy Advisor and served a detail as Associate Director in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Before she joined the task force staff, Sheehy was Vice President of the National Organization on Disability, and Director of its CEO Council. Sheehy earned a BA from Cornell University and graduated with honors from Georgetown University, where she received her MBA.

Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy
Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy

June 17, 2016

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Signs Cooperative Agreement with National Industries for the Blind

June 15, 2016

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Signs Cooperative Agreement with SourceAmerica

January 21, 2016

Statement in Response to CNN Story Aired January 21, 2016

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Washington, D.C., January 21, 2016 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is not a party to the reported legal actions and does not comment on legal actions or ongoing litigation. We respect the authority of the Court and the legal process. When that process is complete, the Commission will evaluate the outcomes in accordance with its authorizing statute, regulations and policies. As previously stated, the Commission is committed to the integrity of the AbilityOne® Program.

October 27, 2015

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Decides in Favor of Government and AbilityOne Program Regarding Bid Protest

July 28, 2015

Statement from the U.S. AbilityOne Commission in Response to CNN Story Aired July 27, 2015

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Washington, D.C., July 28, 2015 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® strongly emphasizes program integrity. We are unwavering in our commitment to the employment of people with significant disabilities. As CNN reported, we are exercising appropriate caution and respect of the court on information related to bid protest litigation, which appears to be the genesis of the CNN story. The Commission is dismayed by the misrepresentations and inaccuracies from sources identified after the initial airing as the unsuccessful bidder in the protest action. We find that the information reported needs more context. For example, all employment candidates must provide documentation of significant disabilities signed by a licensed medical professional, and this documentation is subject to multiple reviews and inspections. It is worth noting that as recently as May 2013, the Government Accountability Office examined the AbilityOne® Program including the SourceAmerica recommendation process and made no findings of fraud, waste or abuse.

July 8, 2015

James M. Kesteloot Elected to Lead Presidentially-Appointed Commission - Lisa M. Wilusz Elected Vice Chairperson

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Washington, D.C., July, 8, 2015 – James M. Kesteloot, Private Citizen, and Lisa M. Wilusz, Department of Agriculture (USDA), were elected to their respective positions as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® at its July 2015 meeting. Their terms begin at the close of business on July 9, 2015.

The Commission is responsible for administering the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest employment sources for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities. Providing more than 45,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2014 alone, the AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

“I am honored to serve as the next Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Kesteloot. “I envision a strong team going forward as we work to find new and innovative ways to increase employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

Kesteloot has served as Vice Chairperson since July 2011, and is the Chair of the Employment Growth Subcommittee. Appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in September 2010, he is a private citizen representative who provides expertise on obstacles to the employment of persons who are blind. A long-time national advocate for employment of people who are blind, he recently retired as Executive Director and President of the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired after a 40-year career with the 109-year-old agency. Under his leadership, the Lighthouse was transformed into a nationally acclaimed social service organization that is widely respected as being among the most comprehensive in the nation. He has consulted for many organizations and has served on numerous councils, including appointments by Illinois Governors James R. Thompson and Jim Edgar to the state Blind Services Planning Council, and an appointment by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to his Task Force for the Employment of People with Disabilities.

Wilusz currently serves as the Chair of the Customer and Employee Satisfaction Subcommittee. Appointed to the Commission by President Obama in November 2011, she is the USDA representative. A member of the Senior Executive Service, she serves as the Director of the Office of Procurement and Property Management for USDA. In this capacity, she is responsible for providing leadership, oversight and policy in the areas of procurement, property management, environmental stewardship and employee safety. Wilusz began her Federal career as a contract specialist in 1995 with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service; and later she worked as a procurement analyst with the Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration. There she worked on issues involving procurement policy, small business programs and the implementation of an automated procurement system. She returned to the USDA in 2002 and has managed two enterprise systems in addition to working on various procurement related matters.

J. Anthony Poleo served as Chairperson from July 2011-July 2015. Poleo was appointed to the Commission by President George W. Bush in February 2007 and has served as the Department of Defense (DoD) representative for eight years. He will continue to serve on the Commission.

Kesteloot mentioned how working with Poleo had been an excellent experience for him. “I really appreciate how when he was Chairperson he involved me with everything so that we became such a strong team. I look forward to having that same kind of relationship with Lisa Wilusz,” he said.

Poleo ended the meeting by thanking the members and staff for their support during his time as Chairperson. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve in this role for the past four years. When I took this position, I committed to you all that I would give it my best shot,” said Poleo. “I look forward to continuing to be an active member of the Commission in my role as the DoD representative. The Commission is in great hands with the new officers, so the transition will be seamless.”

Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard
Newly-elected U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson James M. Kesteloot and Vice Chairperson Lisa M. Wilusz.

May 18, 2015

AbilityOne Award Recipients Announced

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Washington, D.C., May 18, 2015 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following 2015 AbilityOne® award recipients: Richard T. “Dick” Ginman, E.R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award; Jeffrey R. Brunner, Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award; and Cheryl A. DeLuca, Outstanding Contributions Award.

“Dick Ginman, Jeff Brunner, and Cheryl DeLuca are excellent examples of Federal leaders who do everything that they can to employ people who are blind or have significant disabilities on Federal contracts,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “AbilityOne Program participants and Federal customers certainly have been, and will continue to be, the beneficiaries of their leadership and support.”

Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard
Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard.

The E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. This is the highest award bestowed by the Commission, and only one is given each year. This year’s recipient is Richard T. “Dick” Ginman, former Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, Department of Defense. Ginman has been a strong advocate and supporter of the AbilityOne Program throughout his 44-year military and civil service career, implementing policies and solutions that have increased employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. He has signed and spearheaded several AbilityOne support memoranda, which were distributed to the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) acquisition workforce. By encouraging the AbilityOne contract management support program, he has enabled 14 nonprofit agencies to support nearly 80 DoD contracting offices, which resulted in more than 160 upwardly-mobile employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. He has also educated colleagues about AbilityOne through close collaboration with DoD Senior Procurement and Acquisition Executives.

Left to right: Poleo and Oz Day Award recipient Jeffrey R. Brunner.
Left to right: Poleo and Oz Day Award recipient Jeffrey R. Brunner.

The Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of a former private citizen Commission member who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public. This year’s recipient is Jeffrey R. Brunner, Senior Acquisition Advisor, The Joint Staff. For nearly 40 years, he has advocated for the AbilityOne Program. His efforts have included public speaking engagements, use of websites and digital media, television coverage and special events dedicated to enhancing AbilityOne awareness in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. Most recently, he conceived of an “AbilityOne Day” for the local contracting community, featuring a panel of AbilityOne speakers, nonprofit exhibits, and veteran keynote speakers. Brunner created and emailed flyers to the DoD acquisition community and participated in a live evening radio talk show to promote the AbilityOne Program and the event. His enthusiastic support led to Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr., proclaiming March 18, 2014, as “AbilityOne Day.”

Left to right: Poleo, Outstanding Contributions Award recipient Cheryl A. DeLuca, and Ballard
Left to right: Poleo, Outstanding Contributions Award recipient Cheryl A. DeLuca, and Ballard.

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their efforts in creating employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities under the AbilityOne Program. This year’s recipient is Cheryl A. DeLuca, Director, Natick Contracting, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground. DeLuca has demonstrated unwavering support of the AbilityOne Program, overseeing staff members who have cumulatively worked on contracts resulting in employment for over 8,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities. She has created an environment that has continuously encouraged her team to reach and expand boundaries of traditional perspectives to consider AbilityOne for complex products and innovative contracting solutions.

“Our Federal customers are an important part of making the AbilityOne Program work,” said Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard. “We thank our Federal customers for all they do to help people who are blind or have significant disabilities have employment through AbilityOne.”

January 2, 2015

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Alley Award Call for Nominations

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Washington, D.C., January 2, 2015 – Today the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® announces its call for nominations for the E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award (Alley Award). The Commission is the independent Federal agency which leads and administers the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest source of employment in the United States, providing employment opportunities to more than 45,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities nationwide. The Alley Award is the highest honor the Commission bestows on a Federal employee.

The award was established in 1998 in honor and memory of Dick Alley, who provided more than 25 years of dedicated service to the AbilityOne Program as the Deputy Executive Director of the Commission staff. The award recognizes extraordinary achievements and sustained efforts of individuals in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment and training opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

Only one Alley Award is given each year. Eligibility and criteria information can be found online at www.abilityone.gov. Nominations, which must be submitted in an accessible electronic format (i.e., Word, Word Perfect or accessible Adobe PDF), must be submitted to Ms. Stephanie Lesko, Public Affairs Specialist, at slesko@abilityone.gov or awards@abilityone.gov by January 27, 2015.

The 2015 Alley Award recipient will formally be announced the award at both the SourceAmerica® National Training and Achievement Conference in May 2015, and the National Industries for the Blind National Training Conference in October 2015.

November 19, 2014

AbilityOne Awards Presented

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right), with Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot (left), presented FDR Award for Service and Leadership to recipient E. Robert Chamberlin (center).

Poleo (right) presented Outstanding Contributions Award to recipient Dennis Lockard (left).
Poleo (right) presented Outstanding Contributions Award to recipient Dennis Lockard (left).

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
National Industries for the Blind CEO Kevin Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Chamberlin (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

SourceAmerica CEO Chamberlin (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.
SourceAmerica CEO Chamberlin (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.
Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

Poleo (right) and Kesteloot (left) spoke about their experiences with Chamberlin (center).
Poleo (right) and Kesteloot (left) spoke about their experiences with Chamberlin (center).

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission) is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® award recipients: E. Robert Chamberlin, SourceAmerica® President and CEO; and Dennis Lockard, Commission General Counsel.

“Over the years, numerous Commission members and staffers have relied on input and advice from both Bob Chamberlin and Dennis Lockard,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “Their legacies will live on, well after their departure from the program. We appreciate all that they have done to serve the AbilityOne Program and people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

The FDR Award for Leadership and Service recognizes sustained, extraordinary accomplishment related to the agency and the AbilityOne Program. This award honors an outstanding leader who consistently demonstrates integrity and a relentless commitment to public service. The award is given sparingly, and may be presented to a current or former member of the Commission or staff.

Among Chamberlin’s notable achievements, as Rear Admiral and Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), he served as the Department of Defense Commission member from 1998-1999. During his time on the Commission, he encouraged DLA to market AbilityOne and SKILCRAFT® products, and provided high level of support for educational and promotional AbilityOne events, small business fairs, and other procurement conferences. He became President and CEO of SourceAmerica in 2000 and encouraged the development of two new brands (AbilityOne and SourceAmerica), a new program website, national advertising campaigns, and grassroots advocacy conferences. Under his leadership, SourceAmerica also focused on developing strategic business lines and fostering customer partnerships in areas such as secure document destruction, laundry, secure mail, warehouse and distribution, fleet management, and total facilities management. Chamberlin will retire from SourceAmerica in early 2015.

Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot said, “I remember meeting Bob when he was on the Commission. It was really special that he chose to visit people who are blind at the Chicago Lighthouse, while an admiral in uniform. His visit was a real spark to employee morale.”

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their exceptional efforts in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts.

Among Lockard’s notable achievements, he has been a member of the Commission staff’s Executive Leadership team since joining the Commission in September 2007 as General Counsel. He played a major role in the AbilityOne brand development, regulatory agenda and legislative initiatives, Freedom of Information Act adherence, and litigation practices and record management. He also shepherded the Commission in several groundbreaking legal areas, including the first AbilityOne trademark agreement and implementation of new agency policy. Lockard will retire from the Commission in January 2015.

“Dennis’ keen legal advice and insights have been critical to the success of AbilityOne,” said Poleo. “No matter the situation, he has always maintained a calm demeanor, a key quality of a legal advisor. His contributions to this program have not gone unnoticed. He will be missed.”

October 8, 2014

AbilityOne Nonprofit Agency Leaders Receive Honors

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson  James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Billy Sparkman (center).
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Billy Sparkman (center).

Washington, D.C., October 8, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recipients: Michael N. Gilliam, President and CEO, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind; and Billy Sparkman, Executive Director, Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB).

“Mike Gilliam and Billy Sparkman are excellent examples of AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who do everything that they can to employ people who are blind,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “Our program and the people it serves certainly have been, and will continue to be, the beneficiaries of their leadership and support.”

The Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission’s statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment, and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency.

Among Gilliam’s notable achievements, he has led the Lighthouse to being selected as the “Best Place to Work in San Antonio” by its local media for three years running, against a field of private sector employers. He has demonstrated his leadership in the areas of Base Supply Center operations and reciprocal purchasing among AbilityOne nonprofit agencies; and he has actively contributed to the Commission’s CEO Forums.

Among Sparkman’s notable achievements, AIB has become a $30 million retail and manufacturing organization, employing 320 staff and production workers, of which 210 are legally blind. He has been innovative in his leadership in the development of service-related jobs for people who are blind; and he actively participates in the Quality Work Environment Steering Group.

October 8, 2014

Presidential Appointees RADM Jonathan A. Yuen and Virna L. Winters Sworn-In as Members of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission members RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy, and Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.

Washington, D.C., October 8, 2014 – Today, Rear Adm. Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy, and Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce, were publicly sworn-in as members of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission). Both Yuen and Winters were appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama.

"I welcome RADM Jonathan Yuen and Virna Winters to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission," said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. "I look forward to collaborating with them on new and innovative ways of increasing AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts. People who are blind or have significant disabilities are reliable, dependable, and capable of meeting or exceeding industry standards."

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 45,000 job opportunities nationwide. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to civilian and military Federal customers, providing critical support for combat, disaster, and humanitarian relief operations.

Yuen is Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and 47th Chief of Supply Corps, a position he has held since 2013. Previously, he served as Commander, Global Logistics Support from 2011 to 2013. Yuen's Supply Corps sea duty assignments include tours on the USS Narwhal and USS Constellation and as Supply Officer on the USS Nassau. His shore assignments include Aide to the Director of the Supply, Programs and Policy Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Executive Assistant in the Defense Logistics Support Center, Defense Logistics Agency. Yuen's joint assignments include serving as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the Joint Contracting Command - Iraq/Afghanistan, headquartered in the International Zone of Baghdad, and Director, U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. His personal awards include three Legions of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Yuen received a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Winters serves as the Director for Acquisition Policy and Oversight in the Office of Acquisition Management at the Department of Commerce. In this position she is responsible for providing acquisition leadership, policy and oversight for the Department's procurement operations. Winters has over 20 years of Federal acquisition experience where she has led integrated solutions teams in order to implement new initiatives and demonstrated an ability to produce positive results through strategic planning, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies. She began her Federal career as a contract specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1992. She joined the Department of Commerce in 2003 as a procurement analyst and has served in various acquisition positions. Winters received a B.S. in Business from the University of North Texas.

May 8, 2014

Presidential Appointee Thomas D. Robinson Sworn-In as Air Force Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot swears in Thomas D. Robinson, Commission member representing the Air Force
Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot swears in Thomas D. Robinson, Commission member representing the Air Force.

Washington, D.C., May 8, 2014 – Today, Thomas D. Robinson, Department of the Air Force, was publicly sworn-in as a member of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission). Appointed by President Barack H. Obama, Robinson began serving on the Commission in October 2013.

“Tom Robinson brings a wealth of experience to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. “With his decades of Federal procurement experience, he will be an asset to our team as we strive to increase AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2013 alone. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to civilian and military Federal customers, providing critical support for combat, disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

Robinson is the Executive Director for the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency (AFICA) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), Dayton, Ohio. He assists the commander of AFICA in the leadership of more than 800 personnel, $3.9 billion in annual execution, $33 billion total contract portfolio, and enterprise-wide installation strategic sourcing efforts for the Air Force. The contracting authority and guidance he provides extends to eight Major Commands and their 71 units.

Commissioned in the Air Force in 1984 as a contracting specialist, he served 28 years on active duty status and acquired extensive experience in operational, major weapons system, and logistical contracting. Prior to his current position, Robinson served as senior contracting official for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. In this role, he was the primary acquisition advisor to the PACAF Commander and staff and provided theater-wide contingency contracting support and serviced as one of the principal advisors to the Combatant Commander United States Pacific Command on Operational Contracting Support. He also held several other key positions including Director of Contracting Ogden Air Logistics Center and Chief Contracting Division, Air Education and Training Command. Robinson retired from active duty and entered Senior Executive Service in July 2012 as the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary (Contracting) for Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., until entering his current job in November 2013.
Robinson received his B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Canisius College in 1983. In 1987, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University. In 2006, Robinson also earned a Master’s in Military Studies at the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

May 15, 2014

AbilityOne Award Recipients Honored

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Washington, D.C., May 15, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® award recipients: Janet Samuelson, ServiceSource (Chairperson’s Award for Leadership), William Sproule, Department of the Air Force (Most Valuable Liaison Award), and Vicki Taft, Air Force (E.R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award).

“All of our award winners demonstrate outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate everything that they do to support people who are blind or have significant disabilities,” said Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. “Congratulations to all AbilityOne award recipients!”

The Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission’s statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment (QWE), and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency. This year’s recipient is Janet Samuelson, President and CEO of ServiceSource, an authorized AbilityOne nonprofit agency.

When Samuelson first joined ServiceSource in 1993, the organization employed approximately 300 people with disabilities. Under her leadership, it has grown to include affiliation with four other nonprofit organizations and offer programs and services in nine states and the District of Columbia. ServiceSource now directly employs more than 1,500 individuals with disabilities and is known for its innovation and performance excellence. ServiceSource has been highly praised for its execution of the Total Facilities Maintenance contract at the Mark Center complex. At that location and many others, ServiceSource is the prime contractor and works with many AbilityOne nonprofit subcontractors. Under Samuelson’s leadership, ServiceSource has been a consistent voice in CEO Forums, has adopted the QWE initiative, is active in the National Council of SourceAmerica Employers and the American Congress of Community Supports and Employment Services, and contributes to grassroots advocacy. Among its progressive practices, ServiceSource has a Warrior Bridge program that it has used to successfully bring dozens of wounded warriors and veterans into the AbilityOne workforce. Samuelson has ensured that ServiceSource has a wide range of work settings, both facility and community based.

The Commission’s Most Valuable Liaison Award recognizes Federal employees, who in their roles as liaisons demonstrate valuable effort in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities. This year’s recipient is William G. (Bill) Sproule, Chief, Installation Support, Pentagon, Air Force.

A proactive supporter of the AbilityOne Program, Sproule has served for nearly four years as the AbilityOne Liaison to the Air Force Commission member. In addition to representing the Air Force at all Commission meetings and at National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica conferences, he also works with senior NIB and SourceAmerica representatives to identify new AbilityOne opportunities. Through his preparation of annual spend analyses to determine Air Force needs, he regularly identifies opportunities for growth within the AbilityOne Program. Moreover, he has been instrumental in the Air Force’s utilization of AbilityOne contract closeout work.

The E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. Vicki L. Taft, Section Chief, Base Support Section, Tinker Air Force Base, is this year’s recipient.

For more than 25 years, Taft has worked to procure service contracts that employ people with disabilities at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. She has also actively worked to promote base purchasing of SKILCRAFT® products. As a result of her efforts, she has enabled more than 350 people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including service-disabled veterans, to find meaningful employment at Tinker. She is the driving force behind the expansion of AbilityOne services at Tinker and other bases across the country, whose commanders she has educated about the program. Most recently, she invited AbilityOne representatives to attend the March 2014 Tinker “Industry Day” to further encourage procurement of AbilityOne products and services. She has been directly instrumental in creating jobs for several lines of business, located at numerous locations, and involving both NIB and SourceAmerica nonprofits and the people they serve.

The Alley Award will be presented to Taft later this year.

For more information about AbilityOne awards, contact Stephanie Lesko at awards@abilityone.gov.

April 2, 2014

AbilityOne “Oz” Day Award Recipient Honored

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Award recipient Karone Blondin, GSA PBS Industry Relations Manager (third from left); with Bob Chamberlin, SourceAmerica CEO; Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff; and Andrew Blumenfeld, GSA PBS Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition
Award recipient Karone Blondin, GSA PBS Industry Relations Manager (third from left); with Bob Chamberlin, SourceAmerica CEO; Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff; and Andrew Blumenfeld, GSA PBS Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition.

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® presented its Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne® Awareness Award today to Karone Blondin, Industry Relations Manager, Public Buildings Service (PBS), General Services Administration (GSA), at the annual GSA PBS meeting in Vienna, Va.

“Karone has outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate all that she has done since 2002 to support people with significant disabilities,” said Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff.

The Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of Osborne Day, a private citizen member of the Commission who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public.

For more than 12 years, Blondin has overseen the Strategic Alliance between GSA PBS and the AbilityOne Program. During her tenure, she has facilitated the creation of more than 500 AbilityOne custodial jobs. She also promotes AbilityOne by providing training presentations on the GSA/AbilityOne Alliance.

March 20, 2014

AbilityOne Award Recipients Honored

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Washington, D.C., March 20, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® announced its AbilityOne® award recipients at its March meeting. Recipients include: Nancy Heimbaugh, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA); Karone Blondin, General Services Administration (GSA); Michael A. Cowley, DLA; Albert Munoz, Department of Agriculture (USDA); and Edward R. Guthrie and Michael N. Gilliam, leaders of two AbilityOne-authorized nonprofit agencies (NPAs).

"All of our award winners have high integrity and outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate all that they do to support the people we serve," said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.

Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo with Recipient Nancy Heimbaugh
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo with Recipient Nancy Heimbaugh

The E. R. "Dick" Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. Nancy Heimbaugh, Director, DLA, Acquisition Management, is this year's recipient.

"Throughout her career, Nancy has provided invaluable acquisition advice and leadership," said Poleo. "Not only has she been a strong partner in the effort to employ people with disabilities, but she has been an excellent colleague as well."

Over the course of her career, whether managing the field contracting for the Navy Supply Systems Command or leading the immense DLA Acquisition system, Heimbaugh drove policies and practical solutions that led directly to increased employment for personnel who are blind or have significant disabilities. From 2007-2009, she was the Senior Procurement Executive at DLA Troop Support, which represented over 85% of all DLA procurement. DLA was the number one contributor in the Department of Defense to the AbilityOne Program during her tenure. Since 2009, she was very active in her support of the program via regular meetings, a DLA policy in support of AbilityOne that led to an increased number of product purchases by DLA, and the awarding of contracts in contract management, warehousing and distribution, package reclamation and help desk services. Her efforts created nearly 170 jobs.

"I am deeply honored to receive this award on behalf of all of DLA. The commitment the DLA team has made to the AbilityOne Program over the years has been profound and has involved many, many people in all of the primary-level field activities," Heimbaugh said. "This award is gratifying both personally and professionally."

Left to right:  Chairperson Poleo with GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo with GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service

The Osborne A. "Oz" Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of Osborne Day, a private citizen member of the Commission who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public. This year's recipient is Karone Blondin, GSA Industry Relations Manager, Public Building Services (PBS).

For more than 12 years, Blondin has overseen the Strategic Alliance between GSA PBS and the AbilityOne Program. During her tenure, she has facilitated the creation of more than 500 AbilityOne custodial jobs. She also promotes AbilityOne by providing "road show" training presentations on the GSA/AbilityOne Alliance.

GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, accepted on Blondin's behalf; and the award will be presented to Blondin at her worksite.

Left to right:  Chairperson Poleo, recipient Michael A. Cowley, and Ruben Filomeno, Director, EEO Office, DLA Troop Support
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Michael A. Cowley, and Ruben Filomeno, Director, EEO Office, DLA Troop Support

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their exceptional efforts in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts. This year's recipient is Michael A. Cowley, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist, DLA Troop Support.

Since 2005, Cowley has been the driving force at DLA Troop Support, promoting and accomplishing successful AbilityOne Day events, especially during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. He handles all onsite logistics to ensure space, security, and other nonprofit agency needs are met in preparation for the events. He also develops and coordinates the base publicity as the events approach. As a result of his efforts, AbilityOne has consistently attracted more than 600 DLA personnel who visit 40 National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica nonprofit agency exhibits, as well as 10 community service organizations that support people who are blind or have disabilities.

Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Albert Munoz, and USDA Commission member Lisa Wilusz
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Albert Munoz, and USDA Commission member Lisa Wilusz

The Commission's Most Valuable Liaison Award recognizes Federal employees, who in their roles as liaisons demonstrate valuable effort in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities. This year's recipient is Albert Munoz, Procurement Analyst, USDA.

During his many years of support, Munoz has been credited with efforts that led to adding 65 AbilityOne jobs to the Procurement List. He provides direct support to the USDA Commission member, and continually collaborates with Commission, NIB, and SourceAmerica staff on such projects as the Employee and Customer Satisfaction Subcommittee pilot customer service survey.

Left to right:  Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot, Recipient Edward R. Guthrie, and Chairperson Poleo
Left to right: Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot, Recipient Edward R. Guthrie, and Chairperson Poleo

The Commission presents the Chairperson's Award for Leadership at the annual central nonprofit agency (NIB and SourceAmerica) annual conferences. This award recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission's statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment, and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency.

At the May SourceAmerica Annual Conference the Commission presented the award to Edward R. Guthrie, Executive Director of Opportunity Village. Since 1994, Guthrie has led the agency to become one of the most recognized and respected provider of services for people with disabilities in the United States. Providing training and employment to more than 1,000 people with disabilities each day, Opportunity Village serves more than 325,000 meals each year to military personnel, and the Opportunity Village PaperPros division is the second largest document destruction firm in the Las Vegas valley. Opportunity Village has developed a number of leading edge rehabilitation programs and arts and enrichment programs in which people with disabilities fuel their creative passions through fine arts, music, theatre and dance.

At the October NIB Annual Conference, the Commission will also present the award to Michael N. Gilliam, President and CEO, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. Under his leadership, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind pays its employees minimum wage or higher. Employees on the NPA's contract management service contract earn wages up to $30-$50K per year, and the NPA successfully demonstrated the Program's capability to close out contracts which led to the Procurement List addition for many more NPAs. His organization has been named one of the 50 best places to work in San Antonio by local media for three years in a row. In terms of business acumen, he has shown true leadership by bringing his NPA to financial health.

March 20, 2014

Harry P. Hallock Sworn-In as Army Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Washington, D.C., March 20, 2014 – Today, Harry P. Hallock, Department of the Army, was publicly sworn-in as an appointed member of the U.S. AbilityOne®(Commission). Hallock was appointed to serve on the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in August 2013.

“Harry Hallock brings a wealth of experience to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. "Already a strong supporter of AbilityOne, he will be an asset to our team as we strive to increase AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have significant disabilities."

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2013 alone. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and provides critical support to U.S. military customers, for combat, disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

In July 2013, Hallock, a member of the Senior Executive Service, was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement). In this role, Hallock manages the Army’s procurement mission including development and dissemination of policies, processes and contracting business systems. He directs the evaluation, measurement and continuous improvement actions for more than 270 Army contracting offices worldwide, executing contracts for major weapons systems, base logistics support, construction and wartime operational contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Functional Career Representative for Contracting, Hallock oversees the recruitment, training, certification, and professional development of the Army’s contracting workforce. Hallock also provides staff supervision and support to the Multi-National Forces through the U.S. Central Command to support Joint Force Combat Operations, humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and security of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hallock received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Delaware in 1979, and earned a Master of Science in Program Management from Naval Postgraduate School in 2001. Hallock has received numerous awards and honors, including the Superior Civilian Service award in 2013 and the Commander’s Award for Public Service in 1997.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (left) swears in Harry P. Hallock (right), as new Commission member representing the Department of the Army
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (left) swears in Harry P. Hallock (right), as new Commission member representing the Department of the Army.

October 31, 2013

Superior Performance in DOD Mentor-Protégé Program Earns 2013 Nunn-Perry Award for AbilityOne Partner, Northrop Grumman

Springfield, Va.-based MVLE Inc. is a protégé partner and AbilityOne Authorized Provider

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Arlington, VA, October 31, 2013 – Industry partner and long standing supporter of the AbilityOne® Program and mission, Northrop Grumman Corporation, received the 2013 Department of Defense (DOD) Nunn-Perry Award* that recognizes teamwork resulting in superior quality in products and services, technical assistance, return on investment and protégé development. Northrop Grumman’s partnership with MVLE Inc., an AbilityOne nonprofit organization that encourages professional growth for people living with disabilities through employment and support services, represents the first time a prime contractor has entered into a mentor-protégé agreement with an AbilityOne services provider. The DOD Mentor Protégé program encourages major DOD prime contractors to develop the technical and business capabilities of small disadvantaged businesses, qualifying organizations employing people with severe disabilities, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and businesses with other special class designations.

Northrop Grumman has 13 current mentor protégé agreements and has worked with more than 110 protégé agencies over the life of the program. The company has received 22 DOD Nunn-Perry Awards for participation in the DOD Mentor-Protégé program, more than any other company in the program.

Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman also received the SourceAmerica® national award for Commercial Business Partnership in support of the AbilityOne Program. Northrop Grumman was again honored for its partnership with MVLE Inc., a service provider in the AbilityOne network. AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the U.S. and currently provides employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people nationwide.

Tina Ballard, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® said, “Partnering with Northrop Grumman in advancing our complementary missions has been exciting, as it has grown the capabilities of our local service providers, expanded our outreach and education efforts, and helped create more jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. The award is well deserved. “

*The Nunn-Perry Award is named in honor of retired U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who sponsored legislation to enact the Mentor-Protégé Program in 1991, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Nunn-Perry awards are the highest honor companies can receive in the program. Northrop Grumman received two of the seven awards given this year.

October 31, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Issues 75th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine

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Arlington, VA, October 31, 2013 – Bringing its 75th anniversary celebration of the AbilityOne® Program to a close, the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® has just released Volume 4 of AbilityOne Program Magazine. The October 2013 issue serves the dual purpose of educating Federal customers and partners about working with the AbilityOne Program and wrapping up the year-long festivities honoring the 1938 legislation that led to the Program’s creation. The theme of the celebration is, “AbilityOne - It Works!”

Among the inspirational AbilityOne success stories and historical elements explored in this issue are:

  • Hurricane Katrina to the Boston Marathon bombing: How AbilityOne unites us when tragedy strikes
  • Trained in contract closeout, AbilityOne Program employees who are blind or have significant disabilities identify $538 million for return to Federal agencies
  • AbilityOne Program employee receives her first paycheck at the age of 42
  • More than 3,500 AbilityOne products and services help meet the ever-changing requirements and specifications of government initiatives, including environmental protection
  • AbilityOne agencies support warfighters during their active service and return to civilian life
  • Illustrated 75-year timeline reveals growth, challenges, and changes to the AbilityOne Program
  • Results of a year-long social media campaign to raise public awareness about the Program

Tina Ballard, Executive Director and CEO of the Commission said, “It is fitting as we enter the 76th year of the AbilityOne Program’s operation that we recognize the importance of the enacting bill and recommit ourselves to the mission set for us by visionary Congressional leaders. Although the AbilityOne Program is a highly successful government effort to create jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, we still have a long way to go. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the August 2013 release of a report* from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows that nearly 80 percent of persons with a disability do not have jobs. It is essential to the health and well being of both these individuals and our economy that we dramatically improve this situation.”

For the complete issue of the October 2013 AbilityOne Program Magazine in fully accessible PDF format, go to http://www.abilityone.gov/media_room/documents/AO_Magazine_2014_508_WEB.pdf.

*For the full Bureau of Labor Statistics report, PERSONS WITH A DISABILITY: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS – 2012, go to http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm

August 28, 2013

Labor Day: Major Implications For People With Significant Disabilities

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WASHINGTON, DC, August 28, 2013 – The annual Labor Day holiday salutes the working people of our nation. Through their efforts and productivity, our society remains strong and resilient. However, according to the Department of Labor website www.dol.gov/odep, the July 2013 Labor Force Participation Rate for people with disabilities was 20.3%.

These data underscore the decades old problem of too few employment opportunities for upwards of 11 million people with disabilities. The impact of this reality hits hardest on people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

The good news is that their employment playing field is being broadened by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, a small, independent federal agency created in 1938. The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program with assistance from two central nonprofit agencies: National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica®, and a network of nearly 600 participating local nonprofit agencies across the country.

In 2012, AbilityOne contracts with federal agencies to provide thousands of products and services resulted in creating nearly 50,000 jobs for men and women who are blind or have a significant disability. The jobs they filled run the gamut of blue collar and white collar employment including contract management services, fleet maintenance, grounds keeping, and contact center services.

What does having a job mean to someone with a significant disability? Here are just two perspectives provided by AbilityOne employees.

To Jeffrey Files, an AbilityOne stock clerk responsible for issuing, receiving, inspecting, and accounting for $45 million in military gear at Fort Drum, it’s much more than just a paycheck. Files says, “It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life… I personally take pride in giving the Soldiers the best possible equipment they can get their hands on... It is a privilege and an honor to work here.”

Ryan Frasier, National Passport Information Center customer service representative has this to say: “During [international] crisis operations, I take calls from Americans overseas on passport issues… assist people with illness and injuries, and connect them with loved ones at home. AbilityOne gives me the opportunity to… provide my fellow citizens with a truly useful service when they need it most.”

For more information about the AbilityOne Program please visit: www.abilityone.gov.

August 19, 2013

DOD, AbilityOne Recognize NAVAIR Support Of People With Disabilities

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Members of NAVAIR's contracts team and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program. From left, Jim Meade, Janice Woehrer, Dan Ratcliff, Kimberly Zeich, Capt. John T. Palmer, Sheila Milburn, Greg Szczyglowski and Tara Capecci.
Courtesy photo by AbilityOne Members of NAVAIR's contracts team and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program. From left, Jim Meade, Janice Woehrer, Dan Ratcliff, Kimberly Zeich, Capt. John T. Palmer, Sheila Milburn, Greg Szczyglowski and Tara Capecci.

by Stephanie Lesko U.S. AbilityOne Commission

August 19, 2013 – Members of Naval Air Systems Command's contracts team aboard NAS Patuxent River and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program, the nation's largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

In 2011, the Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, 2.0 Contracting Team used its ongoing relationship with the AbilityOne Program to procure a new aircrew endurance vest for Navy and Marine Corps aircrews to wear while flying. Peckham Inc., a nonprofit agency employing people with significant disabilities in Lansing, Mich., designed and prototyped the new vest ensemble. The vest, an improved replacement for the PRU-70 vest, provides a means of carrying flight and survival equipment and body armor.

By working with Peckham, NAVAIR sustained approximately 20 jobs for people with significant disabilities who previously made the PRU-70 vest.

AbilityOne employees also support NAVAIR in other areas. An AbilityOne nonprofit agency, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries Inc., has performed laundry services and linen rental at Patuxent River Naval Air Station Medical Laundry for Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River since September 2006.

On May 2, 2012, Industries for the Blind, Milwaukee, another AbilityOne nonprofit, opened its IB Express Servmart in building 4024 here to be a one-stop on base office supply vendor.

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Deputy Executive Director Kimberly Zeich co-presented the certificates with Capt. John Palmer, NAVAIR deputy assistant commander for contracts, to Tara Capecci, Michael Denny, Lori Frame, Capt. Roger Ligon, James Meade, Dan Ratcliff, retired Lt. Cmdr. Martin Rios, Greg Szczyglowski and Janice Woehrer.

The AbilityOne (Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act) Program uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy products and services from participating, community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide dedicated to training and employing individuals with disabilities. For more information, visit www.AbilityOne.gov.

July 11, 2013

Tony Poleo Re-Elected to Lead Presidentially-Appointed Commission
Jim Kesteloot Re-Elected Vice Chairperson

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Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and Vice Chairperson James M. (Jim) Kesteloot.
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and Vice Chairperson James M. (Jim) Kesteloot.

Washington, DC, July 11, 2013 – J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and James (Jim) Kesteloot were unanimously re-elected to their respective positions as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, the operating name of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, at its July 2013 meeting. Poleo and Kesteloot were first elected to their positions in July 2011.

The Commission is responsible for administering the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest employment source for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities, which provided nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2012 alone. The AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

“I am honored to again serve as the Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, and I look forward to continuing my partnership with re-elected Vice Chairperson Jim Kesteloot,” said Poleo. “To me, while maintaining program integrity remains paramount as we go forward, we must intensify our effort to preserve existing opportunities and find new ones in this increasingly austere fiscal environment.”

Poleo was appointed by President George W. Bush in February 2007, as the Department of Defense representative to the Commission. Poleo currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency.

Kesteloot was appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in September 2010, as a private citizen representative providing insight into the obstacles to employment of persons who are blind.

“As Vice Chairperson, I will continue to work with Chairperson Tony Poleo in advancing the Commission’s strategic direction and creating jobs of the future, consistent with my appointment and President Obama’s goal of empowering people with disabilities,” said Kesteloot.

July 11, 2013

Lowman Receives AbilityOne Honors

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Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard, Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman, and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard, Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman, and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.

Washington, DC, July 11, 2013 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® presented its Executive Director’s Award for Enduring Leadership to Dr. Carol E. Lowman, former Deputy to the Commanding General Army Contracting Command, who served on the Commission from October 2011 through August 2012.

The Enduring Leadership Award is the Executive Director’s award presented to senior leaders for truly outstanding contributions to, and support of, the AbilityOne Program. As a result of her leadership, Contract Management Services (CMS) is a well-established line of business for the AbilityOne Program. From 2010 to the present, 107 employees who are blind or have significant disabilities were employed, including 27 veterans and wounded warriors, have found employment in this line of business. Since the launch of CMS, these employees have delivered 119,000 contracts to contracting officers for signature, achieved a greater than 99% quality rate, and identified $191 million in recovered funding.

“For many years, Carol Lowman has distinguished herself as an AbilityOne® advocate, consistently supporting and encouraging the sale of SKILCRAFT® and AbilityOne products and by sponsoring a pilot for Contract Management Services,” said Executive Director and CEO Tina Ballard. “After decades of distinguished Federal service, Carol retired from the government and resigned from the Commission; and yet, her exceptional work continues to make a difference in the lives of our population and the success of AbilityOne. Her acts of leadership are enduring.”

“Throughout her career, Carol has provided invaluable acquisition advice and leadership which resulted in the creation of 2,000 jobs for people with significant disabilities,” said Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo. “She thinks ‘out of the box’ all the time. She is very deserving of this award and recognition.”

As the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting and Acting Director of the Military Installation and Contracting Command, Lowman and the command demonstrated extraordinary commitment to AbilityOne by being the first to act on the Department of Defense / AbilityOne Commitment Card initiative. Results are already being achieved. There were no AbilityOne services at Ft. Rucker four years ago; today laundry, document management, and hazardous materials management services are now under development. Support from Lowman also fostered a greater emphasis within the Army to work with AbilityOne on other contracting opportunities, such as Department of Public Works Total Facilities Management projects.

Lowman said, “I am honored and humbled to receive this award. I truly am appreciative of everyone behind me who helped make this happen.”

The Commission, National Industries for the Blind, and SourceAmerica® also recognized Dr. Lowman during the meeting for her service as the Department of Army representative on the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from October 2011 through August 2012.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and National Industries for the Blind President and CEO Kevin A. Lynch.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and National Industries for the Blind President and CEO Kevin A. Lynch.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and SourceAmerica President and CEO E. Robert Chamberlin.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and SourceAmerica President and CEO E. Robert Chamberlin.

April 30, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission FY2012 Annual Report Published

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Washington, D.C., April 30, 2013 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® today released its FY2012 Annual Report to the public.  Published under the theme “AbilityOne-People Above All,” the report chronicles key highlights of the AbilityOne Program in the past year, and features 14 profiles of exemplary individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities and are employed through the AbilityOne® Program. The publication also highlights the 75th anniversary celebration of the AbilityOne Program’s founding legislation which runs through October 2013.

AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities and currently provides employment opportunities to more than nearly 50,000 people nationwide. The Program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, an independent Federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB), and NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities.

To view the U.S. AbilityOne Commission FY2012 Annual Report, click here.

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March 29, 2013

AbilityOne Producing Agencies Win Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Awards

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Washington, D.C., March 29, 2013 – AbilityOne® Authorized Providers recently won three out of four awards for land-based food service operations in the U.S. Navy’s 2013 Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Awards.

Award Award Naval Base Nonprofit Agency
First Place Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Large General Mess Category Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Chesapeake Service Systems, Inc.
First Place Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Small General Mess Category Naval Base Kitsap, Washington Skookum Educational Programs
Runner Up Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Large General Mess Category Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida GINFL Services, Inc.

 

The Ney Awards, co-sponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) encourage excellence in Navy Food Service Programs with the objective of improving the quality of life for Navy personnel.

AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities and currently provides employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people nationwide. NISH (www.nish.org) is one of two national nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® to support nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program.

To view the full announcement, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/ALNAVS/ALN2013/ALN13019.txt

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February 20, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Highest Honor Call for Nominations

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Washington, D.C., February 20, 2013 – Today the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM announces its call for nominations for the E.R. "Dick" Alley Career Achievement Award (Alley Award). The Commission is the independent Federal agency which leads and administers the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest source of employment in the United States, providing employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities nationwide. The Alley Award is the highest honor the Commission bestows on a Federal employee.

The award was established in 1998 in honor and memory of Dick Alley, who provided more than 25 years of dedicated service to the AbilityOne Program as the Deputy Executive Director of the Commission staff. The award recognizes extraordinary achievements and sustained efforts of individuals in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment and training opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

Only one Alley Award is given each year. Eligibility and criteria information can be found online at www.abilityone.gov. Nominations, which must be submitted in an accessible electronic format (i.e., Word, Word Perfect or accessible Adobe PDF), must be submitted to awards@abilityone.gov by March 15, 2013.

The 2013 Alley Award recipient will formally be presented the award at both the NISH National Training and Achievement Conference in May 2013, and the National Industries for the Blind National Training Conference in October 2013.

January 30, 2013

First AbilityOne Executive Director Passed Away at 92

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Washington, DC, January 30, 2013 – It is with a great sense of loss that the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which operates as the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM, acknowledges the passing of its former and first Executive Director, Charles William Fletcher, BG (Ret) US Army. A life-long humanitarian and proponent of people who are blind or have significant disabilities, Fletcher died on January 2, 2013. He was 92.

After graduating from West Point in 1941 and engaging in a prestigious 30-year military career, Fletcher became the first Executive Director of the independent Federal agency now known as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program, the largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States.

“For nearly two decades Charlie Fletcher served with distinction as the first Executive Director of the U.S. AbilityOne Program,” said Tina Ballard, current U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director. “His willingness to open new doors of opportunity for people who are blind or have significant disabilities set a high bar for subsequent Executive Directors. We collectively thank him for what he did to advance the program mission and improve the lives of the population we serve.”

During his 17-year tenure, Fletcher tirelessly dedicated himself to providing jobs to people who were blind or had significant disabilities through the manufacture of products and services for the Federal Government, under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (the enabling legislation for the AbilityOne® Program). By the time of his retirement from civil service, he left the program with a then-record-high 13.5 million direct labor hours and $58.7 million in wages paid. The program minimum wage was $4.61 per hour, slightly higher than the prevailing wage of that period in time. From 1971-1988, he was a driving force in increasing program employment from 4,000 to nearly 20,000 people who were blind or had severe disabilities.

“In addition to his program accomplishments, Charlie Fletcher was also known to his staff as a kind, warm-hearted individual, who will be missed dearly,” said Ballard.

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