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Mark W.
Democrat VA

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  • Tribute to Federal Employees

    by Senator Mark R. Warner

    Posted on 2013-01-23

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    WARNER. Mr. President, as we get started on this next Congress-- and I wish to congratulate the Presiding Officer for joining this Chamber. As someone who has had the opportunity to preside during my first 2 years in the Senate, I commend the Presiding Officer for those actions and look forward to working with you on a variety of projects.

    What I want to do today is continue a tradition that I actually inherited from one of our former colleagues, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware. Senator Kaufman, who had been a long-time employee of the Senate, came to this floor on a fairly regular basis during his time here to basically celebrate and acknowledge--in most cases--the tireless, unsung work of so many of our Federal employees. As we debate budgets, debt, and deficit, we oftentimes [[Page S200]] recognize we have to make extraordinary and difficult choices in cuts. In many instances, behind all of those cuts are Federal employees who do remarkable work in keeping us safe, providing services, and helping our country grow.

    Ted Kaufman used to come down here on a regular basis and celebrate some of those unsung heroes. I was proud to continue his tradition during the last Congress and look forward to carrying it on through another session.

    I start this next Congress actually celebrating two great Federal employees, I might add, who both happen to be Virginians who serve as excellent role models. They represent the thousands of professionals who work quietly every day across our intelligence community to keep our Nation safe.

    Very often these professionals work in anonymity and many risk their lives in troubled spots far away from the limelight, and that is how it should be. Recently we have seen certain incidents abroad, and sometimes they pay with the highest sign of sacrifice in terms of their lives.

    For their service, their late nights and early mornings away from their families, the risks they take, and the sacrifices they make every day--and because they do not hear this nearly enough--allow me to say thank you to those members of the intelligence community.

    Jeanne Vertefeuille Today I wish to briefly tell the remarkable stories of two extraordinary women who built their careers at the Central Intelligence Agency. Jeanne Vertefeuille, who is pictured here, passed away on December 29 at the age of 80 after a brief illness.

    In announcing her death to the CIA family, Acting Director Michael Morell appropriately described Ms. Vertefeuille as an icon within the agency. If her story were not true, it would read like a spy novel.

    Jeanne joined the CIA when she graduated from college in 1954. It was the year I was born and a year Dick Durbin was also young. This was a time when the American intelligence community could be best described as an old boys' club. She was hired at the CIA as a GS-4 typist. This is a woman coming out of college in 1954 hired as a typist.

    Over her career, which stretched over nearly a half century, Jeanne Vertefeuille blazed a trail for women in the national clandestine service. She methodically worked her way up to leadership positions. There were overseas postings in Ethiopia, Finland, and The Hague. She became an expert in Soviet intelligence and spycraft. She retired as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service in 1992.

    Even after her retirement, she continued her work for the agency as a contractor, making still more valuable contributions and working without a day's break in service until she became ill last summer. As her obituary reads: She remained a quiet agency soldier . . . purposefully nondescript and selflessly dedicated.

    She lived alone and walked to work.

    But if she was a great figure at the agency, Ms. Vertefeuille was also a tenacious and effective one, and in October of 1986 was asked to lead a task force to investigate the disappearance of Russians whom the CIA had hired to spy against their own country.

    Together, with colleagues at the CIA she invested years in the methodical and painstaking hunt for a mole. It was through her efforts, and the good work of many others, that we ultimately unmasked the notorious traitor Aldrich Ames in 1984. Remember, this is a woman who joined the CIA in 1954 as a typist.

    Aldrich Ames turned out to be one of the most dangerous traitors in the Nation's history. Thanks in large measure to Ms. Vertefeuille, he was convicted of espionage and is now serving a life term without parole.

    Sandy Grimes Jeanne Vertefeuille's story does not end there. The Washington Post recently described how one of her colleagues, Sandy Grimes--another Virginian who worked with her on the Ames task force--stepped up over the past year to care for Jeanne as she was battling cancer.

    Sandy Grimes, a career CIA employee whose parents worked on the Manhattan Project, ultimately served as Jeanne's primary caregiver. She sat with her each day during the final 3 months of her remarkable life. She monitored Jeanne's care and tried to make sure she remained comfortable. She often brought personal messages of support and appreciation from their former colleagues. Ms. Grimes said: I felt an obligation to be there with her. I can't imagine not doing it. I was the one Jeanne would accept. I owed it to her as a friend.

    By all accounts Jeanne Vertefeuille was an intensely private woman, and she doubtless would recoil at the attention she is now receiving. One cannot help but be inspired by this true-life story of service, patriotism, and friendship demonstrated by these two great employees, Sandy Grimes and the late Jeanne Vertefeuille. Their service reflects well on the thousands of other intelligence professionals whose names can never be revealed. Both of them deserve our recognition and thanks.

    During the last Congress I joined 14 Senators in a Joint Resolution to mark the U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day. At some point during this Congress, I hope we can gather more supporters so we can have a day designated on a more formalized basis to recognize the enormous contributions made by intelligence professionals. Again, this is an effort to bring respectful attention to these quiet professionals who literally--as a member of the intelligence committee, I can testify to this--keep our Nation safe every day without any thought of recognition.

    Again, I look forward to working with my colleagues so we can introduce this resolution in the next Congress.

    As I conclude my remarks, I see my friend the distinguished majority whip. We have spent a lot of time over the last 2\1/2\ years grappling with the challenges around the debt and deficit and trying to make some of the very hard choices we are going to need to make as a Nation.

    While it appears that we may be avoiding some of the immediate consequences of the so-called debt ceiling debate, which I am glad to see, never should the full faith and credit of the United States be used as a political hostage. Again, I want to compliment my friend the Senator from Illinois who has been as stalwart as anyone in this Chamber at stepping up and who has been willing to speak truth to even those who are the most supportive about some of the challenges and choices we have to make.

    We are going to have to proceed at a level of spending that is less than what we have had in the past. As we think about cutting back budgets, I think it is important to remember that behind many of these budgets, there are not just numbers but there are incredible professionals who give their life's service to making this a stronger Nation. So with this tribute to Jeanne and Sandy, I commend these two great Federal employees.

    I will be back on a regular basis to celebrate Federal employees throughout this Congress because too often in today's day and life, government service is disparaged. But for Jeanne Vertefeuille and Sandy Grimes we might not have as safe a Nation as we do today.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.

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