Challenging Projects and Complex Engineering Feats Lead to 2018 Federal Engineer of the Year Award

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Contact Name: 
Stacey A. Ober
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Monday, February 26, 2018

Col. (Ret.) John Henderson, P.E., has been named the National Society of Professional Engineers’ 2018 Federal Engineer of the Year. He received the honor during the 39th Annual FEYA Banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 23, 2018.

Henderson, who was recently appointed the assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for installations, environment, and energy, was nominated for the award while serving as district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District.

“This is a great honor,” said Henderson, shortly after he was named the winner. “I was aware of some of the other nominations and accomplishments and I’m very humbled and honored to be recognized among such a really well-qualified group of people. I want to say I also accept this award on behalf of the 1300 engineering professionals and project management professionals out of the Omaha District who have done some incredibly amazing things.”

As district commander, Henderson guided his agency during the Dakota Access Pipeline permitting process, which received national attention after Corps lands were occupied by thousands of protestors. While under scrutiny, he consistently demonstrated profound leadership by focusing teammates on the role of the Corps as a neutral party, exercising regulatory authority according to the law and sound science. Henderson’s team also negotiated a 20-year partnership with the Western States Power Corporation to provide more than $1 billion in private funds for the rehabilitation of federal hydropower infrastructure on the Missouri River. Aside from his problem-solving skills, Henderson oversaw 1,300 personnel in 10 states and managed over 2500 projects involving more than $250 billion of critical federal infrastructure and real property, including dams, hydropower plants, levees, navigational channels, and recreational areas.

In his new role as an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Henderson is responsible for the formulation, review and execution of plans, policies, programs and budgets to meet Air Force installation, energy, environment, safety, and occupational health objectives worldwide.

Henderson holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a National Security Studies Fellowship. He is a member of numerous organizations including NSPE, Society of American Military Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Army Engineer Association. Throughout his career and duty locations, Henderson also took time to volunteer with Optimists International, providing input on STEM programs in local schools, and volunteering as a sports coach.

A panel of judges established by NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Government selects the FEYA winner. Hailing from various federal agencies, departments, and military branches, the nominated engineers are evaluated based on factors such as engineering achievements, education, professional and technical society activities, awards and honors, and civic and humanitarian activities. For more information about the program or how to submit nominations for 2019, contact Erin Garcia-Reyes at or 703-684-2884.

Additional Notes: 

The National Society of Professional Engineers is a member-centric, nimble, future-focused, and responsive organization, serving as the recognized voice and advocate of licensed Professional Engineers. Through education, licensure advocacy, leadership training, multidisciplinary networking, and outreach, NSPE enhances the image of its members and their ability to ethically and professionally practice engineering. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 31,000 members and the public through 52 state and territorial societies and over 400 chapters. For more information, please visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: Digital photos of Henderson, the ceremony, and additional award winners are now available.