Program Analyst Cedric “Ced” Hardy proudly retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving for 20 years. He followed his military service with a 20-year executive career in the private sector. Hardy’s “third act” began in October 2020 with FSIS’ Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA).

LEPS Program Analyst Duties

As a program analyst within OIEA’s Litigation and Enforcement Programs Staff (LEPS), Hardy’s responsibilities include collecting data and analyzing and reporting federal plant enforcement activities. He also manages all meat and poultry handler (MPH) registrations under LEPS. The Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act require certain businesses, such as wholesalers, public warehouses and brokers, to register with FSIS if they deal in meat or poultry products or Siluriformes, in or for commerce, and are not operating under federal inspection.

Hardy has reviewed and verified more than 1,900 registrations submitted by meat and poultry handlers nationwide. This includes reviewing the accuracy and content of the forms submitted by prospective registrants and, when needed, researching the nature of the business operations and how it is handling meat and poultry products. After verifying that the organization’s operations involve meat or poultry, Hardy then enters the establishment’s information into our system, AssuranceNet, a web-based tool that allows FSIS to input data and run real-time reports. Hardy also uses the AssuranceNet software to perform data analytics.

Periodically, LEPS receives requests for information from organizations on how they can bring their businesses into compliance with FSIS regulations. Hardy responds to questions about the types of firms required to be registered, overall MPH requirements, and when the businesses may need to contact the District Office to obtain a grant of inspection. He also instructs businesses on how they can find such information through FSIS’ website and district points of contact when it appears they are seeking to obtain federal inspection services.

Hardy authors the Confidential Enforcement Report, a weekly internal agency report that informs FSIS management of key administrative, criminal and civil enforcement actions. The report includes a summary of all administrative enforcement actions taken by FSIS against federal establishments (suspensions, notices of intended enforcement), warning notices received by firms in commerce for violations of FSIS statutes, as well as any potential criminal or civil actions such as indictments, injunctions and others taken by the Department of Justice for noncompliance with food safety laws. Hardy continues to assess ways to streamline the process of preparing the report and disseminating information while also ensuring continued accuracy and transparency related to FSIS enforcement actions.

Hardy participates in an AssuranceNet working group, as well as working groups in data analytics, SharePoint, budget, records management and networking. These working groups meet on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or ad hoc basis.

Military Service to FSIS

Hardy joined the Air Force at age 17 because, in his words, he was “heading down the wrong path and needed to get out of the South Side of Chicago.” The Air Force provided opportunities for Hardy, whose original military occupational specialty was in personnel. He later transitioned to “contingency war planning” (or “contingency operational readiness” in private industry).

Hardy attended the Community College of the Air Force, then went on to complete his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Peru State College in Nebraska. He earned his master’s degree in procurement and acquisition with a certificate in government contracting from Webster University in 2019. “Education has been a part of most of my career; they go hand-in-hand,” said Hardy. Currently considering whether to pursue a doctorate degree, he said, “It’s never too late!”

In the Air Force, Hardy learned how to implement a total quality management approach to reviewing processes and streamlining administrative and operational programs to improve efficiency without compromising the integrity of the system. Later, in private industry as the director of operations for a medical evaluation company, Hardy continued to use his skills to lead, evaluate and improve processes. When he joined LEPS, Hardy was impressed with how streamlined and professional the team and its processes were. 

Said his supervisor, OIEA Program Manager Valerie J. Neris-Blankenship, “Mr. Hardy is a knowledgeable, talented and dedicated professional. In everything he does, he brings an energy and positive spirit that inspires his coworkers. He is a patriot, family man and hard worker. He is the ultimate team player who is always willing to do the extra work to help a colleague, no matter the challenge.”

In 2006, after spending 19 of his 20 years with the Air Force overseas, Hardy retired from military service, having fulfilled his dream “to see the world.” Said Hardy, “My military experience provided me with the discipline and loyalty to accept, evaluate, process and excel in just about any task or challenge presented to me.”

Upon retirement from his second career in private industry, Hardy realized, “Retirement is overrated.” Twice retired, Hardy realized he has always wanted to serve our country, so he applied for a job with FSIS and joined the agency in late 2020. While his goal may not be to complete another 20-year career in his latest position, Hardy is grateful to be with FSIS. “The entire FSIS team is amazing, and my coworkers are some of the best professionals I have worked with during my 40+ years of employment.” he said.

Additionally, Hardy believes mentors — including Senior Compliance Specialists Ryan Cast and Shannon Ashby — ensured his smooth transition to FSIS. Said Hardy, “I am humble and grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge and advice.”

Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented 

Regarding FSIS core values, Neris-Blankenship confirms, “Mr. Hardy exemplifies FSIS core values in all his activities. His military service and upbringing have enabled him to understand the efforts needed to serve an organization and the public beyond what’s required. He demonstrates accountability by continually seeking feedback from his supervisor and peers to help improve his outcomes. He collaborates with his colleagues and members of the public by educating them on mission critical activities and helping address questions and challenges. His significant knowledge and work experience also ensure he is empowered and can take a solutions-oriented approach to both big and small work challenges.”

Personal Time

Hardy enjoys preparing meals for himself and his wife, Sheri Armstrong-Hardy. Since his two children, son Shaun and daughter Shaiann, are adults, he is happy to answer their phone calls asking for food safety advice. In addition to cooking, Hardy enjoys volunteering and traveling during his time outside the office.

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