2014 GCN Award Winners

10 public sector projects win GCN Awards for IT excellence

Ten government IT projects, showing the power of mobile technology to transform the government IT enterprise as well those designed to support agency program teams and public end users, took top honors in the 2014 GCN Awards for IT achievement.

This year’s winning GCN Award projects ranged from a system that streamlined  obtaining protective orders for victims of physical abuse to a  cost-saving mobile app by a self-taught Air Force dev team.

Kshemendra Paul, Program Manager of the Information Sharing Environment and chairman of this year’s panel of judges, noted how the winning projects illustrated a “balance of innovation” across federal, state and local jurisdictions.

Renee Wynn, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the projects also  illustrated the “true power of mobile” in government. “It is revising processes, creating applications, modifying the way large systems are managed and deployed and how we do business,” she said.

In the aftermath of the 2013 roll out of the Affordable Care Act, health information technology caught the attention of the GCN Award judges this year, who selected two state health care insurance site launches that demonstrated  the ability to withstand heavy transaction loads yet be responsive to users.

The judges this year picked a special project, the relocation of Naval Sea Systems Command offices in the aftermath of the 2013 Navy Yard shootings, in a tribute to those who lost their lives and in recognition of their NAVSEA colleagues who picked up the pieces after the tragedy.

This year’s award winners stood out because they “focused their attention on achieving mission outcomes for stakeholders and not just on the milestones to get there,” said PV Puvvada, Unisys Federal Systems acting president, one of eight judges of the GCN Awards this year.

Five other judges rounded out the panel for the awards, including:


  • Terry Halvorsen, Chief Information Officer, Department of Defense
  • Karen Jackson, Secretary of Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Mike Krieger, Deputy CIO, Department of the Army
  • Dan Chenok, Executive Director, IBM Center for the Business of Government
  • Adel Ebeid, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Philadelphia

The judges were asked to score the nominated projects on basis of the impact of the program on the agency or public, the innovation in the project technology plan and the quality of leadership in the team that carried the projects to fruition.

The winning projects and their teams will be featured in the October issue of GCN and honored at GCN’s annual awards gala dinner and reception at the Ritz Carlton, Tyson’s Corner on Oct. 14.

Here are the 2014 GCN Award winners, followed by a list 10 Honorable Mentions also picked by the judges.

Commercial Cloud PAO under DOD Security Model
Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR)

In 2011, the undersecretary of the Navy directed the department to cut its IT budget by 25 percent over the next five years. SPAWAR’ commercial integration team (CSI) addressed the mandate by enabling Navy to move low-impact information systems and functions to commercial cloud service providers.

The effort would prove instrumental to the Navy’s cost-cutting drive and its ambitious plan to cut maintenance costs by closing 150 data centers. It would also be a challenge: The Navy has hundreds of thousands of personnel depending on the security and reliability of its IT systems, sometimes in life and death situations.

In carrying out the cloud initiative, the SPAWAR CSI team had to create security protocols, architect an enterprise environment and determine the most effective paths for acquisition. Cloud service providers could provide the building blocks of a solution, but risks had to be mitigated through engineering and by DOD personnel in order to comply with accreditation protocols. To do this the CSI team coordinated closely with Amazon Web Services to create a cloud environment that set up a secure roadmap for hosting DOD information in a commercial cloud environment and established the SPAWAR CSI team as a trailblazer in DOD’s path to secure cloud computing.

Electronic Protective Order System
Alamance County, N.C., MIS /Administrative Office of the Courts

Victims of domestic violence often run a bureaucratic gauntlet that prevents them from applying for legal protection from their abusers. Many have to travel to multiple locations to acquire a protective order, and the number of agencies involved often means delays in enforcing the order. After years of work at the state and local level, Alamance County, N.C., in 2013 became the first in the state to set up an Electronic Protective Order System (EPOS) that opened bottlenecks in the process.  

With EPOS, testimony of the victim and the subsequent order can be transmitted via a web-based system to the Clerk of Court's office. From there, documents are forwarded electronically to the District Court judge, where a victim can be heard via a webcam. If granted, the order can then be transmitted and printed for the victim as well as the sheriff's department to service the order. Today, only 6 percent of victims seeking protective orders fail to finish the protective order process. And cost? The county spent 15,000 hours on the project at a relatively modest cost of $882,000.

FEMA Risk MAP (Mapping, Assessment and Planning)
FEMA Risk Analysis Division

FEMA’s Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (MAP) group distributes flood hazard data using maps and other analytic tools to heighten public awareness of risks to persons and property. Facing a crippling budget cut of 30 percent, the FEMA Risk MAP Customer and Data Services group set up a three-stage plan to take its mapping toolset electronic while cutting spending.

First, FEMA automated its Letter of Map Change) system, enabling citizens to request changes in their property’s flood zone designation electronically, resulting in significant cost savings and faster determinations for applicants. FEMA also developed Hazus, a GIS tool to model potential losses from earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Lastly, FEMA used high resolution scanning to develop a digital case file system that cut the agency’s dependence on hard copy. 

The FEMA team is now digitizing its Risk MAP Engineering Library, containing millions of older paper maps and other documents. Overall, the FEMA team’s focus in the last year have shown a positive return on investment from removal of outdated technology to the elimination of processing and shipping of physical maps to customers.

Integrated Enterprise Portal Program
Internal Revenue Service

The IRS has spent the last several years integrating the pieces of a revenue collection engine it has been assembling for the better part of a decade. It has been a tall order. For a long time the IRS managed distinct architectures for its public users, registered users and employee users. Now, with the Integrated Enterprise Portal (IEP) project, it has established a large, secure private cloud that uses an open source platform to reduce costs and integrate the enterprise.

Today, IRS has a simpler and more manageable web environment, built on a platform that supplies nearly 2,000 virtual machines and can scale quickly to meet fluctuating business demands and workloads. Meanwhile IRS.gov has experienced a 10.5 percent increase in visits and a 92.9 percent customer satisfaction rate from its help desk. IEP has helped IRS establish end-to-end accountability, build a cost effective enterprise IT foundation and earn public acceptance as a trusted taxation website.

New York City Department of Transportation, IT & Telecom, New York City Department of Transportation

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, 10 percent of New Yorkers are lost at any given time. It’s no wonder: the city has over 6,000 miles of roadway, 6,000 bikes, 1,200 buses and 12,700 miles of sidewalk. Add in visitors that descend upon the city on any given week, and the number people straying off course is not only inconvenient but a public safety concern.

In response, the city’s DOT developed iRideNYC, the first HTML 5 web app that displays transit information in real time. To develop the tool, the city embarked on a ‘mobile first’ software strategy that focused on essential users features, including arrival times and pricing information for public transit and events within walking distance. The project only required 450 hours – about $50,000 of internal staff time to develop. In the big picture, iRideNYC is more than a single app. It also acts as a mobile development platform that has been used to build other solutions, including a mobile app that helps inspectors track city compliance regs.

KC-10 Load Management System
USAF Air Mobility Command

The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command maintains a team of 39 to meet its software programming needs, demand for which has skyrocketed as smartphones and tablets have become the device of choice for public and military users. In fact, last year requests for app development exceeded any budget AMC had reserved for programming training. But that didn’t stop AMC’s software development team when they were asked to code a “weight and balance computation” app designed to calculate pre-flight distribution of cargo.

Faced with an order but no training resources to follow it, AMC coders left no stone unturned in pursuisng inexpensive methods to teach themselves, including using Coursera, an online teaching platform discounted training offered by local universities. When those didn’t pan out, they often just searched for help on YouTube.

The AMC dev team calculated that it took two self-taught programmers six months to generate 19,293 lines of code. When finished, the team’s KC-10 Load Management app took the existing 46 minute load balancing calculation time and reduced it to five minutes. And when the team sent the KC-10 LMS code to a team developing a similar app for the C-5 aircraft, they were able to save 225 hours and $30,000.

Kynect: Kentucky’s Healthcare Connection
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentucky opted to build its own health care exchange rather than piggybacking on healthcare.gov federal site. To do so, it mobilized the Office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange project team to launch kynect, a modular, service-oriented enterprise platform providing services linked with Medicaid, child support and nutrition assistance programs. From the outset, Kentucky’s leadership emphasized the role scalability and elasticity would play in meeting the demands the health insurance exchange would face. Consequently kynect was built on an infrastructure virtualized from top to bottom.

The metrics tell a success story: Prior to the kynect rollout, 640,000 Kentuckians, 15 percent of its population, had no healthcare coverage. Kentucky now has more citizens registered for private insurance and Medicaid per capita than any other state.What’s more, the state estimates Medicaid expansion will result in 17,000 new jobs and $15.6 billion injected into the Kentucky economy.

Mobile Testing & Security for Military Field Operations
NIST Computer Security & Intelligent Systems divisions

When the Defense Department concluded smartphones were essential to its military mission, it turned to NIST for solutions on how to secure and test the devices to meet DOD’s strict battlefield requirements. In enabling what might be called BYOD for the battlefield, NIST created software assurance methods as well as reliability tests and crypto tools that enabled DOD to deploy modified commercial phones, cut development costs and ultimately save lives.

With support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the NIST team evaluated the security of smartphone apps at scale, streamlined the process of obtaining new apps and set up a faster procurement vetting process. NIST-developed tools also offered detailed feedback to app developers and provided a meaningful reference model for the private sector.

Overall, NIST helped facilitate the deployment of 3,000 smartphones in theater, launched an open source app testing portal and tested thousands of apps, exposing numerous security vulnerabilities, according to NIST, whose success was confirmed by this battlefield testimonial it received: “The Taliban had nearly surrounded us. We used the handheld to identify the enemy’s position and fired directly at them. If we would not have had the device to pinpoint the enemy, lives could have been lost.”

Navy Yard Headquarters Relocation
Naval Sea Systems Command

On the morning of Sept. 16, 2013, tragedy struck the Navy Yard, home of the Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Washington, D.C., headquarters. As a gunman entered Building 197, employees scrambled to get to safety, leaving laptops, cell phones and other personal belongings behind. The government and contracting communities took a terrible blow that day, losing 12 employees. In the wake of the tragedy, NAVSEA was faced with a difficult balance: to be mindful of the need to heal, while restarting operations and providing 2,500 employees with a new work environment.

NAVSEA’s goal was to get all employees back online before Dec. 25, 2013, during which time they needed to replace mobile devices lost or left behind; pull 185 miles of new cable in rewiring its new facility at Buzzard’s Point; and setting up security compliance and system management for accessing the command’s existing networks. With the team’s constant attention to the project, they met their goal and had sufficient infrastructure in place to allow the NAVSEA staff to get back to work only a month after the incident, a case study of focus, honor and leadership.

Strategic Offender Management System
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is the largest correctional system in the United States, responsible for the safety and security of 137,000 inmates, 60,000 parolees and 57,000 employees in 34 institutions across the state. But for such a large organization, it has been hobbled by paper-based legacy systems; records were out of date, making it difficult to access real-time, accurate inmate case data.

To address the challenge, CDCR launched the Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS), an integrated system that has enabled CDCR to improve the safety of its staff, inmates and the general public. The SOMS solution includes a high availability infrastructure that provides for fault tolerance and limited downtime due to hardware or software failure. Today, CDCR’s electronic records management system supports over 32,000 end users that are accessing inmate’s files on a real-time basis.

Honorable mentions

The following 10 projects were also recognized by the judges, who awarded them honorable mentions for IT achievement:

Children’s Services Data Integration and Analysis
Virginia Office of Comprehensive Services

Enterprise Management Decision Support
Department of the Army

Medicaid Eligibility System
Florida Department of Children and Families

National Intrepid Center of Excellence Continuity Management Tool
Defense Health Agency

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Ongoing Authorization Implementation
Department of Homeland Security Information Security Office

Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced Upgrade
Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center

Cargo Export Systems
DHS / Customs and Border Protection

Transforming to a Cloud-Based Shared Services IT Organization
California Natural Resources Agency

Washington Healthplanfinder
Washington State Health Benefit Exchange 


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