IT excellence reigns at GCN Gala

Teamwork and preparing the way for the next generation were the twin themes of last night's GCN Awards Gala at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Over a festive meal of scallops and prime rib, the government information technology community celebrated its own, braving the first rainy night in the capital after months of record-breaking drought.

Master of ceremonies Wyatt Kash, GCN's editor in chief, said the awardees were chosen for their imagination, perseverance and willingness to take risks.

The award recipients credited their teams for the honor, with the exception of GCN Hall of Fame inductee Steve Kelman, Weatherhead professor of public management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Kelman said it would be slightly bizarre to accept the award on behalf of Harvard University, but he did accept it as a 'citizen, teacher and former civil servant,' and he made a point of thanking 'each of the public servants here,' adding that career civil servants rarely get the credit they deserve.

Representatives of the 12 agency award winners received a standing ovation from the crowd. The agency awardees were:
  • Defense Information Systems Agency (story)
  • U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program and the Coast Guard (story)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (story)
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (story)
    Health and Human Services Department (story)
  • Internal Revenue Service (story)
  • Montgomery County, Md. (story)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (story)
  • Oakland County, Mich. (story)
  • Defense Department (story)
  • Social Security Administration (story)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (story)

Civilian Executive of the Year John Johnson, assistant commissioner at the General Services Administration and parent of a 14-month old toddler, compared raising children to developing IT programs: 'If they don't spend their allowance on the right things, there will have to be a little discussion.'

The enthusiastic crowd ' which occasionally burst into spontaneous applause and cheers ' was hushed by the eloquence of GCN's DOD Executive of the Year, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

'Like many of you, I grew up with parents and grandparents that were part of the 'greatest generation,' ' Cartwright said. 'I've looked into the eyes and souls of people who walk the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi. I've been on aircraft carriers where the average age is 22. We have the opportunity to make sure that they can be the next greatest generation. Please, let's do that for them.'

Diana Gowen, senior vice president at Qwest Government Services, compared her career to the time she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. People before her such as Vint Cerf ' who developed the Internet when it was used by the academic and technical communities ' blazed the trail, 'not the bloggers and gamers of today.'

Kevin Carroll, program executive officer of the Army and winner of the Special Commendation for Government IT Service award, made a plea for better communications in government, saying he was 'very worried that we're going back to the bad days,' when openness was rare.

One of the highlights of the evening was Ira Hobbs' induction into the GCN Hall of Fame. Hobbs, principal at Hobbs and Hobbs and former Treasury Department chief information officer, brought along his son, Ira Lynn, a student at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md.

Calmly taking the podium, Hobbs' son said the 'only problem we have is, where are we going to put this award?'

Kelman agreed with Carroll's 'fear that hard- won victories of common-sense government are under threat,' and he urged the group to fight back by delivering better government to the people.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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