GCN Awards celebrate IT innovators

With the economy in flux and elections only 12 days away,
uncertainty is hovering over the nation's capital. But for
the past 21 years, one reliable Washington fixture has been the
enthusiasm of the crowd at the GCN Awards Gala.

Last night, 900 members of the government IT community donned
black ties and sequins to celebrate their achievements and heroes,
a recession notwithstanding.

In accepting her award as GCN Civilian IT Executive of the Year,
Molly O'Neill, the Environmental Protection Agency's
chief information officer, talked about handling a government
transition of her own. She waited nine months for Senate
confirmation and, once confirmed, had only two years left to serve
under the Bush administration. 'Knowing your job has an
expiration date is motivating,' O'Neill said.

In thanking her colleagues and family, O'Neill said her
brother is also an IT professional and recognized her mother, Pam.
'I just want to say: Mom, you're the mother of all

Defense IT Executive of the Year Ken Heitkamp has saved the
government tens of millions of dollars through his efforts in
creating the Federal Desktop Core Configuration standard for all
government desktop computers. FDCC 'was a nice first
step,' said Heitkamp, who recently retired as the Air
Force's assistant chief information officer for life cycle
management. But he talked about possibly adding a compliance
incentive. 'If you comply with the federal government
[desktop standards], you can connect with our networks,' he
said. 'If you don't, you can't.'

Curt Kolcun, Industry IT Executive of the Year and vice
president of Microsoft's public-sector group, thanked all the
company's public-sector customers and the dedicated men and
women who provide the government with software, 'whether
partners or competitors.'

Inducted into the GCN Hall of Fame last night were Karen Evans
and Lt. Gen. Charles Croom Jr.

Evans, now administrator of the Office of E-Government and
Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget,
began her government career as a GS-2. She offered a sweeping thank
you to 'everyone who ever worked with me, shared an office
with me, the contractors who supported me and every deputy who had
to serve under me.'

Evans also thanked Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for
management. A few months into her job as e-government czar, Evans
told Johnson that the hardest thing about it was that 'when I
speak, I'm speaking on behalf of the president of the United

'Karen, the reason we picked you is because we know that
you will do the right thing,' Johnson said. Evans said she
often thinks of those words of confidence from Johnson and strives
to live up to them.

Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said
there are two commandments in delivering IT. The first is that
'it's all about speed, and I'll demonstrate that
tonight,' which he did by keeping his remarks brief. The
second commandment 'is that delivering IT is a team
sport.' He said he was honored to be part of a team that
worked long hours against the constraints of the Washington
bureaucracy. 'These are people who put mission first, ahead
of company profits,' Croom said.

After a dinner of seared porcini dusted petite filet and
saut'ed shrimp, GCN Editor in Chief Wyatt Kash presented the
agency awards. The winners were selected based
on three criteria: innovation and risk-taking; evidence of impact;
and agency leadership. This year, for the first time, GCN also
recognized 10 agency projects as honorable mentions.

Also honored at the celebration were the Class of 2008 Rising Stars, a group of 41 promising young
government IT leaders.

The crowd then retired to the foyer for dessert and
conversation, having celebrated another year of government IT
excellence and innovation.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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