Teamwork takes center-stage at GCN Awards Gala

Project teams and individuals feted for pioneering work with government systems

Information technology was the common topic, but teamwork was the common theme during the 22nd Annual GCN Awards Gala Thursday night Oct. 22 at the Washington Hilton and Towers to honor excellence in government IT.

Visit GCN's Facebook album of winners honored at the Awards Gala

A spirit of collaboration was evident in the recipients of this year’s GCN Awards for Agency IT Achievement which honored 11 project teams, as well as10 honorable mentions  and four individuals, for setting the pace in using IT to improve how government operates. And as the stories behind the winning projects and executives underscore, their accomplishments are built on more than technology; information sharing, innovation and persistence played a big part, too.

“This year’s winning projects,” said GCN Editor-in-Chief Wyatt Kash, the evening’s master of ceremonies, “demonstrate the powerful impact imagination and IT innovation can make in transforming the work of government.”

Looking back over the winners of the past 22 years, Kash said, “The caliber of accomplishments this past year, and the degree to which agencies are embracing everything from virtualization to new ways to work with good, old-fashioned Cobol — who would have guessed? — are as impressive as ever.”

Civilian IT Executive of the Year Martha Dorris – noting that it’s been a big year for her, since she also got her motorcycle operator's license – stressed collaboration and a focus on mission during her acceptance speech. “It’s important to stay creative, stay flexible and stay humble” said Dorris, deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications, who was recognized for her leading-edge work in using Web 2.0 and social media tools at GSA. “In these times, the public depends more and more on their government,” she said.

Dorris also took pains to thank her mentors and colleagues at GSA and other agencies, establishing a theme that was echoed by other honorees.

“It’s a team sport, being a CIO,” said Robert Carey, Navy Department chief information officer, who was honored as Defense IT Executive of the Year.

Carey, who started his government career in the Army, talked about the critical nature of IT in serving the men and women on the battlefield. “The importance of information to the warfighter is huge,” said Carey, whose vision for Navy IT includes improved security and increased use of Web 2.0 tools and open-source software.

Teamwork also is a defining characteristic of James A. Lewis, senior fellow of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was honored as Industry Executive of the Year for helping to shepherd the work of the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency.

Lewis couldn’t attend the event, so Jake Olcott, director and counsel for the House subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology, accepted the award for him. Olcott, who works with Lewis on the commission and counts him as a friend, said he had e-mailed Lewis to ask what he might say to the assembled crowd.

Lewis’ response: “I was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee” – a statement Olcott said was entirely appropriate. As director of a project that sought to find a unified view on cybersecurity among high-profile members of Congress, the executive branch, industry and academia, Lewis was, indeed, “the king of the wild frontier,” he said.

Closing out the evening’s speeches was Tom Davis, former Republican Congressman from Virginia, who became a champion for government IT while pursuing procurement reform, and was inducted into the GCN Hall of Fame. Davis, now the federal government relations director for Deloitte, kept his speech short and light, noting that he was a “recovering politician” – hence the short speech – who was “able to retire undefeated and unindicted.” But he still took time to thank the people he worked with in his congressional office and on the Government Reform Committee.

The Gala also honored the winners of the 2009 Rising Star Awards, which in August recognized up-and-coming IT leaders in government and industry. (Dorris and Davis also each took a moment to acknowledge the Rising Stars: Dorris because they represent the next generation of government IT leaders and Davis, in jest, because, “I’m a shooting star.”)

With the awards handed out, speeches made and dinner consumed, the crowd drifted off to the desert buffet to continue the other important business of the evening – networking – perhaps laying the groundwork for some of next year’s winning projects.

Visit GCN's Facebook album to see the winners honored at the Awards Gala.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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