20 IT projects to be honored at GCN Awards

Winning efforts reflect move toward open-source, cross-agency collaboration and transparency

Innovation comes in many forms, but if the winners of the 2010 GCN Awards have anything in common, it is the ability of project directors and workers to make innovative use of the tools at hand. The results are effective, often inexpensive systems that improved agencies’ performance or eliminated significant obstacles.

Several of the projects, which will be honored this year at the 23rd annual GCN Awards Gala Oct. 27, made creative use of open-source software and tools, others made new use of existing systems, and others improved on and expanded systems already in place. And quite a few involved interagency cooperation, both in pulling the projects together and in supporting the work of other agencies across multiple levels of government.

Related coverage:

2009: 11 great government IT projects

The annual GCN Awards honor outstanding information technology achievements in government. A panel of GCN editors and outside judges from the public and private sectors chose the winning projects from more than 80 nominations. The projects will be profiled in GCN’s Oct. 18 issue, along with GCN’s executives of the year and other projects deserving of honorable mention. Those projects and leaders will be recognized at the awards gala, which will be held at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, Va. The executives of the year will be announced next week.

For now, here’s a brief look at this year’s winners.

Agency: United States Postal Service

Office/Group: Office of Information Technology Solutions

Project: USPS Full Service Program

Full Service uses a combination of barcodes, electronic mailing data from customers, information about the mail from USPS operations and mail-quality feedback to provide interactive, real-time reporting on mail service. Built to handle 500 million pieces of mail and 1 billion transactions a day, Full Service was implemented in seven months. One component is the Seamless Acceptance and Service Performance application, which uses the SUSE Linux open-source operating system running on IBM z10 mainframes.

Agency: Department of Health and Human Services

Office/Group: Federal Health Architecture

Project: CONNECT Program.

CONNECT is open-source software that lets health organizations securely share information through health information exchanges based on standards established by the National Health Information Network. CONNECT was built on open-source components and released as open-source software. It uses open-source infrastructure technologies such as the Glassfish application server and NetBeans.

Agency: Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

Project: FederalReporting.gov.

The board, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide transparency on and prevent misuse of recovery funds, worked with the Office and Management and Budget and the Environmental Protection Agency to create FederalReporting.gov. The board and OMB chose EPA’s Central Data Exchange and the best existing system for collecting data from fund recipients to feed the Web site, which, along with Recovery.gov, provides extensive information and analysis tools for tracking spending.

Agency: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Office/Group: Recovery Directorate, Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) Project Management Office

Project: Disaster Assistance Improvement Program.

In reponse to Hurricane Katrina, DAIP, a partnership among 17 federal agencies led by FEMA, used FEMA’s first service-oriented architecture in establishing DisasterAssistance.gov, a single point for survivors to access and apply for federal assistance and obtain information from federal, state and local sources.

Agency: U.S. Air Force and Director of Defense Research and Engineering’s Software Protection Initiative

Office/Group: The LPS Team

Project: Lightweight Portable Security project.

Derived from a very small, minimal-services Linux distribution and other open-source software, LPS temporarily turns almost any x86 computer (Windows, Mac or Linux) into a trusted node for secure Web browsing, cloud computing and network access. It boots from a LiveCD and install nothing, running in RAM without mounting the hard drive, which bypasses any local malware. LPS-Public, released in 2008, has a 124M image that fits on a mini CD, and requires only a Pentium II or newer CPU and 384M of RAM.

Agency: Army Department

Office/Group: Project Manager DOD Biometrics

Project: Biometric Identification System for Access (BISA) Dayworker Solution.

After the Mosul Dining Hall bombing in Iraq in 2005, the Pentagon resolved to implement a biometric access control system for bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. BISA vets non-U.S. applicants for work at bases by collecting biometric information and comparing it against a database of known or suspected terrorists – including fingerprints found at the sites of bombings – and FBI criminal files. Approved workers are given smart-card badges with public-key infrastructure certificates. Since the first pilot in May 2009, the system has been established at 12 bases and has enrolled about 26,000 individuals, several hundred of whom have been matched to terrorist watch lists, FBI criminal files or Iraqi criminal files.

Agency: U.S. Army

Office/Group: Product Director of the Army’s Transportation Information Systems

Project: Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network Globe Services (NGS).

The NGS system brings Google Earth to warfighters, for planning routes or tracking cargo. Security and customization had been two obstacles to using Google’s technology in the field, but NGS runs in the .mil environment, allowing users to download a Defense Department-certified version of Google Earth. It can be customized to show only what warfighters need for their missions and requires no training to use. The application also has a lot of potential across DOD, civilian and state and local agencies.

Agency: Health and Human Services Department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Office/Group: Office of Information Services, Enterprise Databases Group and Division of Information Reporting Services

Project: CMS DashboardBETA.

Part of CMS’ business intelligence strategy and transparency effort, the DashboardBETA provides statistical views of CMS’ Inpatient Prospective Payment System in a much speedier fashion than was previously available. It taps the agency’s Teradata warehouse, which handles billions of claims, to make spending data available to the public. The time it takes to publish quarterly data, for example, has gone from 18 months to less than three months after the end of a fiscal quarter.

Agency: U.S. Coast Guard

Office/Group: Operations Systems Management

Project: Alert and Warning System 2.0.

The upgrade to the original AWS is a bi-directional system that lets the Coast Guard issue alerts to maritime partners (and receive them) via multiple channels, among them phone, Short Message Service, e-mail and fax. By taking advantage of IP communications, AWS 2.0 eliminated the need for more than one alert system at any port or unit, simplifying training and support, and provides a single, nationwide, Web-based system secured by Secure Sockets Layer Version 3 encryption.


Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Office/Group: Office of the Chief Information Officer

Project: NOAA’s Geospatial Platform.

The response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at first lacked a common operating picture; there was no geospatial visualization tools that would support federal, state, local and private-sector operations. NOAA redeployed its Environmental Response Management Application – a geographic information system tool that on its own could not handle the magnitude of the response – into its Data Center environment. NOAA scaled EMRA to handle more than 600 data layers and feeds, many of them updated in real time. The GeoPlatform site’s data ranges from oil spill trajectories to wildlife observations to the locations of research and response vessels. In addition to providing a common picture for all response organizations, the project potentially saved millions of dollars that would have been spent on a new solution.

Honorable mentions

The judges also selected 10 other projects deserving of praise:

  • The Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado; Desktop Optimization Program.
  • The Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department; Healthcare Data Synchronization Program.
  • Energy Department, National Nuclear Security Administration; Enterprise Secure Network.
  • Energy Department; Implementing Virtualization to Reduce Carbon Footprint.
  • U.S. Geological Survey; new NBII search engine (Raptor).
  • Transportation Department, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Cash for Clunkers CARS System.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Beneficiary Portal, MyMedicare.gov.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs;  Improving Citizen Services with Enterprise 2.0.
  • San Joaquin County, California; Service Enabled Integrated Justice System.
  • Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Office of Information Technology; RISSNet



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