These are not your uncle's agency IT projects

GCN Award winners achieve impressive scope within tight deadlines

Agency officials have talked seemingly forever about such things as interagency cooperation, reuse of software and rapid development, but for much of that time they might as well have been talking about a perpetual motion machine or cold fusion. Often, those admirable ideas were canceled out by words and phrases such as silos, disparate systems and turf battles.

But slowly, steadily, those old barriers are being broken down, at least in part by government’s recent focus on open systems, transparency and use of Web-based tools.

Several of the winners of GCN’s Awards for Government IT Achievement, highlighted in this issue, produced impressive results within short deadlines. Several involved cross-agency cooperation on a huge, even unprecedented, scale. And they developed applications or services available to not only other agencies but in some cases the public at large.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site, for example, involved 17 agencies and was developed within 15 months. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geospatial Platform, developed in response to the Gulf oil spill, mostly used existing resources to build a public website with 600 data layers in less than three months.

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board made use of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Central Data Exchange for the website, which also involved getting requirements from states, territories and municipalities across the country.

Amid fears of a possible flu pandemic, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering Software Protection Initiative at the Air Force Research Laboratory took an available tool, Lightweight Portable Security, and built a bootable CD that would allow secure remote access in the event employees had to telework. LPS-Remote Access has been adopted by more than 30 Defense Department organizations and is available to the rest of government. A public version also is free to anyone.

As quickly as some of these projects were completed, it could also be said that they were a long time in the making – government’s march toward streamlined project development and interagency cooperation stretches back through several administrations. But as slow as progress has sometimes been, it has been progress, and agencies have reached a point where it is possible to make things happen quickly.

The 10 agency winners and 10 honorable mentions honored with this year’s GCN Awards have combined that speed of development with innovation and effectiveness in delivering improved services to agency employees, other agencies and the public.

And GCN’s IT Executives of the Year, also highlighted in this issue, provide examples of how to lead effective programs — among other things, combining innovation with a healthy dose of pragmatism. Together, they all have shown how to use IT to make government work better.


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