10 agency projects win 2011 GCN Awards

Ten IT projects, ranging from a city government app that turns local citizens into electronic safety inspectors to a digital diplomatic pouch U.S. embassies use to transmit data across 300 offices worldwide, have been named winners of the 2011 GCN Awards for IT Achievement.

The teams behind the winning projects, chosen from a list of more than 200 nominated, share a commitment to drive down costs and displayed the leadership and engineering skills needed to put the power of some of the world’s biggest computer facilities into the hands of individual citizens and professional end users.

IT projects designed to streamline public-sector health care services also got the judges' attention this year. Three health care projects, including civilian and military programs designed to make personal health data available instantly to patients and physicians, made the Top 10 list.

“These programs showed how to deliver real cost savings by embracing innovation and taking calculated risks,” said Venkatapathi ("PV") Puvvada, managing partner for Unisys Federal Civilian agencies group and one of eight judges of the nominated projects. “They are good examples of what we need to do in the current government environment of deficits and budget challenges."

The winning projects and their teams will be featured in the October issue of GCN and honored at GCN’s annual awards gala dinner and reception Oct. 19.

The projects were chosen by a group of judges from across the public-sector IT community:

  • Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the  General Services Administration’s Office of Integrated Technology Services.
  • Robert Childs, chancellor of the National Defense University's iCollege.
  • Elizabeth McGrath, deputy chief management officer at the Defense Department.
  • Kshemendra Paul, program manger of the Information Sharing Environment in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
  • Chris Smith, CIO of the Agriculture Department.
  • Simon Szykman; CIO of the Commerce Department.
  • Tim Young, senior manager at Deloitte Consulting
  • PV Puvvada, Unisys.

The judges were asked to score the nominations on basis of the net impact of the program on the host agency and its customers; the degree of innovation in the technology plan carried out, and the quality of leadership in the team that carried the projects to fruition.

“Proactive leadership from agency executives is clearly evident across these programs starting from providing compelling vision to rolling up their sleeves to remove obstacles and solve problems,” Puvvada said.

Here are the 2011 GCN Award winners, followed by a list 10 Honorable Mentions also picked by the judges.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

MyMedicare.gov is one of two programs on the list devoted to cutting the steps involved in providing beneficiaries access to personal and sensitive health data. Last year, CMS undertook a redesign that helped transform what was a useful website into a true electronic health services center, where beneficiaries can enter family health records and medication lists, select providers and access personalized preventative services. Last fall, CMS added a “Blue Button” feature called for by President Barack Obama, which provides users a summary of their personal health records in a matter of clicks. The public has responded: To date, there are more than 13 million registered users. In the meantime, MyMedicare.gov produced cost savings of $55 million, according to CMS, a value that will likely to grow as more beneficiaries enter the system through a portal instead of a call center.

Consular Affairs Modernization
State Department

Ever since 9-11, the State Department has been under pressure to transform itself into global electronic services provider that could help keep potentially dangerous visa applicants from reaching U.S. shores, even while making the entire process more user-friendly. By harnessing the principles of virtualization and service-oriented architecture, the department has become a truly electronic player in the national security establishment. Today, a 100T Consular Consolidated Database supports passport and visa services as well as security data-sharing among 30,000 users at State and its partner agencies. At the same time a Web-based platform electronically processes 21 million travel documents every year — contributing to $20 million in annual savings.

Enterprise E-mail and Collaboration
General Services Administration

GSA combined the need to serve an increasingly mobile workforce with an imperative to cut costs. Its commitment to that goal drove it to take the pioneering step of becoming the first government agency of its scale to move its most essential business application — basic e-mail — off agency iron and into the cloud. Last December, it awarded a contract to Unisys to institute Google Apps. The effort involved  the migration of some 10,000 BlackBerry devices, transitioning 17,000 mailboxes and almost 16,000 GSA employees within six months. The effort required the technical and organizational leadership to take a big risk in pursuit of bigger rewards. So far, GSA reports direct savings of $15 million, or 50 percent over the current costs for the old e-mail solution. The agency expects bigger returns down the road, where the cloud-based collaboration project it is leading for the benefit of all government agencies will unfold.

Secure Flight Program
Transportation Security Administration

After Sept. 11, 2001, when airlines failed to coordinate a successful watch list system on their own, the 911 Commission recommended TSA take on the challenge. With the Secure Flight Program, TSA put its IT brain trust up against the daily threat of deadly force. The challenges were unprecedented: perform real-time matching for all flights, including reservations made in advance and at the last minute, while permitting airlines to submit data up to 72 hours before departure. Secure Flight set up new processes, data exchanges, applications, IT hardware and infrastructure, and established support systems for a consistent watch-list matching process. The management and technical ingenuity behind the project has stood the test of time for 10 years.

TRICARE Blue Button program
Defense Department Military Health System

Like its civilian counterpart at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Tricare Online Blue Button project makes it easier for DOD beneficiaries to participate in their own health care. Recent upgrades to the portal and its Blue Button feature now provide user access to more individual health information, including lab results, problem lists and encounter data. TRICARE Online users can view, download and print their own health information, including the date, time and location of visits to participating health providers. Yet Blue Button can be pushed two ways: the system is
not designed solely to make the online experience more user-friendly. It’s also based on the knowledge that an informed patient is almost always a more healthy patient — and therefore a less costly one.

Citizen Connect
City of Boston

The Citizen Connect project is based on the principle that a city is better off when citizens have access to its elected officials — and even better off with access to its service crews. Citizen Connect is an app for smart phones that meets both needs and in the process helps strengthens the city’s social compact, according to its developers. At its most basic, it enables users to request a service, such as pothole repair, using the camera and Global Positioning System features of their smart phones. The city logs the request and keeps the citizen informed of the status of the request. Perhaps the best indication that the project is working is the financial support it has received from the city and the public: In fiscal 2009, Boston invested $35,000 to bring Citizens Connect to market. This year, the investment has approached a half-million dollars.

Vaccine Management and Tracking System
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC’s Vaccine Management and Tracking System by itself could support the “prevention” mission in the agency’s name. The system guards a critical path to the nation’s immune system, integrating the supply chain through which 60 million doses — almost 60 percent — of the pediatric vaccines used in United States are distributed annually. VTrckS allows CDC to monitor real-time health care provider usage of the vaccines during emergencies or special circumstances. Before VTrckS, there were 64 vaccine distribution systems, 64 separately managed vaccine inventories, 64 lines of credit, and 64 unique supply chains. In managing the project, the VtrckS team conquered the administrative sprawl and achieved a rare unity of purpose and result. The supply line now has one centralized, electronically managed vaccine inventory, one centralized account and one supply chain to support the flow of vaccine.

Modernized e-File
Internal Revenue Service

The IRS Modernized e-File (MeF) program represents a triumph of brute computer power together with a close eye on nimble operations and ease of use. Following the successful processing of 4 million corporate returns in 2008, IRS planned to use MeF to handle individual tax returns in 2010. The agency set a target of processing a combined volume of 14 million corporate and individual returns by 2012, a 3,500 percent increase over its 2008 volume. Processing the 1040s on the MeF platform has already benefited both IRS and the taxpayer by capturing and storing tax return data in real-time online data repositories. Consequently, financial information can be made available
sooner for tax processing, validation and compliance, leading to significant cost savings in lower cycle time for both tax return processors and filers.

Combat Service Support Satellite (CSS SATCOM) Network
U.S. Army

The Army has to be increasingly light on its feet. This is as true for its warfighters as for those who operate its networks.  Last year, as forces were redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan, the Army was challenged to increase the amount of satellite coverage over Afghanistan. At the same time, demands on all existing networks increased dramatically to the point that, and there was little or no additional commercial Ku-band bandwidth to be had from any providers; existing satellite space was virtually maxed-out. Acting under the demands of the theater, Army’s CSS SATCOM Team quickly found a possible solution that involved the recently launched W6 Satellite, which supports Extended Ku-band, a solution that ensured warfighters in the most remote and austere locations in Afghanistan have enough bandwidth to perform their missions.

Digital Library of Math Functions
National Institutes of Standards and Technology

In 1964, NIST published the 1,046-page Handbook of Mathematical Functions, providing essential formulas needed to do the applied mathematics that arise in modeling physical phenomena, from the scattering of light in a rainbow to the behavior of atoms. Although still in high demand in recent years, the Handbook has been badly out of date. In 1999, NIST began a project to modernize the HMF, which presented many challenges, among them that the methods of distributing complex math formulas on the Internet have been unsatisfactory. In 2010, NIST unveiled the fruits of its labor, the online Digital Library of Mathematical Functions, comprising some 10,000 equations, 600 illustrations, and 2,500 references. The DLMF will enable R&D well into the 21st century, providing reference data in a concise, usable form needed in a wide variety of fields, from the physical sciences to engineering, biology and finance.

Honorable mentions

  • The following 10 projects were also recognized by the judges, who awarded them honorable mentions for IT achievement:
  • Defense Logistics Agency: Enterprise Telecommunications Network.
  • U.S. Army Research and Development Center: Mobile Information Collector Application.
  • National Security Agency: OZONE Widget Framework-Government Open Source Software.
  • Indiana Supreme Court: Indiana Court Information Technology Extranet.
  • Agriculture Department: Agriculture Security Operations Center Security Sensor Array.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: Emergency Response and Removal Program.
  • Massachusetts Department of Revenue: Multistate Tax Data Clearinghouse.
  • DOD Program Executive Office: MilSuite.
  • Education Department: MAX Applications.
  • Los Angeles World Airports: Airport Resource Communication Center.


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