The Innovators

Uncovering and honoring boldness in government.

On April 19, more than 300 federal managers and executives gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington for the first of three Excellence in Government conferences. Government Executive is proud to host these events, which aim to facilitate conversation in the federal community about key issues.

This year's overarching theme for the conferences is innovation, and in the first event we focused on the "human factor," presenting cutting-edge thinkers in the worlds of workforce planning, recruitment, retention, leadership development, training and other critical challenges.

Some of the best of these thinkers are practitioners in government. In this issue, we profile one of them, who also was recognized at the conference. As Katherine McIntire Peters reports, Lori Weltmann, manager of the recruitment services division at the National Security Agency, had a thought after visiting several online career fairs: "Why can't we do one of our own?" So she made it happen.

NSA's first virtual fair turned out to be a big success-5,000 people attended, with no need to rent a venue or to fly folks across the country and put them up in hotels. When all was said and done, the agency received more than 2,000 résumés, leading to 150 follow-up interviews and several on-the-spot job offers.

In addition to focusing on such efforts at Excellence in Government, we're seeking to honor this kind of initiative with the new Nextgov Awards. They recognize federal managers who have shepherded a program, policy or management practice that is not only innovative, but bold and brave as well. On Nextgov.com, which focuses on the impact of technology on government operations, we set out to find people who had taken risks-personal, political and bureaucratic-in advancing the cause of improving government operations. We weren't sure how hard it would be to uncover such individuals-even innovators sometimes would rather not attract notice-but it turns out we found dozens of inspiring stories.

In next month's issue, we'll profile the inaugural winners of the awards. They will be honored at a luncheon at TechWeb's Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington in May.

In the meantime, this month's cover story focuses on the rush to innovate across the federal technology sector. Carolyn Duffy Marsan reports that in the scramble to adapt advances ranging from social media applications to data dashboards, everything else is taking a back seat, including security. Balancing the trade-off between innovation and cybersecurity could involve shifting from compliance checklists to pro- active, continuous monitoring of risks.

Of course, that approach itself involves taking a certain amount of risk, which raises the age-old question: Just how much boldness is government willing to accept?

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