Bold Thinkers

Nextgov Awards honor eight managers who have conquered bureaucratic resistance to push through innovative ideas.

Government Executive's online federal technology publication has named the winners of its inaugural Nextgov Awards, which recognize federal managers who overcome bureaucratic inertia, political resistance and entrenched business processes to push through bold ideas for using technology to improve government operations and, ultimately, citizens' lives.

Nextgov named eight winners from a field of 19 finalists, who were honored at a luncheon on May 27 during the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington. They represent a range of efforts, including supporting diplomacy, making it easier to apply for benefits, improving security and giving troops on the battlefield better tools.

A panel of seven judges reviewed the nominations that federal managers submitted and chose the following 2010 Nextgov Award winners based on how innovative their ideas were and what risks they faced to deploy them.

Tiffany Smith
Program Analyst, Office of eDiplomacy
State Department
Smith designed the Virtual Student Foreign Service program, which engages college students in virtual diplomacy through collaborative Web-based projects. Within three months, she set up the initiative, which has facilitated partnerships between 40 diplomatic missions and 50 college students on projects such as developing the Iraq National Museum website and using social media to teach English. More than 200 people follow the program on Facebook.

Daniel Stoian
Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Management
State Department
Stoian developed IdeaLab, an information-sharing application that solicits suggestions from State employees to improve business processes. The online tool challenged the department's long-standing hierarchical structure and convinced workers they could express themselves without fear of reprisal. Detractors still point to poor suggestions and ignored ideas, but the system is now an institution at State. IdeaLab's success prompted the department to launch Sounding Board, an online forum that has collected 900 suggestions from employees worldwide to improve operations and policies, including developing software to automate repetitive manual tasks.

Anita Kelly Bible
Lead Project Manager for Ready Retirement
Social Security Administration
Bible oversaw the first release of iClaim, an electronic form that simplifies retirement and disabilities applications and automates calculation of claims at Social Security. The project was a top priority for the SSA commissioner to begin creating a process that will make it easier to process the coming wave of baby boomer retirements. The application replaced an online tool that was receiving a low volume of traffic, and many in the agency doubted a new app would be successful. But iClaim received the highest customer satisfaction score for any government application and exceeded its goal for the number of Internet claims filed.

Jeffrey L. Wheeler
Deputy Chief of the Office of Boat Forces
Coast Guard
Wheeler brought together the fractious maritime community of law enforcement and emergency responders under the Boat Operations and Training program, a single system for training federal, state, local and military organizations to protect U.S. ports. He had to convince federal leaders that training would be more effective if maritime officers learn in the areas where they operate, using familiar equipment and systems. Wheeler won the support of a doubting bureaucracy by enlisting outside experts to create training standards that met the jurisdictions' legal and local policy requirements.

Daniel Hogan
Program Manager
Fish and Wildlife Service
Hogan harnessed cloud technology long before it was the topic of conversation to build the Habitat Information Tracking System. It's the first program to marry detailed geographic information, including the location of habitats, program accomplishments such as acres of habitat restored, and financial information for each project. He overcame resistance to privacy issues by focusing on security and compliance. The system improved communications with the agency's partners, standardized data gathering and saved millions of dollars.

Lynn A. Mokray
Chief of the Legal Division
Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps
Mokray helped the military services combine their buying power and develop a system that provides nearly 15,000 Defense Department personnel advanced legal research tools and a first-of-its-kind video teleconferencing system that has slashed travel costs and allows face-to-face contact worldwide. She overcame ingrained preferences for specific vendors within each service, finger-pointing when development problems arose and concerns that the savings would not be realized. The services saved millions using the legal research system. The $3 million teleconference system is expected to pay for itself in several years and has facilitated speakers and instructors who could not appear in person.

Susan Burrill
Director of the Risk Management Division
Federal Protective Service
Burrill replaced disparate and outdated systems with the Risk Assessment and Management Program, a Web-enabled tool that revolutionized how the agency collects and shares security information to protect 9,000 federal facilities nationwide. The fate of the Federal Protective Service rested on the performance of RAMP, which standardized security procedures for public buildings that 1.1 million employees and visitors pass through every day. It also gave some offices more control over agency activities and provided a risk-based approach to dealing with multitenant facilities accessible to the public.

Christopher Jackson
Deputy Chief of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Integration Division
U.S. Joint Forces Command
Jackson recognized the potential of a system that disseminates videos generated from unmanned aerial systems before it had been tested on the battlefield. But networks in Iraq were severely constrained, making it difficult to send video. Despite fears that videos streamed at lower bandwidths would not provide troops with clear images of the battlefield, he pushed to develop the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Information Service. ISRIS has become widely used throughout the theater and provides soldiers on constrained networks access to videos that inform tactical decisions.

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