his year's Government Technology Leadership Award winners have raised the bar. The 19 programs selected for Government Executive's seventh annual honors are not only effective for government. This year's winners are effective for consumers. They are effective for industry. They are effective for taxpayers. And they can prove it.
One of the winning projects is helping police nab repeat offenders before they get back on the streets. Another is teaching teen-agers the value of science. Military personnel are getting better health care because of one winning project, while hungry people around the world are getting more food because of another. While one project provides immediate benefits, telling Americans if the air is healthy today, another focuses on long-term safety, improving handling of nuclear waste.
Winners of the award were chosen from among 200 nominations. They will be honored at a special ceremony this month to be held at the Reagan International Trade Center in Washington during the second annual Government Technology Leadership Institute. The Institute, whose educational program is designed for non-technical managers, is a public-private partnership with corporate sponsors including BMC Software, Litton/PRC, NCR and SAP America Public Sector. SAP also sponsors the awards reception.
EDUCATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Preparing for the Future
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Without a workforce that understands scientific concepts like centripetal force, NASA would fall out of orbit. Thinking about its future workforce needs, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is using technology to encourage America's youth to gravitate toward science and engineering careers.
The Cooperative Satellite Learning Project shows high school students that there actually are uses for algebra and physics beyond the school walls. Goddard employees, along with employees from AlliedSignal, a NASA contractor, volunteer to help high school students learn how to process satellite data on computers, build mock-up satellites and participate in science exploration.
The volunteers also help schools develop a curriculum and obtain equipment for the project.
At DuVal High School in Lanham, Md., for example, students spent a semester studying the history and science of the space program. The class's main project was to build a half-sized model of a satellite. Students played the roles of engineers and assumed responsibility for satellite sub-systems.
High school students involved in the project teach what they've learned to their high school peers, and middle and elementary school students, so the excitement and value of science is passed on to ever younger generations of future engineers.
John Catena, project liaison, (301) 286-9572
Learning From a Distance
California Virtual University
In a state the size of California, distance learning is a godsend for students living far from campuses with courses they need. Recognizing the growing availability of online classes, Gov. Pete Wilson founded the California Virtual University last year.
Wilson's university is virtual in the fullest sense of the word: It doesn't offer any courses. Instead, it serves as a statewide catalog of 1,700 distance learning courses and 106 fully electronic academic programs at 105 California accredited colleges and universities. So, an executive in Yuba City interested in obtaining a Master's degree in Quality Assurance doesn't have to send away for 105 catalogs to find out that the degree is offered over the Internet by California State University. The exec also can sign up for a service that will send an e-mail alert whenever new management courses are added to the virtual university Web site.
The virtual university listings include both state and private university courses. Furthermore, once the state's design team finished initial planning for the university, the state turned the blueprints over to a new private nonprofit corporation to manage the project. That means the service will be provided at no cost to the state.
Stanley Chodorow, CEO (619) 642-8055
Keeping America's Finances Humming
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Federal agencies aren't just dealing with the year 2000 computer problem on their own information systems. They are also assuming leadership of the national effort to prepare for the century change.
For the Federal Reserve System, that responsibility entails keeping the nation's financial institutions humming through Jan. 1, 2000. The Fed, with the help of four other agencies that oversee the banking industry, created a Y2K information distribution system to help money managers beat the millennium bug.
The Fed's strategy includes a Y2K Web site filled with guidance on project management, testing, contingency planning and customer awareness programs. The financier-friendly site includes a questionnaire that banking institutions can use to test their readiness. Videos and sound recordings of seminars, speeches and congressional testimony can be downloaded from the site. The Fed's license agreement with C-SPAN marks the first time the cable network has granted another entity the right to make testimony available over the Internet.
The Fed also uses fax and e-mail to get the word out fast on new policies and developments. Over 18,000 institutions, trade associations and state banking supervisors receive electronic updates from the Fed on Y2K concerns. That means the Fed is reaching nearly 95 percent of the nation's banks and thrift institutions through its awareness program.
By using technology to address a technology problem, the Fed is saving $125,000 a year in labor, supplies, paper and postage costs that would have been required for a paper-based education campaign. And it's helping to ensure ATMs stay open on New Year's Day, 2000.
Geary Cunningham, manager CRA/HMDA systems, (202) 452-3886
Checking Y2K at the Border
In May 1997, the Customs Service didn't even have a central project management team running its Y2K program. That was a major reason Customs ranked near the bottom of Treasury bureaus on the department's Y2K progress sheet.
Thankfully for international travelers, exporters and importers, Customs got wise in June 1997 and created its Year 2000 Program Office. By Oct. 1, 1998-well ahead of most federal agencies-Customs fixed, tested and implemented all its mission-critical systems, giving the service 14 months to test 5,000 data exchanges with external partners and take care of less important computer systems.
The turnaround happened because Customs got smart, got organized and then got busy. To begin with, the Y2K program office developed an awareness plan, through which all 20,000 Customs employees learned about the Y2K glitch and how they could help combat it. The office then used Customs' central software repository database, which lists all software in the agency's 1,300 locations, to track fixes and tests.
Through its Y2K efforts, Customs developed a contingency planning model, upgraded and standardized its equipment, cross-trained its staff on various systems applications, created an audit trail model and established a senior management project oversight council.
All of that is good news for the millions of people who travel to and from America and the billions of dollars in goods that flow across the nation's borders each year.
Sharon A. Mazur, year 2000 program officer, (703) 921-7570
Automating Trade Requirements
The law's the law. Everyone who exports goods has to file a Shipper's Export Declaration with the Customs Service. Now, companies can comply without working up a sweat.
The Automated Export System gives exporters the option of filing their declarations electronically, thereby speeding up the process while reducing costs. The system automatically warns exporters of errors in their declarations. One of every two paper declarations contains errors.
The government benefits as well. Customs shares its data with the Census Bureau, the Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration and the State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls, and eventually plans to make the Automated Export System a one-stop filing point for the 40 federal agencies that gather export data.
More accurate declarations lead to higher quality trade statistics, which will help the Census Bureau produce better data for trade policy decisions. Export data also affects the Gross National Product and the stock market. The Customs Service, meanwhile, avoids having to sort, examine and distribute paper documents to figure out how to target enforcement resources.
The Automated Export System gives Customs a faster and more reliable method of figuring out where illegal cargo may be located.
Automated Export System Hotline, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. EST, (800) 549-0595
Improving Soldiers' Health Care
Defense Department Military Health System
In a government where massive information technology projects routinely fail, the Defense Department's Composite Health Care System (CHCS) stands out as a shining success.
With a total life-cycle cost of $2.5 billion, the CHCS is deployed at more than 526 medical facilities, serving 8 million beneficiaries and 147,000 medical staff, handling 51 million outpatient visits and 793,000 inpatient admissions each year. CHCS has been serving these doctors and patients for the past two years.
CHCS connects medical departments, hospital wards, outlying clinics, laboratories and pharmacies with a massive database of patient information.
The system makes complete patient records available electronically, reducing the time medical center staff have to spend looking for files. CHCS helps administrators by producing daily and monthly reports and automated patient record tracking.
For patients of the military health facilities, the system is a huge time-saver. CHCS spares active duty personnel, their family members, and retirees the hassle of unnecessary waits and repeat visits by improving appointment scheduling. The system has speeded up processing for radiology, pharmacy and lab work. CHCS electronically transfers prescriptions from doctors' offices to pharmacies, so prescriptions are ready and waiting when patients arrive. Patients can also use a CHCS telephone service to refill prescriptions.
Col. Dennis L. Ray, CHCS II Program Manager, (703) 681-7121, email@example.com
Cleaning Up a Big Mess
Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory
Cleaning up 40 years' worth of nuclear weapons production waste is difficult enough, but until recently, the Energy Department seemed bent on making it even tougher.
Waste treatment facilities around the country, competing for precious tax dollars, did not cooperate with one another. That may have benefited some facilities, but for the greater goal of treating the waste at the lowest possible cost, it was wholly ineffective.
Energy added up the cleanup facilities' budget requests and realized there was simply no way they were going to get all the money. So the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory created the Analysis and Visualization System to analyze waste activities at 52 sites in 31 states.
A central database stored massive amounts of data documenting the complex operations around the country. The Analysis and Visualization System uses the database to generate diagrams describing the facilities' waste management strategies. With all the data in one place and rendered into understandable flow charts, Energy identified ways the facilities could coordinate activities and save money.
The system revealed redundancies and opportunities for speeding up cleanup. Through the coordinated effort, the department sliced $24 billion in proposed spending out of the cleanup's 70-year budget plan. Energy has a better handle on its operations now, so the department can explain to Congress and other stakeholders how the effort is progressing, making the largest environmental cleanup program in the world look easy.
Paul Fairbourn, lead systems engineer for EM integration, (208) 526-0284
Federal Bureau of Investigation
In the fight against crime, law enforcement officials can't just wait around for the techies to get computer systems up and running. So in 1995, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation saw that its Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) wouldn't be live until July 1999, the agency launched an interim system to help police around the country nab wanted criminals.
When local police want the FBI to run a suspect's fingerprints through its database of 36 million prints, they mail a card bearing the fingerprints to the FBI. In 1995, those cards landed in a backlog of 3 million fingerprint submissions. It took the FBI 140 days on average to respond to a police department's request. Up to 39,000 fugitives a year were released before the FBI could respond to local authorities.
Then the FBI installed its interim Electronic Fingerprint Image Print Server (EFIPS). Local police departments could electronically capture fingerprints and transmit their requests to the FBI. The FBI reduced the average response time to five days and cut its backlog to 165,000 requests. The faster responses have helped police catch criminals. For example, Boston police used EFIPS to submit an electronic fingerprint file on a suspect charged with shoplifting. Two hours later, the FBI informed Boston that the criminal was wanted for homicide in Maryland.
EFIPS is helping local police and the FBI get used to electronic handling of fingerprint requests so they can iron out problems before the fully electronic IAFIS is launched next year.
Doris Sutphin, EFIPS program manager, (304) 625-5036
Fixing the Brakes
U.S. Army, Fort Hood, Texas
Getting the brakes fixed on military vehicles at Fort Hood, Texas, used to bring productivity to a screeching halt for eight hours.
A mechanic would hop in the vehicle and apply the brakes while traveling 20 miles per hour. To pass the brake test, the vehicle had to stop within 30 feet, with no more pull to the right or left than half of the vehicle width. If the vehicle failed the test, the mechanic would have to remove every wheel to locate the failing brake. Once the problem brake was fixed, the vehicle had to be tested again, and, if necessary, more repairs performed.
The garrison's logistics quality council found a commercial computerized brake tester that could be adapted for military vehicles. So for $55,000, the base installed a customized tester. Now, mechanics drive vehicles onto a set of plates. In less than five minutes, the computerized tester prints out a report evaluating the vehicle's brake system and pinpointing any problems.
The new tester reduces staff costs, eliminates downtime for vehicles, and alerts mechanics to brake problems more accurately and faster than before. In its first two and a half years, the automated tester saved the garrison $2.6 million, gave soldiers more time to train and allowed drivers and mechanics to put the pedal to the metal.
Ray Littlefield, project manager, (254) 287-7531
Milking It for All It's Worth
Agricultural Research Service
What does an Agriculture Department technology project have to do with the price of milk? Well, actually, $60 million.
That's the amount of savings dairy farmers could pass on to consumers as a result of improvements in Agricultural Research Service genetic evaluations of the U.S. milking herd.
As every bovine breeder knows, the best milk comes from the best cows. USDA helps breeders pick the prime parents of each succeeding generation of dairy cows through a computerized evaluation of the nation's cattle. The faster USDA can provide breeders with valuable genetic information, the faster cows can be mated, and the more milk can be squeezed.
So USDA converted its mainframe computer to a UNIX workstation with better processing speed and memory. Then the agency created an electronic transfer system with password protection so breeders could quickly access the USDA data.
The agency reduced genetic evaluation time from eight weeks to three, and began releasing evaluations quarterly instead of semiannually. The faster evaluations led to more frequent breeding of better animals. Genetic improvement is permanent, so the gains will compound over the years, making U.S. cattle more valuable and milk more plentiful.
The agency saves $85,000 a year in computing expenses and shipping costs. That's enough to make any manager moo with delight.
H. Duane Norman, project manager, (301) 504-8334
Clearing the Decks
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration must review 8 million shipments of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices to the United States per year. That's 50 percent more imports to check than just four years ago.
FDA's manual review process used to take days--way too long for the many perishable products awaiting entry at U.S. ports. Faced with growing imports, the FDA developed the $8.2 million OASIS system. Under OASIS, importers electronically submit documentation that is quickly reviewed on PCs by FDA employees. Minutes after documents are submitted, FDA returns its admissibility decisions to the importers. Eighty-five percent of shipments are now handled without paper documentation.
FDA wouldn't have been able to handle its growing workload if it hadn't started using the electronic system. That would have threatened FDA's ability to regulate foreign imports. With OASIS, imports are handled consistently throughout the country. The import industry will save at least $1.2 billion through 2002 thanks to OASIS. Importers can get their goods into the country faster, so products don't spoil and industry can keep their inventories flowing.
FDA, meanwhile, can handle more imports without adding workers and can better track import data through the OASIS database.
Dennis Linsley, project manager, (301) 594-3852
Defense Department JCALS System
As the Defense Department aims for a paperless procurement process by the beginning of the next decade, much of its efforts are focused on the millions of pages of technical data that accompany major weapons acquisitions.
The Joint Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistics Support (JCALS) system is a primary component of the departmentwide effort. Through JCALS, the military services and the Defense Logistics Agency are digitizing technical documents. The benefits of a paperless system include easier storage, tracking and distribution.
JCALS replaces myriad disparate systems. Through JCALS, Defense components can create, edit, manage and distribute technical documents. About 20,000 people in 65 locations are using JCALS to improve acquisition management. JCALS standardizes Defense systems, but also can be customized to meet specific units' needs. For example, some units have started issuing contract solicitations and proposals via JCALS.
At the Defense Logistics Agency, the Electronic Contract Folderization procurement used to require 126 tons of paper a year and 100 or more days from inception to contract award. Using JCALS, that same procurement is now paperless and takes about 15 days to award. An acquisition at the Navy used to take 56 days because engineering evaluations slowed down the process; now the JCALS infrastructure is helping the Navy reduce the processing time to 15 days.
Money previously spent procuring weapons systems can now be spent improving them. DoD should save $2.3 billion through 2014; just by digitizing technical documents.
John Kahrs, acting program manager, (732) 532-0400
One-Stop for Vendors
NASA has 10 centers around the country, 21,000 employees, and $13 billion to spend on contracts. Where does a company go to find out how to do business with NASA? One place is http://procurement.nasa.gov.
At that Web site, the NASA Acquisition Internet Service, companies can review and download solicitations and synopses for all of NASA's competitive contracts worth more than $25,000. In fact, the Internet is the only place companies can find out about NASA contracts worth up to $500,000.
The single stop makes doing business with NASA a cinch. All NASA procurement staffers post acquisition notices and upload solicitation files to the Web site using an automated tool. The Web site's library of business opportunities is searchable by date, classification code and NASA center. Another library on the site includes procurement regulations, guidance and NASA forms.
Contractors can take advantage of an additional feature of the site: an automatic e-mail service that notifies companies of business opportunities. Companies can choose to get solicitations pertaining to specific industries or from specific NASA centers or they can get notified of every NASA business opportunity.
NASA spends $100,000 a year to run the site, but avoids $2.2 million in operating costs. NASA estimates its contractors save $2.3 million annually in manpower and administrative costs.
The agency predicts the rest of government will follow suit with Internet-based electronic commerce applications modeled on NASA's service in the next two years.
Jim Bradford, project leader, (256) 544-0306
Feeding the World
Farm Service Agency
The Agriculture Department buys $1.2 billion worth of food a year for export under the USDA's Foreign Food Aid for Humanitarian Assistance Programs. The programs, in turn, distribute food to starving people throughout the world.
With its new Electronic Bid Entry System, USDA can now open bids from food vendors and award contracts in two hours, resulting in $12 million in savings a year.
Because of intense competition and daily price fluctuations in the agriculture industry, USDA uses a sealed bid process for its food aid contracts. In the past, hard-copy bids were mailed or hand delivered by vendors. To get the contracts awarded quickly, as many as 18 USDA employees would work 22 hours straight on "bid night."
Now vendors fill out USDA-provided computerized bid forms, which alert vendors to missing data fields. Because the bids arrive at USDA in minutes, vendors can base them on up-to-the-minute market prices. Speedier bids mean lower costs, so more people can be fed for each dollar USDA spends.
Encryption protects bids as they make their way across the Internet. In the old process, bids were placed in a safe once they were received at USDA. With the new system, the encrypted bid is transmitted directly into the USDA computer system, where the bid can only be decrypted and opened by USDA marketing specialists.
The new electronically sealed bid process already has other converts in USDA; the system is being expanded to include bids for transporting the food to people around the world.
David Liem, technical team leader, (816) 926-1509
Devil Dog Design
U.S. Marine Corps
Problems caught during the design phase of a project are much easier to fix than those caught during full-scale production. That's especially true of major military projects, such as the Marine Corps' Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV).
The AAAV is the Marine Corps' next-generation armored amphibious personnel carrier. To avoid costly fixes during production, the design team developed a Virtual Design Database, which the Marines estimate will save $80 million during the AAAV's production phase.
More than 250 development team members, including civilian staff, active duty Marines and General Dynamics contract staff use the database to review changes to the vehicle's design. Since everyone can see suggested changes immediately, rather than waiting for paper drafts to make their rounds, the design team can make better decisions, with input from all sides.
Far-flung Marines involved in the design process--who eventually will use the AAAV--can tap into the database with a Web browser and a password. Subcontractors also can submit data to the design database remotely.
The Corps' use of technology to gather input from designers, customers and contractors in the design phase means Marines will be equipped with a more effective assault vehicle in the 21st century.
Rich Bayard, AAAV assistant program manager, (703) 492-3344
BEEFING UP SECURITY
Securing the Lines
Secure communications are vital to law enforcement. The Customs Service National Law Enforcement Communications Center in Orlando, Fla., is making sure criminals can't listen in on federal agents' plans.
The center operates a mobile radio communications network providing national communications coverage 24 hours a day to 40,000 law enforcers in more than 30 federal agencies, as well as state and local officers who work with Customs. The center saves the government at least $157 million a year by making it unnecessary for other agencies to set up their own secure radio networks. The network also provides federal law enforcement agencies with common communications, improving coordination during joint operations.
Much of the savings comes through an advanced technology called Over-the-Air-Rekeying (OTAR).
The scrambling codes, or keys, that protect radio communications must be changed on a regular basis to ensure security. With OTAR, law enforcement personnel avoid the tedious process of regularly changing the keys of each radio by hand. Instead, Customs updates them over the air.
That means federal agents can spend less time securing their radios and more time using them to apprehend criminals.
Louis Cegala, National Law Enforcement Communications Center director, (407) 975-1702
Hunting Down Hackers
Naval Surface Warfare Center
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of hackers? The SHADOW knows.
The SHADOW, an intrusion detection program, hides in the depths of the Dahlgren, Va., Naval Surface Warfare Center's computer systems. There, it awaits malicious attacks, prepared to detect, analyze and respond to those who dare penetrate the center's systems.
SHADOW reduces the risk of undetected attacks at the center--and at the three other Defense Department sites that have called SHADOW to their aid. In the first five months of 1998 alone, SHADOW unmasked 1,050 attacks on the systems it protects, though SHADOW's creators are quick to point out that managers should never assume their systems are completely safe.
Developing SHADOW cost the Defense Department $689,000, well below what it might have cost in the private sector. The investment has helped DoD avoid the high costs and inconvenience of rebuilding systems after malicious attacks.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center isn't keeping SHADOW to itself. Hundreds of local and state governments, universities and commercial organizations have downloaded SHADOW to test on their systems. The team that runs SHADOW has trained more than 500 professionals from other organizations on how to use the system and has developed an online tutorial at www.nswc.navy. mil/ISSEC/CID/ID.
Fred Kerby, information systems security manager, (540) 653-4150
Checking the Air
Environmental Protection Agency
Americans can breathe a little easier thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone mapping project.
The Internet-based service provides weather forecasters and the public with daily ozone concentration levels in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Color-coded maps tell people whether ozone levels in the air each day could cause respiratory problems. Most days, green and yellow cover the maps, which mean the air is safe. But when the map is red, it's best to stay indoors.
Day-care providers have applauded the EPA effort, saying the ozone information helps them decide when and if children should be allowed outside to play.
EPA provides real-time data from more than 400 ozone monitors in the eastern United States. Data from the monitors are automatically culled every two hours and sent to EPA's National Computer Center, where the computers generate contour maps of ozone levels and post the maps directly to the Internet. In 1999, EPA will expand the service to include more than 1,000 ozone monitors in 34 states.
While EPA has long compiled ozone-monitoring data for its own use, the mapping project enables the public to use the data each day to make decisions that affect their health. EPA also delivers the real-time air quality information to the news media, so millions of Americans know whether they should enjoy a wonderful day in the sun or stay inside and read a book.
Richard "Chet" Wayland, project manager, (919) 541-4603
Agricultural Marketing Service
Over the last year, the Agriculture Department conducted the first fully electronic rule-making for a major regulation in federal history. USDA combined imaging, electronic document management and the Internet to pull it off.
On Dec. 15, 1997, USDA announced its National Organic Program proposed rule on the Internet. Over the next several months, the department received a quarter of a million comments by e-mail, fax and mail. All comments were scanned, entered into a database and made available on the Internet through a searchable Web interface.
Within USDA, staff used an electronic document management system to process the comments. That system eliminated the need to make three paper copies of each comment--one file copy, one working copy and a copy for access in a public reading room--saving USDA $300,000 in copying costs and saving two employees from the tedious task of making those copies. Similarly, USDA avoided the costs of setting up a reading room for the proposed rule by creating a virtual reading room on line. This also significantly reduced Freedom of Information Act requests.
The ease of submitting comments encouraged more people than usual to participate, making USDA's National Organic Program the most open, publicly accessible rule-making the government ever ran.
Gary Scavongelli, Agriculture associate deputy administrator for transportation and marketing programs, (202) 690-1305