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A Dozen Agencies Produced 19 Finalists for Tech Innovation Awards

The Nextgov editorial staff has selected 19 finalists for Bold Awards from more than 180 nominations. The honors recognize federal employees who have taken risks to implement innovative programs that make government more effective.  

The finalists hail from 12 agencies where their efforts have enhanced veterans’ health care, boosted national security and saved lives during emergencies. They’ve advanced international relations, strengthened environmental protections, and saved taxpayers’ money.

You’ll hear more about these creative problem-solvers and the programs they championed in the coming weeks (readers will even have an opportunity to select a “people’s choice” winner):  

Joshua Anderson, a behavioral detection officer at the Transportation Security Administration, independently and on his own time developed a tracking system to evaluate and improve security screening at airports.

Brett Baker, assistant inspector general at the National Science Foundation, developed and implemented the first automated, risk-based system for overseeing federal grants. The first audit conducted using this data analytics-driven approach flagged more than $6 million in questionable costs.

William (Sonny) Biddix, a management analyst at the Defense Post Office, designed and developed a system for digital mail delivery at the Pentagon. The program has improved security and cut delivery times and costs.

Maj. Kenneth N. Bourque, director of operations for the 608th Air Communications Squadron, and his 17-person team developed a secure communications system to receive target and threat updates during B-2 bomber strike missions. The system eliminated the need to send a communications team forward within each satellite footprint to relay secure communications, thus saving money and improving security and operational effectiveness.   

Joshua Campbell, a geographer and GIS architect with the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit, built a process for creating and sharing free and open geographic data. Imagery to the Crowd has been deployed multiple times, improving the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and public diplomacy.  

Deborah Diaz, deputy chief information officer at NASA, along with Nicholas Skytland, led NASA’s Open Innovation Team to create the International Space Apps Challenge, the largest hackathon to date. The event brought together thousands of people to collectively tackle 58 challenges, create software and hardware as well as data visualizations that addressed real-world problems.

Kathleen Frisbee and Neil Evans, co-directors of the Veterans Health Administration’s Connected Health program, and the Web and Mobile Solutions Team, developed multiple applications that have improved veterans’ health. One observer credits the program as pushing VA past the private sector in telehealth.  

Mike Gerber, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, and his team developed the HazCollect-Extended system, which pushes geo-targeted alerts to cellphone users over the new Wireless Emergency Alerts service. In less than a year, the National Weather Service pushed more than 3,700 warnings for various weather hazards, saving countless lives. 

Brett Gittleson, director of the Office of Information Resources Management, Executive Secretariat, at the State Department, and his team developed a Transition Reader Application that allowed then-Secretary of State Designate John Kerry to receive, review and annotate briefing documents on tablet devices. This effort, which required compiling mission critical data from multiple sources, has transformed executive access to information.

Kimberly Hancher, chief information officer at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, launched a successful bring your own device initiative than has been a model for other agencies, dramatically cutting costs and improving productivity. 

Jessica Klein, a program specialist in the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance at the State Department, was the driving force behind, an easily accessible database for information about foreign aid spending. It has greatly enhanced transparency, made government more accountable to taxpayers and reduced redundancy. 

Peter Kuzmak, a computer specialist in Veterans Affairs’ Office of Information Technology, developed a process to match digital medical images from Defense and other providers with VA’s electronic health records system. It replaced a formerly manual process, taking 15-20 minutes per image, with one that takes about 1 minute. 

Mary Mitchell, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, developed a process of using high-resolution aerial photography to monitor conservation easements. The program saves staff time and money, improves compliance and reduces the burden on landowners. 

Jonathan Rubin, director of the FirstFriday’s Federal Usability Testing Program at the General Services Administration, has expanded the program well beyond GSA, enhancing digital services and citizen services across government. The program provides scalable, practical, high-impact solutions that can be quickly implemented.

James Shuler, manager of the packaging certification program at Energy, developed a licensed radio frequency identification technology for tracking and monitoring nuclear and other radioactive hazardous materials in real time. The program has saved money, improved safety and attracted global interest for its broader potential.  

John Wallace, a program analyst in informatics at Veterans Affairs, developed an application that automates inspection of non-VA medical care payments to ensure accuracy prior to payment. Preliminary data shows the system has averted almost $6 million in improper payments. 

James West, an information management specialist at the State Department, on his own time designed, developed, tested and deployed an application to schedule motorpool operations in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia. The program has had significant impact, especially for female diplomats, allowing for greater mobility. 

David Wiley, a research coordinator at NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, assembled and led a team to produce Whale Alert , one of the first mobile apps for marine conservation. With more than 17,000 downloads, the app has been highly successful in publicizing the plight of the North Atlantic right whale. 

Allison Wolff, the NASA IT Labs lead, led the creation of a world class IT-innovation program that has fostered collaboration and IT prototyping across the agency’s 10 centers and headquarters. The program has funded more than 30 projects.

In cases where teams were nominated, the full list of team members is available here. An independent panel of judges will select five to 10 winners from among the finalists. Those will be announced at Nextgov Prime, a two-day technology conference in Washington Oct. 15-16th. 

Correction: The initial version of this story gave the wrong title for Deborah Diaz. The story has been corrected.

(Image via Nfoto/

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