Meet Two Feds Who Made Government Work Better


A little technology smartly applied can move the bureaucracy in a new direction.

Here at Nextgov we spend a lot of time looking at how federal employees use, and sometimes misuse, technology. What animates our coverage is the belief that the $80 billion agencies spend annually on IT ought to make government work better and serve citizens more effectively.

Unfortunately, when most Americans think about federal technology investments, if they think of them at all, they think of the problems -- the VA’s disability claims backlog springs to mind, thanks to Jon Stewart’s recent spotlight. And can anyone name a Pentagon weapon that came in on budget, on time and lived up to its promises? Sometimes, though, technology investments pay off in surprising and exciting ways. When VA developed its PTSD Coach mobile software application to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, few would have guessed it would become the most popular federal app ever, downloaded by tens of thousands of current and former service personnel. That’s the kind of innovative, smart investment Nextgov is celebrating with the Bold Awards program.  

Later this month, I’ll be talking to two former Nextgov award winners about their experiences navigating the bureaucracy to adopt and implement technologies that changed the way their agencies operated. Tiffany Smith, a deputy division chief in the Office of eDiplomacy at the State Department, and Jeffrey Wheeler, deputy chief of the Office of Boat Services at the U.S. Coast Guard, both will share some hard-won insights during an editorial webcast we’ll broadcast April 24th at 2 p.m.

The programs Smith and Wheeler launched are as diverse as the government: Smith designed and executed the Virtual Student Foreign Service program, an internship program that allows university students to work with posts abroad to meet foreign policy objectives. Wheeler implemented a training model that fused federal, state, county and local maritime law enforcement under a single curriculum and credentialing system. Both programs had far-reaching effects -- advancing U.S. diplomacy in the information age in Smith’s case, and significantly increasing protection of the maritime domain in Wheeler’s case.

What the programs have in common is that they were led by determined individuals who seized the opportunity to make government work better. Register for the webcast to learn how Smith and Wheeler sold their superiors on their plans and motivated peers and skeptics. Just as important, they’ll describe the importance and challenge of institutionalizing the programs they created.

And if you, or someone you know, has used technology to change the way government works for the better, please nominate them for a Bold Award.

(Image via VLADGRIN/