2020 FedScoop 50 Awards honor top leaders in federal IT

FedScoop and Scoop News Group are delighted to announce the winners of the annual FedScoop 50 Awards.

This year’s FedScoop 50 Awards celebrate the tireless leaders who’ve made a lasting impact on the community and the nation in 2020, particularly in regard to how they used technology to respond to and overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Over the past several months, FedScoop received more than 500,000 votes for thousands of nominees who embody the tireless leadership qualities that push this nation forward. With more than 200 finalists, the public voted for the top leaders across eight categories: Golden Gov: Executive of the Year, Federal Leadership, Cybersecurity Leader of the Year, Disruptor of the Year, Industry Leadership, Most Inspiring Up & Comer, Tech Champion of the Year, and Innovation of the Year.

While this year’s FedScoop 50 Awards look and feel different during COVID-19 — namely because the limitations of social distancing forced us to postpone the reception held annually atop the Hay-Adams Hotel, overlooking the White House and downtown D.C. — we tried to engage the community the best we can during this unprecedented time. FedScoop interviewed this year’s winners of the Golden Gov: Executive of the Year category via video on the challenges they faced this year, how they overcame them and what they look forward to in 2021.

Congratulations again to the FedScoop 50 awardees and all of the more than 200 finalists who have made significant impacts in the past year.

The 2020 FedScoop 50 Winners:

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Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

As director of the Defense Innovation Unit, Mike Brown is responsible for helping the Department of Defense reach nontraditional innovators outside the Beltway. Now five years into its existence, DIU is looking to evolve: “What we discovered pretty early on is that we need to be more than a tech-scouting function — we actually need to do projects,” Brown said at FedTalks recently, adding that DIU has introduced 65 first-time vendors to the DOD. “We’re very happy with the evolution, but we feel like we’re just scratching the surface on what can be done,” he said.

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Dana Deasy

Dana Deasy

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Moving most of the Department of Defense to telework might have seemed an unimaginable task nearly a year ago. But with no other option during the early days of the COVID-19, CIO Dana Deasy and his team quickly rolled out the Commercial Virtual Remote telework environment to support more than 1 million users. “One of the biggest challenges was trying to assess how big this could become,” Deasy told FedScoop. “For us, those numbers start in the millions.” Despite the DOD being “the ultimate face-to-face organization,” Deasy was able to bring IT leaders together from across the department to execute and scale virtual offerings. Now, the department will look to make telework a more permanent offering.

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Karen Evans

Karen Evans

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Karen Evans became CIO of DHS, the largest civilian department in the federal government amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. But as a seasoned veteran in the federal IT space, she was able to step into the role with poise and early success. Evans said DHS plans to continue “building off of the foundational work” and progress made in this past year. “It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve ever come into a job where everyone is complimenting the chief information officer’s team saying if it wasn’t for them, they wouldn’t have been able to switch to telework — they wouldn’t have been able to do things.”

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James Gfrerer

James Gfrerer

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Department of Veterans Affairs CIO James Gfrerer likes to call the COVID-19 pandemic a “black swan” event in that it’s once-in-a-lifetime. “The notion of a black swan is … nothing in the sum total of your knowledge or your experience in your life has really prepared you to address this,” Gfrerer told FedScoop. “You have to think very critically, very differently, and so we’ve all had to bring that mindset to the effort.” Despite this challenge, Gfrerer led his team to quickly shift to enable transformation and change. One of the largest federal agencies, the VA maneuvered gracefully to telework — and now, “we’re not going back,” Gfrerer said. “I think the nature of the pandemic and the nature of work and the nature of technology and what it enables, people are realizing now, both commercial, federal sector and otherwise, given the need to protect the workforce and our population, given the need to continue the mission, it’s a different business model.”

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Chris Krebs

Chris Krebs

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Former CISA Director Chris Krebs had one of the toughest jobs in federal IT. Not only was he the leader of the federal effort to guard the 2020 election against misinformation and interference, but he had to do so in a politically toxic environment. Ultimately, this resulted in the president firing him via Twitter for debunking the chief executive’s reckless and baseless claims about voting fraud after he lost the election. Minutes after losing his job, Krebs tweeted from his personal account: “Honored to serve. We did it right.” Krebs’ legacy as a guardian of one of America’s most vital institutions, as well as his vigilance for federal cybersecurity, will live on in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which he helped found as its first director. And even unofficially, he continues to use various platforms to emphasize that the 2020 election was secure. During a recent appearance on “60 Minutes,” Krebs said: “I’m not a public servant anymore, but I feel I’ve still got some public service left in me. And it’s hard once you take that oath to uphold and defend the Constitution from threats foreign and domestic — it’s hard to walk away from that. And if I can reinforce or confirm for one person that the vote was secure, that the election was secure, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

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Stuart McGuigan

Stuart McGuigan

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department had roughly 10% of its workforce teleworking. For CIO Stuart McGuigan, his proudest moment in 2020 came when, in response to the pandemic, the department was able to quickly scale that measure to 90%. “To hit 90% and have things be relatively quiet and people functioning in their jobs, that was quite a moment,” McGuigan said. Now, looking ahead to 2021, McGuigan said the department is focused on preserving that work. “Now, I think we have the ability to use the collaboration tools that people now are very used to using and bridge the distance in time and time zones and space that separate our far-flung workforce and be able to bring people to whatever problem we’re trying to solve, regardless of where they are currently living or what they’re doing and that is a huge change from what is otherwise a very much a face-to-face culture.”

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Maria Roat

Maria Roat

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year 

Amid the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat rose to the occasion in a number of ways. She led the Small Business Administration’s IT response efforts to ensure small businesses could file for loans while still CIO of the agency during the early months of the crisis. And then, after taking her new role as deputy Federal CIO in May, she also filled in as the de facto top federal IT official after Federal CIO Suzette Kent departed government in July. “It’s been a year,” Roat said of 2020. “I’m incredibly proud of the CIO Council this year for all of their work throughout the pandemic. As technology leaders, the CIO Council delivered.”

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David Shive

David Shive

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

David Shive has been the CIO of the General Services Administration going on six years, but he’s never had a year like 2020. Faced with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shive led GSA’s IT team to ensure the agency could continue operations without missing a beat. “We’d made a pretty significant investment in time and people, and even some dollars, into mobile-enabling the agency and we’ve been operating that way for a while,” Shive said. “But it’s different when people are opting into telework and when an entire agency leaves the four walls of a building and has to continue the mission of the agency in a widely distributed format.” Not only was GSA able to do that, Shive said, but in some places, the agency even upped its velocity of delivery and improved customer experience.

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Aaron Weis

Aaron Weis

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

Navy CIO Aaron Weis was attending a conference on the West Coast when COVID-19 began to upend life across the United States. One day, he’s attending meetings and speaking in front of a packed crowd of attendees, and the next, he’s working to figure out how to support a remote-enabled Navy and Marine Corps. “Within a matter of days, we went to full-blown pandemic crisis and we went from being able to support 12,000 teleworkers on any given day to in a matter of two weeks, we were supporting 200,000 plus teleworkers every day,” Weis said. “And that team came together and we more than quadrupled the size of the infrastructure for our teleworking.”

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Jeff Bardwell

Jeff Bardwell

Federal Leadership of the Year

Jeff Bardwell oversaw the creation of a new pathway for hiring current, high-performing college students into federal acquisition careers in the Student Hire Internship Program at DHS. Because of COVID-19, his office quickly began onboarding and managing personnel virtually. “In 2021, we are strengthening our developmental programs for junior personnel in acquisition career fields,” said Bardwell, a program manager for DHS’s Office of the Chief Procurement Officer. “In our office, we truly put people first, and people must first learn the ropes in federal acquisition career fields.”

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Rob Brown

Rob Brown

Federal Leadership of the Year

Brown has been with USCIS for five years and in the CTO role for nearly two. He’s focused his efforts on cloud adoption and the transition to DevSecOps. An open-source advocate, he’s worked with other DHS agencies on code collaboration. At the same time, USCIS created its first enterprise data lake under Brown to end duplicate data and make it easier for machine learning models to support the immigration mission. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Brown said it “provided an opportunity to leverage existing and new technology. It clearly illustrated the need to digitize manual and paper-stricken processes that due to the circumstances had become unattainable.” His proudest moment in 2020, he told FedScoop, “was seeing the vision of data as a service become a reality. Providing a platform with all USCIS data to be leveraged in a semi-autonomous way was a real joy.”

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Rocky Campione

Rocky Campione

Federal Leadership of the Year

Energy CIO Rocky Campione’s office rapidly expanded the department’s capabilities in March so 80% of its workforce could work remotely, a “legendary” response, he said. Since then, Campione has overseen the establishment of an Innovation Community Center delivering advanced analytics-as-a-service and AI capabilities across agencies. “I look forward to continuing to remove bureaucratic barriers to innovation that will help unleash our National Labs’ abilities to make world-changing discoveries,” he said. “This includes reducing the time to attain an authority to operate, renegotiating enterprise agreements to speed procurement and lower costs, and identifying new technologies that can be brought in to help the DOE accomplish its mission.”

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Guy Cavallo

Guy Cavallo

Federal Leadership of the Year

Guy Cavallo moved to OPM as deputy CIO this year, having led the Small Business Administration in quickly implementing all the requirements of the CARES Act with then-CIO Maria Roat. The IT systems for the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program were developed within days, distributing more funds than SBA ever had in total over its 67-year history prior. A new customer service hub fielded millions of emails seeking assistance that were fed into a case management system. “All of those successes together meant that America’s smallest businesses were able to receive their CARES Act funds in record size and time during incredible volume,” Cavallo said. Now Cavallo has taken his 2020 experience modernizing IT and transforming user systems to OPM.

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Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia

Federal Leadership of the Year

Greg Garcia held two roles this fall, carrying on his deputy CIO duties and filling in as acting CIO after the retirement of Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford. The Army was central in launching the DOD’s Commercial Virtual Remote environment, the military’s teleworking platform. The largest service and department in the military, the Army needed to launch fast and furious to keep its operation running and employees working remotely. “In the global pandemic, in a world of contested and congestion near-peer adversaries, in a world of significant digital, technical and transformation change, our people were stellar,” he said. “They were safe, they were focused, they took care of their families, and they took care of our nation.” Garcia looks forward to 2021 and the Army’s work transitioning “from piloting many of these critical digital capabilities to scaling and accelerating key cloud, data and mission capabilities. We are continuing to partner within our Army, across the department, and more broadly, with our critical allies and partners.”

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Mike Madsen

Mike Madsen

Federal Leadership of the Year

COVID-19 has taught many people that a crisis can lead to creativity. For the Department of Defense, “the pandemic has been a forcing function to transform the way government operates on a day-to-day basis,” Mike Madsen, deputy director of the Defense Innovation Unit, told FedScoop. “There are so many tools for reaching out to new and potential solution providers. DOD sometimes doesn’t leverage all of these tools, and 2020 has shown that there are ways to reconnect not only here across the U.S. but around the world with our partners and allies,” he said. During the pandemic, the DIU team was able to quickly pivot existing projects to help with the COVID-19 effort, Madsen said.

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Clare Martorana

Clare Martorana

Federal Leadership of the Year

Clare Martorana’s priority since taking the CIO job has been securing and stabilizing OPM’s mainframe environment, and in mid-July, after a year of work, her team successfully migrated mainframe technology from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. to an offsite commercial data center. OPM decoupled its systems from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency’s two-and-a-half months before its Oct. 1 deadline. And disaster recovery is in place. “Many said this could not be done,” Martorana said. “But we knew that it could be done.”

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Jon McKeeby

Jon McKeeby

Federal Leadership of the Year

NIH CIO Jon McKeeby always wanted to be a hospital administrator, and he has been for the last 14 years. His proudest moment of 2020 is creating asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 using NIH’s electronic health record and lab system, as well as the center’s response to the pandemic through telehealth advances. The center has about 90 patients currently and 250 outpatients, and cameras and microphones in the Intensive Care Unit are helping protect them and staff. “This was a good introduction to the telework world,” McKeeby said, “But I think there still needs to be time when you have meetings and people together.”

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Andre Mendes

Andre Mendes

Federal Leadership of the Year

Commerce CIO Andre Mendes’ office completed the migration of wide area network links at the Herbert C. Hoover Building to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s N-Wave network and Trusted Internet Connection Access Provider capability in June, an aspirational item for the department for years. The department further “seamlessly” transitioned to 100% telework and within two weeks had help desk procedures in place for new hardware, he said. Still, Mendes can’t wait to eventually get back to the office in 2021. “I truly believe that the human in-person interactions that occur in an office building cannot be long term replaced by 100% telework,” he said. “It was necessary and well-executed, but we are missing a lot of the non-heuristic interactions that spark creativity, innovation and seamless collaboration.”

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John Morenz

John Morenz

Federal Leadership of the Year

John Morenz has been with SSA for 22 years and in the CTO role for the last six. He’s overseen the development of the agency’s information technology and cybersecurity strategies with an emphasis on modernization of systems, infrastructure and capabilities. Morenz also ensures the $1.6 billion his agency spends on IT annually doesn’t go to waste.

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David Nelson

David Nelson

Federal Leadership of the Year

NRC spent the last several years improving its employees’ ability to telework, and when the pandemic struck, CIO David Nelson’s office spent several weeks updating information systems and holding walk-in training using Wi-Fi and simulating remote access. Currently, 98% of the agency teleworks, and now a new strategic IT roadmap is being developed. “The changes brought on by the new remote working environment we find ourselves in has enabled new thinking across the agency and increased our desire to use existing and developing technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness,” Nelson said. “The agency’s senior leadership team recognizes the value in this and is engaged in this important planning.”

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Anne Neuberger

Anne Neuberger

Federal Leadership of the Year

While many agencies across the federal government were able to make easy decisions about moving quickly to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, for the NSA, it was much more complicated, with its sensitive and often secret work. Director of Cybersecurity Anne Neuberger’s team played a key role in advising on the cyberthreats related to the agency’s move to telework. “Like many in the cybersecurity field, we received a huge demand for advice on securing telework systems, which drove a great deal of innovation in unclassified and even classified telework,” she told FedScoop. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Neuberger is hopeful in the technology changes it brought. “COVID collapsed multiple years of technology adoption efforts into months. The shifts to cloud and collaboration platforms bring a great deal of promise for more rapid and agile teamwork across government,” she said. “We have a unique opportunity to also make great leaps in cybersecurity improvements by using the encryption, analytics, and cybersecurity services offered by major cloud providers.”

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Vaughn Noga

Vaughn Noga

Federal Leadership of the Year

CIO Vaughn Noga said he is most proud of the “we-can attitude” the EPA team demonstrated in the early days of the pandemic when it was focused on switching to remote work — fixing connectivity issues, expanding training for collaboration tools and finding workarounds for once routine in-person practices. That said, he is looking forward to returning to the office, noting the value of spontaneous conversations with coworkers and the importance of social interaction. Some of the pandemic-forced implementations, however, should continue, like working to reduce and eventually eliminate printing. Modernization efforts should always be advancing, he said, before the next crisis forces it. “We must stop thinking about IT modernization as a discreet event, but rather embrace a philosophy of continual modernization,” he said. “We shouldn’t wait until something has passed its useful lifecycle before we begin to think about its replacement.”

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Eric Olson

Eric Olson

Federal Leadership of the Year

Olson joined the department in 2015, serving first as the deputy CIO and then as CIO beginning in November 2017. In the former position, he spearheaded the department’s enterprise cybersecurity program and its IT shared services portfolio. Before joining Treasury, Olson was at the Department of Justice for 12 years where he held several technology leadership positions, such as the Director of Service Engineering.

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Paul Puckett

Paul Puckett

Federal Leadership of the Year

March 2020 was an important time for Paul Puckett. He was called on to stand up the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office as its first director, and it began a time when his services became even more needed. As the pandemic took hold, cloud capabilities became even more important. Puckett’s job became focused on building a solid team — and solid teamwork, through video calls and chat functions, not the typical in-person meetings at the Pentagon. It’s a journey that did not come easy, but it is one he was proud to lead. “Our ability to collaborate and connect was a bit of a blessing in disguise,” Puckett said. That blessing has allowed Puckett to lead a technical team that continues to deliver for the Army when it needs it most, he said.

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Melinda Rogers

Melinda Rogers

Federal Leadership of the Year

For Justice CIO Melinda Rogers, forward-thinking modernization initiatives already in the works were critical when the agency transitioned to remote work. Starting in late February, she and her team worked during off-hours and weekends to secure surge support for a doubled network capacity, implement additional remote access bandwidth, and disseminate information about how to telework securely. “I’m very proud that our staff was able to remain flexible, steadfast, and dedicated to our mission, and creatively problem-solve obstacles in real-time during this time of change,” she said.

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Bobby Saxon

Bobby Saxon

Federal Leadership of the Year

Bobby Saxon, a longtime player in the federal IT field, has had a big 2020. He was promoted to deputy CIO of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. His new role in the Office of IT comes after three years of service at the health care insurance agency. Most recently he served as director of CMS’s Office of Emergency Preparedness & Response Operations, a role that’s been key during the agency’s response to the coronavirus.

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John Sherman

John Sherman

Federal Leadership of the Year

After serving as the CIO of the Intelligence Community for several years, John Sherman took on a new mission in 2020 as the principal deputy CIO of the Department of Defense. “It’s always a great experience to join a team that has wind in its sails, and that is something that is definitely the case here at DOD,” Sherman told FedScoop. That move happened to coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread adoption of telework. “I think the COVID pandemic really brought to the fore so many of the recent advances in technology, most notably with the ability to enable individuals to work together virtually,” Sherman said. “The crisis also underscored how innovation played — and continues to play — such an important role, especially as user demands grew and we had to adapt to heightened cybersecurity threats and greater demands on areas like network capacity.”

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Nancy Sieger

Nancy Sieger

Federal Leadership of the Year

Nancy Sieger, CIO at the Internal Revenue Service, said that COVID-19 “fundamentally” changed the way the agency worked. That meant accelerating digital options for both taxpayers and employees and rescaling operations for health and safety. At one point, the agency saw a record of 58,000 employees connected to the IRS network remotely. “None of that’s possible without technology. 2020 has underscored the importance of modernization. It’s what will keep the government running and delivering the services that Americans need, expect and deserve,” she said, adding that she hopes these innovations will stick throughout 2021 and after the pandemic.

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Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Federal Leadership of the Year 

Like many government agencies, the DEA is in the midst of working to transform its legacy systems to meet modern challenges. CTO Alex Smith’s biggest accomplishment this year was putting the final touches on the agency’s three-year strategic planning to ensure continued modernization. “Our [strategy] will be adaptive to emerging changes, external and internal influences and provide flexibility while achieving long-term goals and satisfying organizational goals in support of the DEA mission,” he said. This year’s biggest lesson for him was how many external forces can change the course of internal IT planning. The pandemic, for one, has forced much change across the DEA and in its IT shop. Despite the changes, effort continues to push for emerging technology integration in 2021, he said.

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Greg Smithberger

Greg Smithberger

Federal Leadership of the Year

The NSA has made the unprecedented move to telework in recent months — something the agency rarely did prior to COVID-19. CIO Greg Smithberger has led that effort, trying to work out what of the NSA’s sensitive workload could and couldn’t be done remotely. “It’s kind of become more of a standard for us to see how much we can actually do in a less protected environment to leverage our ability to work with some corporate partners who, in some cases, simply don’t have access to a SCIF but are fully cleared people,” he said earlier this year. “In other cases, we’re building a sort of a variation on this environment, where we’re going to be doing a lot more collaboration with people who don’t have clearances for the capabilities mission, for NSA’s cybersecurity mission, for our research.”

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Charles Worthington

Charles Worthington

Federal Leadership of the Year

Charles Worthington has spent several years leading government innovation, first as a Presidential Innovation Fellow and now at the Department of Veterans Affairs as CTO. The VA has been at the forefront of the pandemic, working to care for veterans and to back up the public health care system strained by the number of COVID-19 cases. Worthington has been working to implement modernization efforts to increase the effectiveness of and efficiency of the department’s care, even as the pandemic rages on. Worthington continues to focus on technology that can be fielded now and improve the lives of veterans.

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Shaun Bierweiler

Shaun Bierweiler

Industry Leadership of the Year

Shaun Bierweiler started a new chapter in 2020 as senior vice president of public sector for Riverbed Technology. While in the new role, the challenges during the pandemic and the lessons learned remain the same. “Without the availability and readiness of technology to support the shift from in-person to remote work and collaboration environments, the rapid and successful pandemic response in 2020 would not be possible,” Bierweiler said. “This year demonstrated the ability for the government to be agile and to embrace commercial technology while maintaining necessary security and governance controls essential for government applications.”

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Teresa Carlson

Teresa Carlson

Industry Leadership of the Year

When the pandemic hit, Amazon Web Services had to “flex and change the way we operate,” said Teresa Carlson, head of the company’s global public sector team. “We reached out directly to our customers and government leaders to ask how we could bring our expertise to bear. And then we acted fast. We’ve been focused on supporting customers around the world to keep businesses running and classes going, speed research projects, and determine where health care resources are most needed.” This year made clear that the technology that AWS offers is key to the government’s missions, especially as things have gone remote, Carlson said. “This year showed us that people expect the same world-class technology from government that they expect when they log onto Netflix or shop online. And the pandemic made clear that sometimes technology platforms are the only interface organizations will have with citizens, so failure is not an option.”

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Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Industry Leadership of the Year

Mike Daniels, vice president of global public sector for Google Cloud, called 2020 “a crucible for change.” Transformation in the past has “seemed far off, too difficult, or not an imperative but I truly believe this year has shown otherwise,” he said. “What was previously not a priority, or perhaps even on the roadmap, might be viewed or prioritized differently today and I am most looking forward to hearing the bold and innovative ideas that come from government and higher education institutions and partnering with them on their journey as we emerge in many ways stronger than before.” In totality, Daniels called 2020 “humbling” and said it made him “proud every single day to work alongside devoted public servants and our team of experts who have led with empathy, overcome unforeseen obstacles, and have maintained their resilience during this pandemic. I have a profound appreciation of the deep passion for supporting our public servants that Google Cloud has as part of our core ethos for making the world a better place. I am inspired and grateful to work with an amazing team and incredible customers whose personal commitment has been truly amazing.”

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Steve Harris

Steve Harris

Industry Leadership of the Year

While the federal government faced the unprecedented challenge of moving to remote work, Dell Technologies served as a key adviser to agencies as they continued to pursue their digital transformation goals. “We helped agencies make necessary changes quickly and select IT infrastructure based on an agency’s workloads and unique needs, and provided guidance for unexpected challenges they faced,” said Steve Harris, president of federal and public sector strategy for Dell Technologies. “2020 has shown us the importance of preparedness — not only being able to adapt to the arising demands and changes in the midst of crisis but, having turnkey solutions in place that can be further developed to meet the needs of the ‘new normal.’ Technology was a huge asset in making the necessary transitions of 2020 possible and can help us prepare for unanticipated challenges in the future.”

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Matt Mandrgoc

Matt Mandrgoc

Industry Leadership of the Year

Zoom exploded in popularity across the world with the arrival of COVID-19 and social distancing. And that meant the company had to work quickly to comply with federal cybersecurity standards so that agencies across the government could use the video-conferencing app. Matt Mandrgoc is head of Zoom’s U.S. Governments team and led that charge to make sure the company could work with federal agencies during this critical time. “My proudest moment was working alongside my Zoom teammates and partners to help our Federal customers, system integrators and contractors quickly adapt to their business and mission continuity requirements during this challenging time,” Mandrgoc said. “We were fortunate and honored to do this through our FedRAMP authorized Zoom for Government communication and collaboration platform.”

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Lynn Martin

Lynn Martin

Industry Leadership of the Year

Lynn Martin leads up VMware’s government, education and health care lines of business as vice president — essentially the head of the entirety of the company’s public sector dealings. In that effort, she oversees a large swath of the federal government’s continued adoption of virtualization and hybrid cloud computing. Over the summer, Martin described the importance of VMware’s work in the federal response to COVID-19, particularly in “enabling access via any device to any application anywhere. If you think about that for a minute, it really resonates in this current situation.”

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Dave Rey

Dave Rey

Industry Leadership of the Year

The past year has shown that digital transformation is more than a “nice to have,” said Dave Rey, president of global public sector for Salesforce. The pandemic has forced the public sector to address its issues with legacy technologies and “reevaluate how services are delivered with new consideration paid to the global pandemic’s unique health concerns,” he said. “Public sector organizations are asking questions such as: Can existing systems be scaled? Are systems available remotely via mobile? Are they available 24/7 to a remote workforce?” But Rey believes “government agencies will end 2020 with a much better appreciation for digital transformation’s revolutionary power.”

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Dean Scontras

Dean Scontras

Industry Leadership of the Year

Duo Security’s federal team spent most of the past year focused on how it could help agencies move securely to remote work. Dean Scontras helped lead that effort as regional vice president of public sector, and he’s extremely proud of the work his team did “on the frontlines.” Scontras, who’s since moved on from Duo, called COVID-19 “a forcing function when it comes to cloud — especially cloud security… The pandemic kind of revealed some of the challenges around that. How do you issue PIV cards when nobody can go get a card, or how do you set up a VPN when the supply chain is now at a standstill?” The past year, he said, really shows how important identity and access management are to a modern federal government. “Whoever resolves this identity and access management challenge the best, the soonest can really transform the way government does business,” Scontras said.

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Toni Townes-Whitley

Toni Townes-Whitley

Industry Leadership of the Year

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft served the state of New York and its “Tech Squad” to help build a mobile COVID-19 self-assessment and testing tool in less than three days. This was just one of many ways Microsoft President of U.S. Regulated Industries Toni Townes-Whitley’s team helped its public sector partners during the thick of the pandemic. “Governments across the world have undergone years’ worth of digital transformation in a matter of months and are seeing the value of being more agile,” she said. “COVID-19 has fast-tracked this modern cloud technology adoption at speeds that are unprecedented in the history of our nation. The pandemic put a stress test on the ability of governments to deliver services amidst a crisis and we are seeing our government customers embrace a mindset that fosters innovation at an accelerated rate.” That innovation, Townes-Whitley said, will likely “outlast the pandemic as governments shift their mindsets and operations to be more agile, anticipating the needs of citizens and government workers.”

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Christopher Townsend

Christopher Townsend

Industry Leadership of the Year

Automation played a key role during the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. UiPath Vice President of Federal Christopher Townsend said government customers were “doubly affected, because they not only had to deal with telework, but they had to deal with the incremental burden of administering a lot of the COVID programs.” UiPath used its technology to offload some of that burden, he said. “That was my proudest moment — that we could really contribute to helping our government agencies through this difficult time.”

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James Yeager

James Yeager

Industry Leadership of the Year

Cybersecurity has proven to be more critical than ever for federal agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. CrowdStrike realized that importance early on in the crisis. “In order to succeed in this journey in a way that allows [our customers] to out-innovate our adversaries, it is imperative that security is part of their strategic fabric,” said James Yeager, CrowdStrike’s vice president of public sector and health care. “Our customers will need our help now more than ever and we are well positioned to help them every step of the way.” Yeager said he is most proud of two things in 2020: His team’s support of health care organizations during the pandemic and its efforts with federal, state and local agencies to secure the presidential election. “Both are clear demonstrations of our compassion for the challenges impacting our customers and the overarching impact these events can have on our country,” he said.

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Kevin Youngquist

Kevin Youngquist

Industry Leadership of the Year

The past year proved just how vital digital transformation is to the mission of the federal government, said Kevin Youngquist, vice president of U.S. public sector and health care for Veritas Technologies. “Having trusted providers who deliver for agencies in the most complex hybrid cloud environments is a necessity. We saw experimentation with point products and unproven technologies fizzle. The risk, cost, and time involved to manage many silos are not tenable in this new reality. We’ve watched our largest agencies provide ‘surge’ capacity in hours rather than weeks,” Youngquist said. “It is fulfilling to see change occurring faster than ever before in our market and the public/private partnership flourishing.”

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Al Bowden

Al Bowden

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Al Bowden was selected as the State Department’s CISO in 2016. He also serves as the Deputy Chief Information Officer for Information Assurance. In these roles, he oversees the implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of system-related information. Bowden has nearly 30 years of IT experience, including a previous stint as the Director of the Enterprise Network Management (ENM) Office.

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Cord Chase

Cord Chase

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Chase joined OPM in 2016, 10 months after the agency announced it had been the target of a data breach affecting the records of 22.1 million people. His office has collaborated closely with DHS’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation and EINSTEIN programs in the aftermath to understand its risk posture. Chase has also embraced commercial off-the-shelf and cloud service provider offerings as part of IT modernization.

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Chris Cleary

Chris Cleary

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Cleary is new to a new job. He is the first CISO for the Navy, starting his job just before one of the biggest security challenges the Navy has faced: having its workforce work on untrusted networks in new security environments. Cleary’s most proud accomplishment has been helping to roll out the Commercial Virtual Remote environment, the Department of Defense’s telework platform. It was a decision that came with a significant amount of risk. “We had to accept the risk to enable productivity,” he said. Thinking critically about accepting and mitigating risk to enable productivity is a footing Cleary wants to bring forward post-pandemic.

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Emery Csulak

Emery Csulak

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

The Department of Energy launched its Big Data Platform this year, an accomplishment Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer Emery Csulak said he is most proud of. The platform, which is a space to consolidate cybersecurity sensor data across the department, improves the DOE’s operational visibility. The DOE typically has the capacity to support 30% of its team working remotely. The pandemic, of course, forced Csulak’s team to rapidly scale those capabilities to support an 80% remote workforce. Because the department already had its eye on modernization efforts, the transition was a challenge, but not impossible. “Getting to maximum telework in a matter of weeks was a challenge, but our fundamentals prepared us well. We could not have rapidly moved to effective and secure remote work without the Department’s efforts of laying the right foundation,” he said.

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Steven Hernandez

Steven Hernandez

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Fortunately, the Department of Education had just transitioned a legacy contract and improved many aspects of its resiliency right before the pandemic hit earlier this year, giving it a much-needed technology refresh before the systems were truly put to the test with remote work. Still, there were other surprises, including the closure of the agency’s badging offices right before a surge of onboarding new employees. CISO Steven Hernandez and his leadership team quickly responded with a solution to onboard everyone virtually, what he estimates as two months of design, engineering, security and configuration work completed over five days. “It was an incredible achievement of contracting, security, planning and collaboration that allowed us to move at an intense speed while remaining secure,” he said.

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Diane Phan

Diane Phan

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Diane Phan has been a long-time member of the DISA security team, serving now as chief of the Cyber Defense Division and program manager for the Endpoint Security Solutions Portfolio. Working for 10 years on endpoint security, she has been involved in implementing policy and technical changes to how the DOD’s mobile, desktop and other endpoints are secured. Some of the policy and technical changes she has helped lead are new tools that help to identify the networks devices are on and what vulnerabilities there are. “We have to ensure we have the ability to respond to threats and remediate threats in a timely manner,” she told an audience last year, speaking about the endpoint security changes she was leading.

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Janet Vogel

Janet Vogel

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

Janet Vogel has been the CISO at HHS since April 2018, after 12 years within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While this year brewed the “perfect storm” of facing a pandemic while increasingly relying on a virtual environment, Vogel said that rapidly scaling HHS’s security infrastructure to a vastly different operating environment ended up allowing the agency to work more effectively. “Even under the high stakes and high-pressured deadlines, our teams seamlessly collaborated, producing timely and appropriate responses to new and dangerous types of cybersecurity threats,” she said. The Emergency Use Authorization forced her to leave her own comfort zone, Vogel said, and allowed the agency to “expedite procurements, leverage technology capabilities such as machine learning, and stand up systems within days.” Once the pandemic is over, Vogel hopes agencies can continue to exchange meaningful cybersecurity information.

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Nickolous Ward

Nickolous Ward

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

To combat new cybersecurity threats as the DOJ transitioned to telework, CISO Nickolous Ward and his team “doubled down” on cybersecurity education. The security team needed to enlist all of the DOJ in the fight against spear-phishing and novel cyber threats in the teleworking environment, he said. Despite the challenges, this time of change has given Ward an opportunity to increase cybersecurity’s visibility and awareness. “2020 was the spark that ignited the flame to further modernize how our workforce connects to the enterprise,” he said. Part of that modernization will be relying on more employees to join the DOJ’s mission from outside the Washington, D.C. region. By continuing to telework, Ward sees greater remote work opportunities for the government.

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Katie Olson

Katie Olson

Tech Champion of the Year

“The pandemic underscored the need for top tech talent in the department,” said Katie Olson, deputy director of the Defense Digital Service. Without such talent, the Department of Defense would not have been able to respond so quickly to the challenges created by the health crisis. “If the Navy had to execute and hire contract support for the MyStatus.mil tool, instead of turning to the DDS team of experts, the Navy would probably still be waiting for a symptom-checking tool and COVID-19 would have claimed more military lives,” Olson said. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, DDS pivoted quickly to provide its innovative services across the DOD. “While DDS is already a distributed workforce with tools and resources to keep work moving seamlessly, our counterparts overseeing employee onboarding at the DOD’s Washington Headquarters Services did not,” she said. “DDS had a healthy hiring pipeline of candidates we’d worked hard to recruit in 2019 and we didn’t want to lose such amazing talent. So, DDS helped WHS to apply technology and acquire the equipment necessary to continue to hire and onboard employees. Since March, DDS has enabled the DOD to onboard 32 of our own employees and over 1,000 DOD employees virtually.”

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Thomas Osborne

Thomas Osborne

Tech Champion of the Year

Thomas Osborne’s job is to get better care to veterans, looking to the latest in emerging technology to find new healthcare innovations. This year, he brought the first 5G hospital online in California, giving doctors more data and new tools to work with patients. This early success had to stand alone this year, as the VA pivoted away from pursuing emerging technologies to putting all of its efforts into supporting the battle against COVID-19. “We did not expect to pivot away from a number of previously planned successful projects that were gaining momentum. However, very early on into the pandemic, we took the risk of changing course, which enabled us to have a head start on a multipronged battle against this new disease,” said Osborne, director of the National Center for Collaborative Healthcare. Beyond just carrying for veterans, the VA also had to support overwhelmed private health care.

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Adam Furtado

Adam Furtado

Disruptor of the Year

The Air Force faced global challenges before the pandemic struck — ones that its Kessel Run team needed to help respond to. When tensions with Iran flared following the U.S.’s alleged killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Kessel Run jumped to action in assisting the Air Operations Centers in linking command and control systems and ensuring the military had the use of “software as a weapon.” Months later when the pandemic struck the U.S., Kessel Run was prepared for the remote work. “I think we were probably more prepared than most organizations,” Adam Furtado, chief of air operations for Kessel Run, said. In some ways, it even helped. By listing full-time remote positions, Kessel Run increased its applicant pool by 350%. As for the road ahead, Furtado said he is “hoping that 2021 is the year that we graduate past ‘innovation theatre’ and start making real inroads in modernizing the way the world’s largest bureaucracy thinks about not just technology, but work itself.”

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James Klipfer

James Klipfer

Disruptor of the Year

One of the biggest tech changes James Klipfer launched had to do with a very low-tech information thing: paper. The FBI’s reams and reams of closed cases are now being stored in Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) at the FBI’s new Central Records Complex (CRC) in Winchester, Virginia. The warehouse uses robots that can retrieve paper files and will be able to hold more than two billion records. “The CRC’s ASRS will create multiple efficiencies by consolidating all of the FBI’s closed case files into one location, dramatically reducing the time to retrieve those files, freeing up usable office space in FBI field offices across the country, saving millions in rent and utility costs for multiple file storage warehouses, and ultimately freeing up employees to focus on their areas of expertise rather than spending time searching for and retrieving closed case file,” Klipfer said.

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Eric Day

Eric Day

Most Inspiring Up & Comer

As the lead for the Department of Labor’s recent implementation of Self-Service Password Reset (SSPR) and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA), Eric Day is bringing efficient, effective, and streamlined solutions to DOL. Eric’s multi-faceted campaign to increase SSPR/MFA registration across DOL achieved a 75.4% registration rate in only two months. Before SSPR, users physically journeyed to or called the helpdesk to have their passwords reset. Perceiving the benefits of both tools’ features to ease staff’s ability to securely and quickly access and reset their own passwords, Eric swiftly mounted a comprehensive campaign to encourage user adoption, tracking down hard-to-reach staff to register.

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Chad Oglesbee

Chad Oglesbee

Most Inspiring Up & Comer

Working on endpoint security at the Department of Veterans Affairs has been no easy task since COVID-19 hit. With everyone teleworking, the number of endpoints that need securing exploded. “COVID-19 had a huge impact on the VA since we were on the front lines of the crisis. Our staff was challenged with caring for patients infected with the virus while maintaining the same level of care for all patients without contributing to the spread,” said Chad Oglesbee, VA’s director of mobile technology and endpoint security engineering. Working across government and with the private sector was key to the VA’s success in securing its endpoints, he said. Once the pandemic is over, or at least more VA employees are back in their offices, Oglesbee said continuing to expand endpoint security will not stop.

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Allison Wolff

Allison Wolff

Most Inspiring Up & Comer

Allison Wolff has been at NASA for nearly 17 years, starting in human resources and advancing to her current role as an applications architect in the Office of Chief Information Officer. A major pandemic-driven innovation at the agency was setting up a contact tracing and tracking system to identify COVID exposure at NASA facilities, especially important because so many agency operations need to be in-person. Wolff worked with her office and NASA’s medical community to develop and deploy the application in less than two months. Wolff also had the added challenge every parent had this year: learning how to balance the demands of a global pandemic with full-time childcare and a transition to online learning with her three daughters. “It’s not easy but we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work from home, the flexibility to support our family’s needs and the unexpected blessing of (temporarily) playing a more integral role in our children’s education,” she said.

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Artificial Intelligence for Past Performance – Modernizing Federal Acquisition

Artificial Intelligence for Past Performance – Modernizing Federal Acquisition

Innovation of the Year

In just four months, seven artificial intelligence vendors demonstrated working prototypes for helping agencies better use contractor past performance data — a big win for the two people heading up the acquisition. “Using the agile approach, we engaged with acquisition workforce professionals to discover what was most important to them as users,” Scott Simpson, head of the AI for Past Performance team, said of his work with Phorsha Peel, his partnering contracting officer. “We then worked with our nine vendors to design prototypes that met those user needs, continuously engaging with those users to ensure the prototypes were on the right track.” 2021 will see the continued development of those prototypes into fully developed solutions in Phase 2. “The collaboration between the federal acquisition community and the federal information technology community, and the focus on our users, really makes this an exciting initiative to be involved with, and we are working hard to get secure and functional products that our users want to use as soon as possible,” Simpson said.

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