2020 InnovateIT Awards

Traditionally, the federal IT community has viewed leadership and innovation as two separate categories, especially when it comes to the community’s various awards programs. The InnovateIT Awards program bridges that divide, recognizing innovation and leadership that has sustained excellence across the three primary focus areas of the President’s Management Agenda:

1) Mission: Recognizes an individual or a team that used technology to drive mission value or adopted innovative techniques to combat security threats to solve a mission challenge. 

2) Service: Recognizes an individual or a team that has implemented innovative, government-wide approaches to deliver better, more efficient services to citizens, partner agencies, or employees. 

3) Stewardship: Recognizes an individual or a team that has improved the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of agency programs and operations to exercise effective responsibility over taxpayer dollar.

     Two awards will be given in each category—one to a senior government leader and one to an emerging government leader.
           Please note: As defined by AFCEA International, an emerging leader is defined as a government employee who is either new to the field with up to                   five years of experience, or is 35 year of age or younger. 

Additionally, the program will recognize the Government Innovator of the Year and the Industry Innovator of the Year -- two individuals who have exemplified outstanding management to drive forward innovative initiatives that advance the mission of their organizations or the state of federal IT. The nominations should be related to a specific innovative initiative or group of initiatives.

Award submissions will be evaluated based on the following criteria:


How innovative was the initiative in its use of people, processes and/or technologies?

In what way did the initiative address a pressing challenge or advance a key program?
To what extent could the innovative approach be adopted/adapted by other organizations?

2019 InnovateIT Award Winners

Government Innovator of the Year

Jose L. Arrieta, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Few people in the federal government challenge the status quo—and even fewer do so beyond the confines of their own organizations to drive innovation across government. But then again, there are few visionaries like Jose Arrieta. Since joining HHS last year, Arrieta has revolutionized the department’s acquisition and contracting process through a program known as Accelerate. The program leverages a combination of emerging technologies—including blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation—to extract insight from standardized acquisition data and drive improvements in acquisition planning and contracting, resulting in reduced award time and IT investment savings. The larger IT acquisition community has taken note.

Industry Innovator of the Year

Zain Ahmed, Vice President, Civilian and Law Enforcement Sales, CenturyLink

Network services might seem far removed from the concerns of an agency dealing with counterterrorism, border security, nuclear threats and other vital national interests. But the agency’s network infrastructure, which involved 20 outdated, patchworked systems and numerous inefficient processes, could not keep pace with the explosive demands for actionable data—nor help the agency manage significant budget constraints. Zain Ahmed and his team transitioned the agency to a network-as-a-service approach, which fully outsourced everything from the installation of cabling and equipment to network design, engineering, monitoring and management—a best-in breed solution that would meet the agency’s current requirements and carry them into the future.

Mission - Emerging Government Leaders

Vincent Sritapan, Portfolio Manager, Physical & Cyber Security, Science & Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Samuel Navarro, Program Manager – Enterprise Mobility Program, Federal Acquisition Services, General Services Administration

Gema Howell, Computer Scientist, National Institute of Standards & Technology


You might call Vincent Sritapan, Samuel Navarro and Gema Howell the brain-trust behind the Federal CIO Council’s initiative to improve the state of mobile security across government. These three experts—each of whom are under 36 years old—serve as co-chairs of the Federal Mobility Group, a community of practice in which mobility leads from across government come together to discuss challenges, identify solutions and explore policies, regulations and best practices. Under their leadership, the FMG has thrived, now having more than 180 members from 45 agencies. Among their many accomplishments, the group worked with DHS and OMB to develop the FISMA Mobility Metrics recommendations.

Mission - Senior Government Leader

John Morenz, Chief Technology Officer, Social Security Administration

As SSA’s CTO, John Morenz plays a lead role in incubating new technologies—researching, testing and determining the viability of innovative approaches to reducing costs and risks to the agency. But new technology often requires a new way of thinking—something that must be cultivated on an on-going basis. With that in mind, Morenz established monthly CTO Tech Talks, an employee-led forum in which Office of Systems (OS) employees can talk about existing projects, showcase modern practices, and engage with OS leadership. To date, these forums have had more than 2,500 unique attendees, 99 percent of whom say they would recommend Tech Talks to a peer.

Mission - Senior Government Leaders

Anthony (“Tony”) Tsantrizos, Operations Branch Manager, Deployment and Logistics Division (DLD), Acquisition Program Management, Transportation Security Administration

Donald (“Don”) Cahoon, Program Specialist, Lead Checkpoint Designer, DLD, Acquisition Program Management


Sometimes the key to good leadership is helping people with different areas of expertise to work toward a common goal. That was the task when TSA, the U.S. Department of State and the government of Mexico decided to join forces to strengthen security at the 38 last point of departure (LPD) airports in Mexico—and that task fell to Tony Tsantrizos and Don Cahoon. Under Project Cielos Aztecas, Tsantrizos and Cahoon worked with government officials, airport operators, designers and engineers, and technology suppliers to develop a comprehensive strategy for deploying a wide range of advanced technologies that can detect weapons, explosives and other dangerous contraband.

Service - Emerging Government Leader

Ryan Hoesing, FedRAMP Customer Success Manager, General Services Administration (GSA)

Ryan Hoesing takes the idea of “customer success” seriously. He understands that FedRAMP’s success depends on its ability to help both cloud service providers (CSPs) and agencies work through the authorization process. So, Hoesing guided the development of a tailored approach to how the program engages with its community by leveraging a multi-channel communications approach, including blogs, social media, email listservs, websites, in-person trainings and one-on-one meetings—in all, creating more than 750 unique touchpoints with agencies and CSPs. His work contributed to FedRAMP’s success in 2018 in decreasing authorization timelines from more than 12 months to less than six and in authorizing more than 40 cloud services.

Service - Senior Government Leader

Neil C. Evans, MD, Chief Officer, Office of Connected Care, Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Neil Evans, MD, pairs nearly 20 years of clinical experience with a passion for technology—specifically, telehealth. He sees telehealth as vital to VA’s goal of increasing access to care by moving primary and specialty care closer to veterans, wherever they live, and to improve the quality of care by enabling veterans to engage with their health care providers in between their office visits. Over the last two years, Dr. Evans’ team rolled out VA Video Connect, a video telehealth solution, which bolsters care for rural, underserved and vulnerable veteran populations. So far, there have been more than 470,000 video sessions, with more than 128,000 veterans.

Stewardship - Emerging Government Leader

Michelle Marantz, Acting Contracts and Acquisitions Branch Chief/IT Specialist, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State

The Next Generation (NextGen) Passport Personalization Printers program was designed to protect the public against fraudulent or counterfeit activities and to improve border management, which is integral to the fight against global terrorism. But the program would not have panned out if not for Michelle Marantz’s ability to ensure that the contract truly delivered best value. For nearly two years, Marantz and her team worked collaboratively with various offices in the department to revise NextGen requirements, draft test plans, and participate in source selection. And when the award was protested—not once but twice—the team provided the expertise needed for the award to stand and for the work to proceed.

Stewardship - Senior Government Leader

Bobby Saxon, Chief Technology Officer, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO)/Healthcare.gov, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

The case for moving the Health.gov Health Insurance Marketplace from on-premise virtual data centers to the cloud was clear, with projected savings of $100 million annually. But such a move, involving a complex and high-profile system, required a massive effort to research and plan the project—and to sell the plan to agency leaders and CMS business owners. Bobby Saxon worked with Marc Richardson and Ronald Graham to make it happen. The undertaking included a monthly road show in which Saxon gave all the stakeholders the opportunity to get educated and ask questions, while Richardson and Graham provided day-to-day management. The final cutover happened in March 2019.