By John Higgins, PEO IEW&S Public AffairsMarch 27, 2018
Every year, The Annual Federal 100 Awards recognizes the best and brightest people who drive innovation, efficiency and improvement of federal information technology.
The Federal Government directly employs nearly three million people, and with industry partners almost doubling that number throughout the country. With only 100 awards sponsored by a top industry publication and a potential for as many nominations as people can write it's safe to say the competition is stiff.
Joining awardees from the highest echelons of Government and Industry from Department of the Army, Navy and Air Force to the FBI and the Secret Service and countless others, Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors own William Graves, Chief Engineer for Project Manager DoD Biometrics, has been awarded the recognition.
"They have to have three nominations [per award] from industry and government and then it goes through a government vetting process," said Col. Donald Hurst, PM for DoD Biometrics. "From thousands of individuals that are submitted they select 100, which is a small number given the amount of government employees. It's pretty highly sought after and it's quite an honor."
Graves, an Army veteran himself, comes from a long line of military service, including his grandfather, Rear Adm. William Thompson, USN (Ret.), who had a large role in the construction of the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Pennsylvania Ave.
Graves' friend and mentor, Jim Williams who had more than 30 years in federal service before retiring, wrote one of the three nominations for Graves' award.
"Everybody knows Will," said Williams. "They know he's a guy who brings people together and talks about things like 'how do we share better? How do we do things that help stop bad guys?' He's got great leadership and collaboration skills with tremendous expertise."
Graves worked for the Department of Homeland Security before coming to PM DoD Biometrics. However, his career and work span not just the United State Government, but the entire world.
"When I was in DHS, the Hitachi chief scientist for vein pattern recognition used to come and talk to me every six months." That relationship is merely one of many other professionals Graves must work with to ensure interoperability, a key factor in what makes Biometrics so effective.
A common refrain is about how Biometrics ensures the safety of the U.S. and its allies but also that we can catch those who would do the U.S. and allies harm by "not what you have, not what you know, but what you are."
A key task for Graves is ensure that information of "what you are" is standardized, labelled and sorted in a way that allows for easy sharing between American organizations and our allies.
"He does great work now for DHS and DoD" said Williams. "His expertise is known across the government and across the world. He's worked in standards areas, which is bringing people together, a lot of foreign military sales, NATO and others to help our allies' development of biometric systems which then help us."
Graves continues to ensure the programs are moving forward, not just achieving the goals of previous years, but setting new goals.
"For the past two years we've had something called 'big ideas day,'" said Graves. Col. Hurst and Graves discuss their current state and their 30-year plans for technology development. They are sure to involve the TRADOC Capability Manager to begin building training plans as equipment is refined and tested, said Graves.
"Because for operational units? We can't just do Science & Tech projects," said Graves. "Good idea fairies come along after a while and we have to actually transition stuff to the field. We make sure what started off as S&T is now going to be deployed."
The ceremony for Graves and the other 99 awardees was held on March 22, 2018 in Washington, D.C.