The next big thing: TEM

The number of wireless devices issued to federal employees has ballooned in recent years, and experts say technological advances will only continue to inflate that number.

“Agencies do not honestly know what they have,” said Paulette Gemmer, team leader of the General Services Administration’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) for wireless telecommunications expense management (TEM) services. “They’ve lost control.”

In every agency, there are probably drawers full of discarded equipment — mostly cell phones, Gemmer said. Agencies have recognized a need to account for all those cell phones and avoid paying for services they no longer use.

Representatives of 14 federal agencies serve on the FSSI Wireless Team, whose purpose is to establish a set of contracts through which agencies can buy wireless TEM services. The 14 agencies are working together on a strategic-sourcing approach to the problem. Those agencies estimate they spend about $122.7 million a year in wireless-service fees for nearly 218,700 wireless devices. But that is only an estimate, Gemmer said. Some agencies cannot provide accurate data, which is further evidence of the need for TEM services, she said.

GSA, which wants to offer agencies a streamlined process for ordering TEM services, is working on six new multiple-award contracts for wireless TEM services.

The TEM contracts will complement Networx, GSA’s massive telecommunications contract. Networx provides telecom services. The TEM contracts will provide services for managing wireless services and devices that use those services. GSA officials say TEM can save millions of dollars by reviewing wireless-device inventories and calling plans, pooling of minutes and other efforts that minimize costs. Once agencies see the savings, Gemmer said, interest in TEM will rise quickly.

Gemmer said the Transportation Security Administration in particular and the Homeland Security Department overall saved 25 percent to 40 percent on wireless-service costs by doing inventory reviews. The FSSI Wireless Team uses 25 percent to 40 percent as a benchmark for the savings possible from TEM.

The Navy Department, which is part of the team, estimates that it has issued about 85,000 wireless devices for which it spends about $45.9 million a year in service fees. The Justice Department, another member of the FSSI team, says it spends about $13.6 million a year on about 25,200 mobile devices for employees.

An Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman said TEM services are critical for ensuring efficient use of wireless services.

Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, wrote a May 22 memo encouraging agencies to use governmentwide sourcing contracts for TEM, delivery services and office equipment.

A May 24 request for proposals for TEM services is the third FSSI solicitation that GSA has issued to use the government’s volume-buying power to lower its costs. 

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