Networx deadlines extended, could delay award date

Vendors seek clarifications with more than 1,000 questions about the RFP

The General Services Administration has twice extended the deadlines for vendors to submit bids on the Networx telecommunications contract, which could delay the award of the contracts next year.

The most recent change, extending the deadlines to Oct. 5 for Networx Universal and Oct. 7 for Networx Enterprise, came in an amendment to the request for proposals that was expected to be issued Aug. 19.

The original deadlines were Aug. 3 for Networx Universal and Aug. 5 for Networx Enterprise. Networx Universal will provide a broad range of telecom and network services nationally. Networx Enterprise will offer a smaller selection of more localized services.

The two-month extension has raised doubts about whether GSA can award the Networx contracts in April 2006, the target date that the agency established in its 2004 Networx plan. Fred Schobert, Networx program manager at GSA, said extensions on the front end of the proposal evaluation phase can lead to delays in awards. Without extensions, agencies have less time to evaluate the bids.

GSA Administrator Stephen Perry, speaking at GSA's Network Services Conference in Chicago last week, spoke of awarding Networx next summer. It was unclear whether he was subtly signaling a shift in the timeline.

Vendors have responded overwhelmingly to the solicitations, submitting more than 1,000 clarifying questions and comments since the May release of the final RFP. John Johnson, assistant commissioner of service development and delivery at GSA, said the response suggests that vendors are trying to thoroughly respond to the solicitation.

GSA has tried, however, to make the proposal process as easy as possible for vendors, Schobert said. Vendors can certify they comply with about 72 percent of the contract's requirements by marking items on a checklist rather than writing more detailed documents to complete the process.

John Okay, a consultant at Topside Consulting, said the extension is good.

"It gives everybody some certainty and lets them work on a more realistic schedule," he said. However, "I would expect it's going to add at least a month to the award date."

Networx is significantly different from FTS 2001, the contract it will ultimately replace. Taken collectively, its two manifestations require vendors to provide many more services than FTS 2001. Vendors must offer electronic ordering systems that pass verification testing, and the contract emphasizes on security features.

The contract will be performance-based, Schobert said, requiring companies to meet service-level agreements. Those that don't meet the standards set forth in the service-level agreements can lose revenues.

Vendors have to adjust to changes in the schedule, but they also need to get the actual bid submission behind them to move ahead, said Henry Beebe, who leads the Networx capture team at AT&T Government Solutions.

"When the bids go in, the work really begins," he said. Companies should expect continued interaction with GSA as the agency evaluates the bids, and at least one "best and final offer" opportunity to sweeten the deal before GSA makes its final decisions, he said.

To a point, vendors will adjust to whatever changes GSA makes, Beebe said. Networx, with an estimated value upward of $20 billion over 10 years, is "the biggest deal out there," he said.

Agencies should prepare to move to Networx

Despite uncertainties about when the Networx contracts will be awarded, agencies should prepare to move their services from FTS 2001 or other contracts to Networx, said Maria Filios, who is managing the transition through the General Services Administration's Program Management Office. Agencies should designate someone to serve as a transition manager, she said.

That person should:

  • Compile and validate an inventory of FTS 2001 services that will need to move to Networx.
  • Determine the agency's goals and define its requirements in making the move.

— Michael Hardy

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group