Development plan, furloughs, snow delay Post-FTS 2000 RFP

The General Services Administration is delaying the release of the Post-FTS 2000 request for proposals to further develop the implementation plan and because of time lost due to furloughs and snowstorms.

Bob Woods, commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service, said he did not know how long the delay would be.

"We're probably into the second quarter [of the calendar year]," he said. "I just don't know how far yet."

Woods and his staff met late last week with members of the Interagency Management Council to determine exactly how long it would take to make up for the lost time and to address issues that industry has raised concerning the draft RFP.

IMC members, who are representatives from agencies that use FTS 2000, advise the program office on how best to manage federal telecommunications.

Guaranteed Niche Contracts?

One major change Woods and the IMC will consider is whether the government can offer any assurance to vendors that agencies will use the so-called "niche contracts." These would offer services, such as advanced data transmission, that will compete with those bought from comprehensive service providers.

"We're having a tough time finding any agencies' desire to do niche contracts," Woods said. "To offer vendors a minimum revenue guarantee, some agency has to commit.

"We may end up never doing a niche contract or awarding a niche contract only if we are dissatisfied with the comprehensive contracts. We are kind of agonizing over that," he added.

GSA is also wrestling with the issue of interoperability, Woods said. The government may award different contracts covering groups of agencies that frequently exchange information. The departments of Treasury and Justice, for example, would be covered by the same vendors.

Consultant Warren Suss, president of Warren H. Suss Associates, Jenkintown, Pa., said a delay will not likely affect the ultimate award date for Post-FTS 2000 because of substantial cushioning built into the program schedule.

Like other industry observers, he applauded the move as an attempt "to wring out any requirements that drive prices up and lead the government in a noncommercial direction."

Both of the current FTS 2000 vendors also expressed approval of the action. A spokeswoman for Sprint said the move appears to indicate that GSA is paying attention to industry criticism of the draft RFP.

An AT&T spokeswoman said company officials were encouraged by the news.

"We hope this is a signal that the ongoing dialogue we have been having with government is bearing fruit," she said.

The sentiments of the incumbents were echoed by officials at other companies as well. Jerry Edgerton, vice president of government systems at MCI, called the delay "appropriate."

"We don't see this as sidetracking the procurement but keeping it on track," Edgerton said. "It fixes things such as interoperability and how contracts will be allocated."

Ray Ghion, vice president of civilian sales at Bell Atlantic, said he views the action as an indication that GSA will address "risks that are inherent in the draft RFP" when the final solicitation appears.

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