Treasury moves to AT&T at a crawl

The Treasury Department's move from Sprint to AT&T's FTS 2000 network will not be completed until early next year - more than twice as long as originally planned and what some observers said is a harbinger of Post-FTS 2000 problems to come.

The transition which the General Services Administration thought would last only six months will apparently take about 13 months due to a variety of technical and logistical problems and to issues unique to Treasury according to government and industry sources.

Sandra Bates assistant commissioner for service delivery at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said the delay supports GSA's position that the government should employ longer contract life cycles in the next round of contracts - a point of view not shared by some members of Congress.

"This is our wake-up call for Post-FTS 2000 " Bates said. "We have come to the realization that there is no such thing as plain-vanilla [telecom] service. So a transition takes a lot more planning and doing than people anticipate."

Jim Payne assistant vice president for FTS 2000 at Sprint believes the delays resulted from GSA and AT&T initially underestimating the "complexity and technical diversity" of the Treasury network.

"It's a clear lesson " Payne said. "This experience teaches us that the life of the Post-FTS 2000 contract needs to reflect its complexity."

Candace Hardesty Treasury's acting director of strategic planning and program administration said almost all the department's switched-voice service has been moved to AT&T. But all the data traffic excluding some pilot sites remains with Sprint along with 74 percent of its video service.

AT&T receives about 31 percent of Treasury's FTS 2000 revenue she said.

Despite the delay Bates said the government would still reap the majority of the $200 million annual savings projected by GSA as the result of last year's FTS 2000 recompetition which resulted in GSA's decision to move Treasury to AT&T's network.

Jim Flyzik director of telecom management at Treasury said he believes the transition "is moving as fast as is humanly possible" and that many of the delays the department has faced during the effort are now in the past.

To compound the problems the transition was ill-timed. The Internal Revenue Service could not allow its 800 number to be transferred to AT&T until after the tax season and the entire department was in the process of moving its Consolidated Data Network (CDN) to the new Treasury Communications System. Both networks used FTS 2000 long-distance circuits.

John Doherty AT&T's vice president for FTS 2000 and civilian markets said the IRS business combined with CDN users represented 75 percent of the total Treasury network.

"So right up front there was a significant schedule slip " Doherty said.Flyzik was guardedly optimistic about the future of the transition.

"With the complexity of Treasury networks I think there will be some bumps along the way " Flyzik said.

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