Justice rethinks JCN, sets stage to test companies through pilots

The Justice Department has discarded the request for proposals for a $200 million nationwide high-speed telecommunications network pact in favor of buying services off an existing departmentwide contract.

DOJ officials will delay the Justice Consolidated Network (JCN) contract up to 18 months so that the agency can quickly set up numerous smaller pilot projects departmentwide to decide what telecommunications services it needs and determine what vendors have the lowest prices and best service.JCN program managers will choose vendors for the pilots from DOJ's Information Technology Support Services (ITSS) 2001 contract a $152 million task-order pact awarded last year to eight vendors and 70 subcontractors. DOJ hopes to have a statement of work for the pilots ready next month.

DOJ has been working on JCN for years and has delayed the development of the network as it has worked on the procurement strategy. At one point DOJ considered tapping the $425 million Treasury Communications System contract awarded to TRW Inc. in 1995 to build the system. But with ITSS awarded last year DOJ can now look to meet its requirements with an in-house contract.

Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. said testing a contract's requirements and vendors is "a rational thing for an agency to do. It's wise analysis."

In general JCN is designed to deploy DOJ's telecommunications backbone so that divisions and bureaus can take advantage of modern technology such as a telemedicine application for the Bureau of Prisons or enhanced frame relay for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

With this pilot approach however DOJ can test if requirements work change them if necessary and test vendors' performance.

"This gives us the time to see for example if the security features work or does the network management work as designed before doing a nationwide build out " said Frank Sutton the program manager for JCN.

"This really reduces our risk. Equally important is making sure the program management structure performs its tasks as planned " he added.

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