Treasury delays data services swap until after tax season

The Treasury Department has temporarily given up its year-long effort to transfer its data services from Sprint's to AT&T's portion of the FTS 2000 network and will run the services on its internal Treasury Communications System at least until after the 1997 tax season.

Jim Flyzik acting chief information officer at Treasury said last week that he planned to meet with officials from the General Services Administration today to discuss how to proceed with the transition later this year.

Flyzik added that AT&T does carry all of the department's voice and 800-number services.

Candace Hardesty Treasury's acting director of strategic planning and program administration said the department last year asked AT&T to devote all of its resources to meeting the Internal Revenue Service's stringent demands for 800 service. Consequently the company did not have the resources to tackle the data services transition before this year's tax season although it did correct problems with the 800 service transition she said. The data transition effort will begin anew in May Hardesty said.

Transition Follows Recompetition

AT&T won the Treasury account from Sprint following the 1995 FTS 2000 re-competition in which AT&T and Sprint attempted to win a portion of each other's network traffic. AT&T bid substantially less than Sprint and GSA program officials concluded the government could save money if AT&T handled Treasury's voice and data traffic.

Although the transition to AT&T was supposed to happen within six months it will take more than a year and a half to complete. AT&T began the operation early in January.

Some federal telecom professionals view Treasury's troubled transition as a harbinger to the problems they will face after the FTS 2000 contract expires in December 1998. David Bittenbender chief of telecommunications at the Justice Department said Treasury's experience illustrates the problems inherent in GSA's new Post-FTS 2000 acquisition strategy and its emphasis on short-term contracts and internal competition.

"If every agency has to go through one of these transitions every couple of years that scares the heck out of me " Bittenbender said.

Sandy Bates assistant commissioner for service delivery at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said last week that GSA had made no formal commitment to delay the transition. But she said it appeared that the agency was "moving in that direction."

Bates said AT&T late last year signed a service-level agreement that outlined steps the company would take to correct deficiencies in its performance during the transition particularly regarding 800 service to the IRS. "Those obstacles seem to have been cleared up and the [800] service is working to their specification " she said.

She added that the delay in moving data services resulted mainly from the IRS' insistence that nothing disrupt service during tax season. "The IRS is very reluctant to disturb anything during their busiest season " Bates said. "Any minor glitch could really cause major perturbation."

Hardesty said AT&T submitted a plan to Treasury on how it will proceed with the transition of data services following the close of the tax season.

She added that department officials have not yet completed their review of AT&T's plan.AT&T officials could not be reached to comment on the transition.

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