GSA, DOD mull joint telecom deals

HERSHEY Pa. - Officials from the Defense Department and the General Services Administration said last week they may cooperate on local telecommunications service contracts in at least three cities to obtain greater volume discounts and avoid duplicating each other's efforts.

Speaking at GSA's IRMCO conference here representatives from both agencies said they believe the government could reap benefits from combining efforts to install metropolitan-area networks in Washington D.C. San Diego and Portland Ore.

Paul Grant deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command control and communications said the effort could result in a consolidation of two large Washington telecom contracts: GSA's Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 2001 (WITS 2001) and the Defense Telecommunications Services-Washington also known as Tempo. Bell Atlantic Federal Systems holds the current WITS and Tempo contracts.

"If you think of locations with a high concentration of military personnel that are not co-located there is a need for networks to tie all of them together " Grant said in an interview. "We have WITS 2001 and we have DTS-Washington. We want to know if we need two or can we get by with one?

"We want to know if we can work with GSA to get even greater volume discounts [by serving civilian agencies on the same networks] " Grant added. "We feel we have an obligation to explore anything that could save money."

Margaret Binns assistant commissioner for regional services at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said GSA had initially planned to pursue Metropolitan-Area Architecture (MAA) contracts in cities such as San Diego and Portland but may instead cooperate with DOD in its efforts to provide telecom service to the large population of Navy personnel in those areas. GSA will proceed with more than a dozen other MAA contracts by the end of 1998 to serve federal users in other densely populated areas she said.

"There's no point in GSA doing an MAA contract in San Diego if the Navy is going to do a contract there " Binns said. "Those efforts may be led by the Navy rather than GSA."

Jill Filipczyk the acting director of local telecommunications policy and strategies at GSA said discussions between her office and DOD have just begun no deals have been struck. "There have been some talks but they have been at a very high level " she said. "There should be more in the future."

Filipczyk added that opportunities for cooperation on local service contracts with DOD could be limited because many Defense bases are in outlying areas while MAA contracts focus solely on crowded urban areas.In addition she said Defense telecom requirements sometimes differ from those of civilian agencies so a one-size-fits-all remedy may not be appropriate.

But Filipczyk said she remains optimistic about working with DOD. "It just makes sense if you look at it in terms of aggregation " she said.

Barbara Connor president of Bell Atlantic Federal Systems said through a spokeswoman that she could not comment on the idea of combining Defense and civilian local networks because talks between DOD and GSA were still preliminary.

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