GSA pares required services in amended FTS 2001 RFP

The General Services Administration plans to amend the solicitation for the FTS 2001 long-distance network to classify as "optional" 10 of the 19 network services previously specified as "mandatory" for bidders.

Bob Woods commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service said the 10 optional services will represent only about 5 percent of the total revenue expected from the FTS 2001 contracts. Wireless services Federal Relay Service for the deaf and electronic commerce and e-mail solutions are among those services that will no longer be considered mandatory for FTS 2001 bidders.

Woods said the change represents the government's reaction to industry's criticism that the initial request for proposals contained requirements that went beyond those traditionally cited in the commercial market. "Industry is not ready to offer a lot of integrated services and companies don't want to be thrown out of competition if they can't meet the requirements " Woods said.

Woods added that he planned to discuss the amendment today with agency telecommunications officials on the Interagency Management Council (IMC). Tomorrow Woods will brief vendors on the amendment at a meeting on Capitol Hill he said. Staff members on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee also will attend the briefing.

IMC chairman Frank Lalley associate deputy assistant secretary for telecommunications at the Department of Veterans Affairs said the group quickly agreed to GSA's proposal to decrease the number of mandatory services on the contract. "It's a sensible response to industry's comments " he said. "Otherwise we think we would have limited the number of bidders."

Jim Payne assistant vice president for FTS 2000 at Sprint's Government Systems Division said he was encouraged that GSA appears to be responding positively to the comments received in one-on-one discussions with industry this summer.

Concerns Remain

"It sounds like they might have taken our advice " Payne said. "[The original request for proposals] had a lot of terms and conditions that were strange and that we had never seen before. We would have had to retrofit our network."Payne said he remained concerned about other aspects of the RFP such as complex billing requirements that are not requested by Sprint's commercial customers as well as unique requirements for reporting and systems development.

Lalley who has been briefed by GSA on the amended RFP said he believes those concerns will be addressed as well when the amendment is issued. "I'm sure you will see a good deal of movement in the direction of using more commercially available things such as billing practices " Lalley said.

Easier for Vendors

Consultant Warren Suss president of Warren H. Suss Associates in Jenkintown Pa. said the amendment should make it easier for vendors to establish a business case for bidding on the contracts.

"One of the main objections to the initial RFP was that there were requirements that would have driven up industry costs significantly especially for services that represent just 5 percent of the total revenues " Suss said. "It's very difficult to recover the investment in your network in those cases.

"I believe the amendment will give industry more flexibility in how to meet the government's requirements " he added.

AT&T declined comment on the proposed changes.

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