GSA taps three for billions in telecom modernization

The General Services Administration this month awarded three contracts with a combined value of up to $2.6 billion to upgrade telecommunications equipment and services governmentwide.

GSA's Federal Technology Service awarded the Wire and Cable Services (WACS) contracts to Engineering and Professional Services (EPS) Inc. GTE Government Systems Corp. and Government Telecommunications Inc. (GTI) .

The three companies will offer the same set of products and services to federal agencies in the 50 states Guam Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.The contracts will run three years followed by two optional one-year renewal periods. Joseph Romanelli GSA's WACS program manager said agencies will be able to choose from a list of 3 207 line items that provides the full gamut of telecom infrastructure solutions.

WACS includes equipment such as Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches Synchronous Optical Network multiplexers routers connectors equipment housing outside plant supplies and copper and fiber wiring. Customers may purchase services such as wire installation post-installation design and engineering operations support maintenance and training.

"It is designed to be comprehensive " Romanelli said. "All of the line items for each offeror are identical. What will differ are the original equipment manufacturers and the prices."

Although agencies can already purchase these products and services from GSA through the Federal Supply Service's Multiple-Award Schedule program WACS vendors said users of their contracts will benefit from their integrated approach which covers design equipment installation warranty and support services. Larry Burch GTE's capture manager on the WACS bid said schedule contracts do not cover all the options available from WACS contracts.

"Some agencies will compare our prices to [the] GSA schedule " he said. "We have several advantages because we are able to offer a complete systems-based approach. WACS is much broader than its title implies it is not just a cable job."

Ernesto Oliveira vice president for business development at EPS said his company's bidding team includes MFS Network Technologies Power and Telephone and Communications Support Services Inc. EPS was one of 18 vendors selected by the Army for the Digital Switched Systems Modernization Program which offers some of the same products and services as WACS.

Competitors Are Ready Oliveira said his company's experience with the Army contract has prepared it for the internal competition it will face against GTE and GTI. "We are now putting together a full marketing plan for WACS " he said. John Ballenger president of GTI's parent company Computer Equity Corp. said GTI's major partners include three regional Bell operating companies - Bell Atlantic SBC and US West - and engineering company ANSTEC.

Barbara Connor president of Bell Atlantic Federal Systems said the subcontractor arrangement with GTI made more business sense than if her company had bid as a prime. "GTI came to us with a sound strategy for addressing the nationwide and overseas scope of the contract and one that allowed us at Bell Atlantic to focus on better serving the customers within our footprint " she said. Burch said GTE is negotiating with subcontractors that will offer WACS products and services in different regions of the country.

He said the company is "firming up those arrangements" and will announce its partners by the end of this month. Romanelli said orders and billing will proceed directly between WACS customers and vendors with no intervention by GSA. He directed customers interested in WACS to the FTS World Wide Web site at post.fts2k.gsa.gov/wac.

"Depending on the offeror the viewer wishes to see they will be directed to another Web site specific to that contractor " he said.

"That is where the lists of equipment and prices would be found. "It was not our intent to have GSA in the middle of this process " Romanelli said. "GSA will retain a program office to facilitate business on behalf of client agencies or to take care of administrative matters that might arise between agencies and offerors."

GSA will receive a 2.5 percent fee on each order to pay program costs he said. "We want to make the contracts self-sustaining entities " he said.

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