Treasury CIO in FTS 2001 talks

The chief information officer at the Treasury Department is contemplating sending a letter to the General Services Administration expressing his reluctance to participate in the government-wide FTS 2001 long-distance network before 2000.

Jim Flyzik said last week that his primary concern for the next 18 months will be ensuring that Treasury systems have been fixed for the Year 2000 problem, and he is concerned that the added work of moving to the FTS 2001 network could interfere with Year 2000 fixes, especially if a new carrier is selected to handle Treasury's traffic. To avoid the added work, Flyzik said an extension of the current contract might be necessary.

He added that he has not yet sent the letter to GSA and would prefer to resolve the issue "offline" with Dennis Fischer, commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service.

"We need to look at extensions to the current FTS 2000 contracts," said Flyzik, who also serves as vice chairman of the Chief Information Officers Council and the Government Information Technology Services Board. "I asked [Fischer] to look at possible ways to be more flexible so we don't add any disruptions [to Year 2000 compliance efforts]," he said.

Sandy Bates, deputy commissioner of FTS, said GSA will not force FTS 2001 users to transition to the new network before they are ready. "If it means that some parts of the transition can't happen before the Year 2000, then so be it," Bates said.

She said some services, such as switched voice, will be relatively easy to transition quickly to FTS 2001 because the government has extensive experience with them. She said she hopes those services will be moved before the Year 2000.

However, Ron Hack, director of systems and telecommunications management at the Commerce Department, said he does not want to extend the FTS 2000 contract more than it already has been. Hack, chairman of the Interagency Management Council, said GSA already is negotiating with AT&T and Sprint to extend the phase-out period of the contract to 12 months, followed by optional month-by-month extensions at agencies' request.

He said Year 2000 compliance efforts and the process of moving to FTS 2001 will require agencies to take stock of their telecommunications equipment and plan ahead.

Consequently, it makes sense to do both at the same time in most cases because agencies could forgo some Year 2000 fixes if the new telecommunications system would replace some systems, he said. "I really think in most cases, Y2K will not be an issue for transition to FTS 2001."

But Hack added that exceptions exist, even in his department. He said the Census Bureau is planning "a mammoth telecom project" that might be used to allow citizens to respond to Year 2000 census surveys over the phone or via the Internet. He said it would be too risky to test the system with existing FTS telecommunications services and then transition to new FTS 2001 services before the 2000 census is completed.

"The Census Bureau can't test with one provider and then be thrown into having all that change," Hack said. "That's a real exception."

Hack said Flyzik's concern may stem from the extensive telecom needs of the Internal Revenue Service during tax season.

"Not only do [Treasury officials] have Y2K and the transition to worry about, but once a year they are really swamped telecom-wise" when taxes are due in April, Hack said, "so they might have a unique situation too."

Warren Suss, a consultant with Warren H. Suss Associates, said agencies themselves will be partially to blame for the transition problems they may experience.

"Some of their concerns really reflect a failure to plan ahead," Suss said. "Across the board, agencies have not done the pre-transition planning that needed to be done."

Hack said the issue of delaying the transition may be moot. Despite GSA's intention to award FTS 2001 contracts in October, he said the transition process may well extend beyond the Year 2000.

John Doherty, AT&T's vice president for FTS 2000 and civilian markets, said he was aware of agencies' concerns about the timing of the FTS 2001 transition but said it was too early to tell what impact the Year 2000 issue would have on the transition.

Jim Payne, assistant vice president for FTS 2000 at Sprint, said it remains unclear how quickly the transition will happen. "I'm very curious as to what agencies are planning and when FTS 2001 winners [will] pick up traffic," he said.

Bates said that issue will rest with FTS 2001 vendors. "We will be relying on them to have aggressive transition plans and to convince agencies it won't interfere with their Year 2000 problems," she said.

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