Letter to the Editor

A chance at history

For at least the past half-dozen years, Alan Proctor has both stimulated and exasperated his friends and colleagues in the federal information technology community. While Alan's direct style is off-putting to some, his Op-Ed piece in FCW's Aug. 10 issue, "WITS2001: Innovation or more of the same?" needs to be read as a thoughtful attempt— albeit late in the process— to call attention to a potentially flawed acquisition with substantial negative long-term consequences.

If Alan is correct, the WITS2001 request for proposals is likely to be a backwards-looking approach for the provision of telecommunications services in the Washington, D.C., area [and is] designed to minimize the transition effort rather than exploit new opportunities and technologies. Will the WITS2001 RFP seize the opportunity inherent in any large acquisition to define a boldly innovative new strategy for federal agency users? Will the RFP recognize the vision inherent in the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into Internet

Protocol-based telephony networks by private-sector companies such as Level 3 Communications Inc. and Qwest? Will the WITS2001 RFP provide a pathway for moving away from the voice Centrex-type technology of the existing WITS system and toward the voice/data convergence that Alan hints at? And will the RFP be bold enough to move beyond the residual economic problems of the current WITS contract?

If the Federal Technology Service and the Interagency Management Council aren't willing to reconsider the apparent strategy that so frustrates Alan, what are the views of the CIO Council, the Government Information Technology Services Board and the Office of Management and Budget? I believe Alan is right: WITS2001 presents a historic opportunity— one not to be missed.

Lonn Henrichsen

-- Henrichsen is former senior vice president and CIO of the Export-Import Bank and former telecom chief at the Transportation Department. He recently retired after 34 years of service.

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