Rivalry forming over FTS 2001 transition

While vendors on the General Services Administration's Technical and Management Support (TMS) Services program expect a huge boom in business thanks to the forthcoming transition to FTS 2001, they may be up against some unexpected competition from the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement and the newly awarded ITOP-II.

Some of the eight TMS vendors last week expressed outrage that DOT was billing its contract as a vehicle suited for agencies that need assistance with their cutover from the FTS 2000 long-distance network to its successor, FTS 2001. GSA awarded two contracts for FTS 2001 in the past six weeks.

The TMS vendors said an excessive number of companies helping with the FTS 2001 transition will only muddle an already complex process and that ITOP vendors do not have the telecommunications expertise that TMS vendors have.

"I find it almost reckless for Transportation to attempt to fix telecom issues with information technology-oriented companies," said Ted Manakas, senior manager of sales and marketing at TRW Systems and Information Technology Group. "It takes a very particular type of expertise to help agencies get through the transition without AT& T."

Craig Janus, deputy program manager for TMS at Science Applications International Corp., noted that the FTS 2001 awards to Sprint and MCI WorldCom will create an urgent need for transition services because AT& T, which bid on FTS 2001 but did not win, runs about three-fourths of the FTS 2000 traffic.

"Cutting out AT& T sort of puts an exclamation point on the statement that transition is going to be a hot topic in the next year," Janus said.

Like Manakas, SAIC officials believe ITOP vendors will only clutter the landscape for agencies moving to FTS 2001. Jim Edwards, SAIC's director of federal relations and a former employee of GSA's Federal Technology Service, said the transition will involve multiple vendors and multiple agencies, often in the same location. If additional ITOP vendors are thrown into the mix, the situation will worsen, he said.

ITOP officials at DOT declined to comment on their decision to market their contracts as vehicles for the FTS 2001 transition. But observers said the department already has ITOP task orders in the works to aid with its own FTS 2001 cutover.

Consultant Warren Suss, president of Warren H. Suss Associates, said TMS vendors will have no one to blame but themselves if they are outdone by ITOP. "If the TMS vendors haven't been aggressively marketing their transition support services, then shame on them," Suss said.

One vendor representative, who requested anonymity, said he expected other agencies to follow DOT's lead and award transition work through their own vehicles rather than pay a surcharge of at least 1 percent to GSA.

The vendor said agencies also might be able to buy the services through the GSA schedule.

Some TMS vendors who also hold ITOP contracts were less critical of DOT. John Moliere, vice president of telecommunications integration at TMS vendor Sherikon Inc., said he does not view competition with ITOP as a problem. Sherikon serves as a subcontractor to an ITOP vendor, he said.

George Kolesar, telecommunications manager at Unisys Corp., said his company will offer the same transition services via TMS and ITOP and has bid on an ITOP task order for transition services at DOT. Kolesar declined to comment on the appropriateness of an IT-oriented contract handling telecom services. "For Unisys, it's not an issue," he said.

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