IMC forms FTS 2001 task force

Technology officials representing a group of federal agencies last week announced they had formed a task force to help agencies make a speedier transition to a new governmentwide contract for telecommunications services.

The Interagency Management Council (IMC), which represents telecommunications executives at key federal agencies, organized the task force because of the bureaucratic and technical details involved in moving from the FTS 2000 contract to FTS 2001.

Because of the obstacles, which include limited vendor staff, federal agencies have been making a slower-than-expected transition to FTS 2001 [FCW, Oct. 4].

Sprint and MCI WorldCom hold the FTS 2001 contract, which replaces the FTS 2000 telecommunications contract held by Sprint and AT&T. FTS 2000 was a mandatory program for agencies, but FTS 2001 is not mandatory; agencies are free to choose their own telecommunications providers.

The new contract offers agencies lower rates than those offered under FTS 2000, so many federal officials are anxious to move to the new contract.

Meanwhile, in an effort to accommodate agencies, AT&T and Sprint have lowered prices or changed billing methods on the "bridge" contract that agencies may use following the expiration of FTS 2000 and during the migration to FTS 2001.

"The government generally stands to lose significant savings in a protracted transition to 2001," said John Johnson, chairman of IMC's new Federal Transition Task Force.

But no two agencies seem to be making the transition with quite the same speed or method. "In making their own selections, agencies are moving at a different pace," said General Services Administration assistant commissioner Frank Lalley, explaining that officials at some agencies want to wait until after the Year 2000 date rollover before focusing their attention on moving to a new telecommunications contract.

Johnson said 10 percent of the telecommunications volume planned to move to the FTS 2001 program has been moved so far. He said federal officials aim to have the transition to FTS 2001 completed by June, and in the realm of federal telecommunications, June will come quickly. "I think there's a sense of urgency now to get this done," Johnson said.

Industry agrees that the move to FTS 2001 could have been quicker than it has been so far. "I think from our perspective, I don't think we got off to as quick a start as we wanted to," said Tony D'Agata, vice president and general manager of Sprint's Government Systems Division.

D'Agata estimated that Sprint's FTS 2001 billing in October was $2 million, compared with roughly $500,000 in September. "I expect us to really start clicking now and connecting customers over," D'Agata said. The company has been devoting more workers to FTS 2001 work, he added.

The newly formed task force should help quicken the pace of transition by addressing bureaucratic, management and technical issues that cut across agencies.

"It started to become clear that there were some issues that cut across agencies," Lalley said. "By working together, we can assess the magnitude of the task."

Common issues include billing, transitions in federal buildings that house more than one agency and coordination with local telecommunications service providers.

Johnson, the chief of concepts, plans and analysis at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said he hopes the task force will ensure consistency in the transition to FTS 2001, developing a common method of measuring a transition's success. The task force should also provide a way for agencies that have been slow to make the transition to learn from agencies that are further along in their transition, he said.

Federal telecommunications consultant Warren Suss praised the idea of forming a task force to address common transition issues. "It's clear that some agencies are doing better than other agencies in the transition," he said. "I think there are models of success in some places in the government that could be used to accelerate the rest of it."

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