GSA hurries to make Connections

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The General Services Administration is moving quickly to put a national telecommunications and networking contract in place before agencies develop their own deals as existing contracts expire during the coming year.

The Federal Technology Service's Connections contract is intended to replace several expiring contracts and to provide enhanced services such as Web hosting and e-business applications. It will pull together the many service, equipment, support and management solutions available from industry so that agencies can pick and choose single products or purchase an entire managed networking solution.

Comments are due Dec. 4 on the draft request for proposals released this month. FTS will stagger the awards for the national, global and state levels, but the national contracts are a priority and the agency plans to move quickly by releasing the final RFP Dec. 16. Proposals will be due Feb. 5, 2002.

FTS will make the national awards in May 2002, said Trisha Sitnik, program manager for Connections, speaking at an industry conference held by FTS Nov. 28.

Many vendors expressed concern about this aggressive schedule, but it has to be that way to meet the pressing demands of FTS' federal agency customers, Sitnik said.

"We have customers that have requirements and needs that need to be filled," she said. "If we don't have vehicles to fill those needs, they will find other solutions."

Agencies across government use telecommunications contracts currently offered by FTS — including the many regional Purchase of Telecommunications Services contracts, the Wireless and Cable Services contracts and the Telecommunications Support Contract 2. Many of those contracts are expiring in 2002, and some have already expired or been extended in anticipation of the Connections awards, Sitnik said.

If GSA does not have new contracts in place when the agencies are looking for solutions in the coming year, those agencies will simply take their business elsewhere, a situation that hurts both FTS and the vendors that are considering the Connections contract, Sitnik said.

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