Sprint protests contract award

Sprint is protesting the award of a Justice Department networking contract to rival AT&T, according to a Sprint spokesman.

Justice officials quietly awarded the contract for the Justice Unified Telecommunications Network (JUTNet) to AT&T last month, without announcing that the award had been made, according to industry sources. The plan for JUTNet — a voice, data and image network — is for the prime contractor to hire a second contractor, and for the second contractor to design a back-up network.

Justice needs "a network that would not only be unified, but also have built into it the security we would need," said chief information officer Vance Hitch in a presentation last month.

Sprint filed its protest of the award on March 24, said company spokesman Steve Lunceford, although he would not say what the company is protesting. Justice this week filed a motion to dismiss the protest and the General Accounting Office will probably rule on the motion by the end of the week, he said.

Justice officials could not be reached for comment. An AT&T spokesman declined to comment.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc., said he has been told the Sprint protest is based on "what Sprint considers inappropriate use of custom design document process." The process, he said, is a mechanism commonly used to award contracts under the FTS 2001 contract, and to add unique elements to those that the contract vehicle already provides for.

Suss considers the JUTNet project to be "extremely ambitious."

"It sets a high water mark for nondefense agencies in terms of secure reliable communications," he said. "It may up the bar for other agencies."

The contract win is significant for AT&T, Suss added.

"It reflects the new aggressiveness of AT&T," he said. "It appears AT&T has had the handcuffs taken off by corporate, at least in terms of pricing. AT&T's back and they're coming on strong."

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