Justice to recompete network contract

Government officials have rescinded their decision to name AT&T as the prime contractor on a Justice Department telecommunications network project and have invited the original bidders to submit revised proposals.

General Services Administration officials, working through their FTS 2001 contract, had named AT&T the "conditional primary contractor" on the Justice Unified Telecommunications Network (JUTNet) project in March. Competitor Sprint protested the decision.

GSA and Justice officials jointly decided to reverse their original decision, said Mary Alice Johnson, a spokeswoman for GSA's Federal Technology Service. FTS officials determined that the award goes beyond the scope of FTS 2001, she said. AT&T, along with other bidders, will be welcome to submit new proposals, she said.

Johnson said the elements of AT&T's proposal that conflict with FTS 2001 all have to do with pricing, although she did not elaborate. Consultant Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc. in Washington, D.C., said FTS 2001 and other contracts developed years ago are becoming outdated and are too inflexible to accommodate changing technology. The JUTNet dispute is most likely tied to such limitations, he said.

"I am absolutely sure it has to do with a lot of the newer services that exist out there today," he said. Technology that is increasingly used in network projects, such as IP-based virtual private networks, would not be covered under FTS 2001 without modifications, he said.

Justice officials intend for JUTNet to be a voice, video and data network that two vendors will design and build. By tapping two companies to design and build essentially two parallel networks, officials

hope to create redundancies to ensure that

communications continue to flow even if

part of the network is eliminated.

GSA contracting officer Robert Abood sent letters to the losing bidders to inform them that the agency had rescinded AT&T's contract. GSA officials will issue a revised statement of work soon, Johnson said, adding that the modifications pertain only to pricing.

Companies will have until May 26 to submit modified proposals, and Johnson said FTS officials expect to choose a

conditional primary contractor by late June.

AT&T and Sprint officials declined to comment.

Although the move is a setback for the agency, consultant Warren Suss said that it should not be a severe one.

"It will delay things, but my guess is they will be able to move relatively quickly," said Suss, president of Suss Consulting. "It's easier for the agency to make a change at this stage of the game than to proceed with the implementation and then have a change."

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