Networx stays on track

Despite some lingering concerns among industry officials, a sweeping new telecommunications contract is rapidly solidifying and remains on track for a draft request for proposals to be issued Nov. 1, officials said today.

Called Networx, the new contract will be awarded in 2006. It will offer agencies a pre-competed set of vendors and services and will become the primary governmentwide telecom contract when FTS 2001 — the current FTS contract — expires. At a hearing today before the House Government Reform Committee, Sandra Bates, commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service, detailed the work that GSA officials have done on Networx.

Of the industry witnesses who testified in today's hearing, the sharpest criticism came from Don Scott, senior vice president of EDS Government Solutions. Although the company is known primarily as a systems integrator, Scott argued that telecommunications, applications, network services and other once-separate areas are converging and will become so unified during Networx's 10-year period that companies such as EDS will be as likely to provide voice and data services as a traditional telecommunications firm.

But EDS officials will not be able to compete for a slot under the way Networx is currently structured, Scott said. "While the transport components will continue to be a foundation for the applications services being carried, we predict that these [transport components] will be dwarfed in importance by the applications," he said.

Scott said FTS officials are risking irrelevance with the approach. "We're going to see a very, very great change," he said. "GSA needs to be able to accommodate it, or the agencies will leave them."

Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the Government Accountability Office, also had some cautions for FTS officials. GSA officials have not yet developed procedures to establish a transition strategy to move agencies from the old contract vehicle to new, she said. Also, they are still developing the performance measures they will use to evaluate progress and do not yet have a strategy for using metrics to monitor ongoing performance, she said.

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