Social Security seeks VOIP plan

FedBizOps notice

The Social Security Administration plans to replace its current telecommunications networks with voice-over-IP technology in a move that will make it the largest federal agency to switch to the system.

A notice released Friday via FedBizOpps states the program is part of SSA’s “strategic plans for the future evolution of its core network system.” With about 1,000 people expected to begin retiring every day beginning in 2008, the agency said that VOIP would establish the foundation for “productivity, growth and direction toward meeting its goals for future e-government initiatives.”

“It provides an opportunity to converge the two independent networks (data and voice) and at the same time decrease telephone infrastructure maintenance and operations,” the notice states. “The VOIP telephone application will provide a consolidated communications platform for consistency and reliability throughout the agency’s footprint.”

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said the SSA plan is “by far the largest VOIP implementation, not only in the government, but in the country.” The agency plans to install VOIP at its 1,565 field offices and regional centers.

“Once an agency like Social Security takes the step to fully implement new technology like this, other agencies become a lot less worried about the actual or perceived risks. This is a watershed contract, and it will get attention,” Suss said.

The notice is not a solicitation, but it seeks industry comment on plans for SSA’s Telephone Systems Replacement Project (TSRP). Industry response should include plans for how they would install the VOIP solution and remove existing telecom systems in four years, the notice states.

Other federal agencies are experimenting with VOIP, according to Suss. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has implemented the technology, and the Army National Guard is organizing pilot projects. The Education and Interior departments also are implementing it.

Nevertheless, Suss said, VOIP requires a careful business case analysis because it is not cheaper. It gives employees greater mobility in doing their jobs, however, agencies must consider what would happen if the IP network crashes.

“When you lose your network, you lose your voice services,” Suss said.


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