UPDATED: GSA files Networx revision

Networx Universal Amendment

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Editor's Note: This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. Feb. 24, 2006, to add comments from John Johnson.

The General Services Administration has filed hundreds of pages of revisions to the Networx Universal solicitation in a move that some of the agency's critics view skeptically. Others, however, say the changes are mostly tweaks that do not significantly alter the proposal.

John Johnson, assistant commissioner of service development and delivery at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said the amendment was intended to clarify the Networx requirements, particularly regarding service-enabling devices and call centers.

In general, he said, the contract development process includes such periodic amendments to improve communications. "When you initiate that dialogue, you help to promote a better understanding of the government’s need so industry can respond more effectively," he said. "It allows everyne who may be interested in understanding the requirement [to have] a better understanding.”

Hank Beebe, Networx capture manager at AT&T, said the changes are largely minor, with a couple of exceptions.

“They’ve revised the requirements in the call center area. It’s made it more commercial-like," he said. "In security management, they’ve asked for additional material to be covered in the bidder’s security plan. That will require a material change.”

The security section, for example, asks bidders to document in more detail how they will approach various security issues such as fraud prevention, he said. Another change outlines explicit requirements for agencies to transition to Internet Protocol Version 6 in accordance with the 2005 Office of Management and Budget memo.

The amendment does not set a deadline for responses, Beebe said. GSA officials will probably spell that out when meeting with bidders, he said.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, also characterized the changes as minor fine-tuning. The number of changes reflects the contract’s complexity, but after briefly examining the documents, he said he saw nothing major. The changes include expanding some definitions and offering more detail on service-enabling devices, he said.

“I find it hard to imagine that this would result in any change in strategy for bidders," he said.

Neal Fox, a former GSA official now working as an independent consultant, however, questioned whether the cumulative weight of the changes would make a difference to any companies that have bid, or to companies that chose not to bid based on the original solicitation documents.

"The Federal Acquisition Regulation allows discussions with vendors after proposal receipt, but not material changes to the basic solicitation," he said. "Material changes to the solicitation after proposals are in are inappropriate, since other vendors might have bid had they known the true requirements."

Procurement attorney David Nadler said that as long as the companies that bid are given an opportunity to revise their bids, agencies have some freedom to revise solicitations.

“The way it typically works is the government issues a [request for proposals], and the RFP has certain terms, and if the government decides they want to revise the RFP, they can do that," he said. "They have pretty wide latitude, provided they treat all offerers equally.”

Nadler is a Federal Computer Week columnist and a partner in the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro Morin and Oshinsky.

The amendment applies only to Networx Universal, the larger of two Networx contracts that GSA is developing. Its companion, Networx Enterprise, will offer fewer services and more limited service areas.

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