Moving to Networx a 'daunting challenge'

“Good luck.” That was the message from Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, to 900 feds and industry leaders preparing to make the change from FTS 2001 to the forthcoming telecommunications contract.

Williams spoke Wednesday at GSA's Networx Transition Summit. The speakers who followed expressed similar angst over what lies ahead.

“In some respects, it’s difficult to believe we’re here once again faced with the daunting challenge,” said John Johnson, GSA’s assistant commissioner for Information Technology Solutions.

The difference between the two contracts is significant, speakers said. FTS 2001 offers 27 core services; Networx, expected to be worth $20 billion over 10 years, is starting out with 50 core services and a robust technology-refresh option for upgrades as technology develops. Contract awards are expected in spring 2007.

Johnson admitted that he received bad advice in the transition to FTS 2001.

“If you plan for the transition, it will be as smooth as silk,” someone told him. Johnson said that after the transition, he learned that even with extensive planning, “It will never be as smooth as silk.”

GSA has assured customer agencies that their services would continue uninterrupted throughout the Networx procurement and transition period through several bridge contracts signed this summer.

Wednesday was the first day of GSA’s two-day Networx Transition Summit in Reston, Va. The summit acquaints agency transition managers and industry partners with Networx’s opportunities for planning and coordinating the shift from existing telecommunications services.

Karl Krumbholz, acting assistant commissioner for service development and delivery, said the transition is a tough job. He said the transition still needs guidance from the Office of Management and Budget on issues like maintaining Federal Information Security Management Act requirements during the massive transfer. Comments from the audience Wednesday indicated agencies’ concerns about their FISMA scores.

Williams said GSA has to do more than customer service. “It’s about us feeling the pain” of the agencies.

To the transition managers, Williams said, “Good luck.”

“I feel that the eyes of the world are on us — that this is the crucial test for GSA and the Federal Acquisition Service,” Williams said.

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