With Networx in place, agencies are ready to roll

Sprint loses its place at the table where AT&T, Verizon and Qwest have been invited

The General Services Administration met its promise to award the Networx Universal contract by March 30 — and it was one day early.

Now comes the fun part. A handful of agencies are eagerly awaiting the governmentwide acquisition contract’s improved pricing and expanded services.

“The goal is to transition as rapidly as possible to Networx,” said Ed Meagher, the Interior Department’s deputy chief information officer. “It gives us the opportunity to update our network inventory, so we will take advantage of Networx’s services in terms of knowing what we are getting and where we are getting it from.”

Robert Suda, the Agriculture Department’s associate CIO for integration and operation, said the agency is awaiting Networx Enterprise — to be awarded in May — before deciding how it will move forward. In the meantime, USDA will compare prices and prepare for its transition to the Networx contracts from FTS 2001.

Other agencies may have to prepare for the loss of their major carrier as GSA did not award Sprint Nextel a place on the most expansive GWAC ever. GSA named Qwest Government Services, AT&T and Verizon Business Services to the contract.

Agencies that use Sprint services are safe for now because in 2006, GSA awarded a bridge contract to the current FTS 2001 vehicle that could extend to 2010 if GSA uses all of the options.

Because of the bridge contract, “the immediate impact is pretty minimal,” said a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, a Sprint federal customer.

The wild card for Sprint is the speed with which agencies make the transition, said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president at the Professional Services Council. The transition to FTS 2001 from its predecessor, FTS 2000, was notoriously difficult. But federal officials believe they learned a great deal in the process.

There will always be challenges, said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and information technology. “But because of all the work we’ve been doing with initiatives, for example on IPv6, agencies are in a better position to transition this go-around, with this contract, than we were when FTS 2001 came about,” she added.

Sprint plans to ask GSA for a debriefing to better understand why GSA rejected the company’s bid.  The company then has five days to decide whether to protest.

Tony D’Agata, vice president of Sprint’s federal government business, said Sprint has no specific plans to file a protest unless the debriefing reveals some irregularity in the contracting process.  Sprint still is hoping to win a spot on Networx Enterprise,  he said.

“We have some work with Sprint, but primarily under FTS 2001, we are working with Verizon,” Meagher said. “I have no concern over Sprint losing, but I was a little surprised about the decision. I think between those three winners, we will get what we want.”

The Networx contracts reflect changes in both network technology and the competitive landscape since the late 1990s, said John Johnson, assistant commissioner for integrated technology services at GSA.

“While FTS 2001 focused on pennies per minute [for long-distance calls], Networx will focus on securing vast amounts of information around the world,” he said.

GSA plans to issue a notice to proceed for Networx Universal in about 30 days. 

Mary Mosquera and Jason Miller contributed to this story. Michael Hardy is an associate editor of Washington Technology, a publication of the 1105 Government Information Group.
135 federal agencies expected to use Networx programThe General Services Administration expects to do about $20 billion in business through the Networx program and Networx Universal contract during the next decade. The program’s $68.2 billion ceiling allows ample room for exceeding those expectations.

Other facts about the program:
  • GSA expects about 135 federal agencies to use Networx. For the Universal contract, under which companies have to provide comprehensive worldwide services, GSA specified 24,000 government buildings around the world that the companies must be able to reach.
  • Networx Universal has 36 mandatory services and 12 optional offerings. Enterprise, designed to be easier for smaller and newer companies to bid on, has 9 mandatory and 41 optional services.
Source: General Services Administration

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