Next GSA networks chief will step into new telecom world

Now that the General Services Administration is losing Karl Krumbholz, its leading man of network services programs, agency officials will have to do a lot of searching to find someone to lead the programs and also fit into the changing telecommunications world, experts said.

“Karl is a true expert and someone who will be hard to replace,” said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and former president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, an industry group that works closely with GSA.

Krumbholz, who is director of network services programs and responsible for the major Networx telecom contract, announced he will retire from GSA in December, according to a Sept. 6 post on his “Network Services Update” blog.

Related story:

GSA's Karl Krumbholz announces retirement

Krumbholz is on a temporary assignment and his deputy, Frank Tiller, will take on the management duties in the meantime.

As the leadership begins to change, network services for GSA and its customer agencies are already transforming, experts said.

“This position over the next five years will be different than the job that Karl just left, primarily because the world of federal IT and telecom is changing,” said John Okay, the retired deputy commissioner of GSA’s former Federal Technology Service and now partner at Topside Consulting.

The government is being hit by multiple forces that are pushing the transformations. Agencies are constrained by tight budgets, and the makeup of the federal workforce, whose size continues to shrink, is changing. More employees are teleworking and mobile computing is growing more central in day-to-day work. Agencies are also turning to cloud computing for their services, including GSA who put its 17,000 e-mail users in the cloud in July. On top of that, industry also goes through its changes.

“GSA’s network services programs must adapt to the new realities to remain viable to their customers and their industry partners,” Okay said.

First, GSA's new director needs to complete what Krumbholz has been working on.

“The next director must be able to get the current Networx transition over and done with while leading the path to the future, which will be substantially different from the current model,” Okay said.

Experts also said GSA officials need to carefully study these evolutions, as well as what GSA is now offering on other contracts.

Officials are considering how to shape the Networx 2020 contract, a follow-on to the current contract, and have met with major telecom companies that include Verizon, Google, and Level 3, to talk about it. They also plan to meet with other major carriers, Krumbholz blogged in late July.

GSA wanted their views on future technologies and suggestions for improvements in operations support for the Networx 2020 contract.

However, other GSA contracts can already provide the same services and solutions than Networx, Allen said.

“GSA did a very good job of putting the contracts into place and they do a good job of managing the program,” he said. “The model itself may be a little dated.”

In light of such overall changes, Okay said the new director needs to be open to new ideas. The director also needs a clear vision despite the evolutions going on all around. The job will require the director to be creative, and be able to navigate the bureaucracy to get the work done.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services in the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), and Steve Kempf, FAS commissioner, need to look for a new potential director with those qualities, they said.

“I think that Mary Davie will use this opportunity to cast a wide net,” Okay said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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