FCW Editorial: Summing up the Networx challenges

When the idea of a governmentwide contract for long-distance telecommunications first surfaced in the late 1980s, it was met with both excitement and concern. It was to be a proving ground to see if government could really use its volume buying power to drive down rates, but it also meant changing from government-owned to industry-owned equipment.

The first two contracts — FTS 2000 and FTS 2001 — performed as hoped, and as agencies moved to the more advanced offerings, costs did indeed come down and capability increased.

Networx is the third generation of telecom contracts to be administered by the General Services Administration. Now halfway through its contract period, Networx is experiencing different challenges in getting agencies to transition to the new vendors and the new offerings.

There are a number of reasons for the difficulties. Networx is not mandatory, some of the same services are available through other GWACs, and most important, it’s a complicated set of offerings and services. Agency managers are no longer simply choosing to replace a T-1 line with a T-3 line. Now there are many more decisions to be made, and agencies might not have the technical staff to evaluate some of the more complex options.

It’s a fact of life that Congress asked for leanness in government staff and got it. It is also true that industry pays a lot more for technical skill sets than government does — regardless of what you might have read about comparative pay scales. So with the best of intentions, agencies have been presented with a very complicated menu at a time when they might not have employees who are capable of evaluating, selecting or implementing the choices.

A follow-on contract is already being planned. Some industry executives wonder if it’s really needed. They also wonder if the lessons learned from Networx will frame the new acquisition so it won’t suffer from the same growing pains as the current contract.

About the Author

Anne Armstrong is Co-President & Chief Content Officer of 1105 Public Sector Media Group.



FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group