Contracting

TechAmerica questions GSA telecom effort

Telecom VOIP Switch - Shutterstock 

Correction: The letter from TechAmerica to the General Services Administration ultimately went out over the signature of Executive Vice President for Public Advocacy Elizabeth A. Hyman, not former Public Sector Senior Vice President Mike Hettinger. 

The draft that FCW obtained was set to go out Sept. 23 -- which proved to be Hettinger's last day. After his departure, the group rushed to swap in Hyman as the signer before sending the letter to GSA.

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Before leaving TechAmerica, Public Sector Senior Vice President Mike Hettinger sent a letter to the General Services Administration detailing his organization's concerns about aspects of the agency's next-generation telecommunications contract.

A draft of the letter obtained by FCW is addressed to Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Integrated Technology Services, and voices the concerns of TechAmerica's GSA Subcommittee about the Network Services 2020 telecom initiative.

NS2020 will become the federal government's strategic sourcing center for network-based and network-enabled services as the successor to the current telecom contract Networx. NS2020 will not, however, be one big contract but a series of contracts that cover regions in the U.S. and provide a wider variety of services.

In the letter, Hettinger said TechAmerica's NS2020 task force reviewed the recently released Northeast Infrastructure Solutions Draft Statement of Work and found some inconsistencies in GSA's approach.

"Overall, the draft SOW appears to be generally out of synch with the NIS request for information that was issued earlier this year and with the publicly distributed GSA NS2020 strategy white paper," the letter states. "For example, there are many requirements specified for maintaining legacy services for what amounts to the length of the contract, contrary to the RFI and NS2020 expressed strategy of transformation to 'everything over IP.'"

GSA plans to solicit bids for NS2020 in fiscal 2015. The strategy is the government's first to incorporate more advanced telecom technology and concepts, such as cloud- and IP-based services.

The TechAmerica letter says GSA is not living up to that vision.

"No functional definitions were provided for new IP-based services such as [voice over IP] and unified communications," Hettinger wrote, "while the draft expressed a firm requirement to support legacy services for the eight-year life of the contract. This is particularly troubling as a clear path is not defined to deliver a technology refresh during the contract period."

Hettinger noted that many TechAmerica members are "integral to such programs at GSA" and expressed concern that GSA's aim of having Northeast Infrastructure Solutions "be a part of the NS2020 strategy is not properly reflected" in the statement of work.

In an August blog post, Davie said launching NIS would be a critical step toward achieving GSA's goal of a fully consolidated, national telecom portfolio.

In response to Hettinger, she said in a statement emailed to FCW on Sept. 30 that "one of the main pillars of GSA's NS2020 strategy is collaboration. Since the beginning of this effort, we have made it a priority to ensure we are receiving input from agencies, industry partners, and professional associations. This feedback allows us to develop and execute a strategy that is a win-win for government and industry while providing the maximum value to the American taxpayer. We look forward to meeting with TechAmerica as well as other professional associations, industry partners, and government agencies over the coming months to discuss their comments and concerns."

According to GSA, NIS will consolidate local service contracts currently in place in four regions in the northeastern United States, including the Washington, D.C., area. Two more regional consolidations -- Western Infrastructure Solutions and Central Infrastructure Solutions -- are also planned for the next fiscal year. 

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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