'A tale of two contracting methods'
- By Mark Rockwell
- Mar 31, 2015
March 31 marks the end of the 30-day comment period for the final draft of the proposal for the first piece of GSA's $50 billion next-generation telecommunications contracting strategy, as well as the kickoff for the comment period for the draft of the agency's Alliant 2 Government Wide Acquisition Contract.
The comment deadline for the request for proposals for GSA's Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions marks a turning point for the vehicle expected to be the foundation of the agency's NS 2020 telecom strategy. Even though EIS and Alliant 2 are distinct contracting efforts aimed at different needs, analysts said, they provide some interesting overlaps and contrasts.
Jennifer Sakole, principal analyst at Deltek Federal Information Solutions, said Alliant is a successful, known quantity for acquiring innovative IT services and includes some telecom solutions, while EIS is the agency's effort to keep up with advancing telecom solutions while supporting federal agencies' legacy telecom operations.
"It's a tale of two contracting methods," said Larry Allen, president of Allen Consulting. "NS 2020 is a new model, aimed at offering cutting edge solutions," he said, while Alliant 2 is based on a popular, proven entity for IT services and IT services-based solutions. And the lines between IT services and telecommunications services have been blurring since digital IP-based communications began. "There is an artificial barrier between telecommunications and IT contracting," said Allen.
As IT and telecom merge, said Allen, there are no easy answers for GSA's efforts to procure either.
Sakole said the EIS RFP is part of the NS 2020 portfolio that will provide a range of telecom services and infrastructure offerings, but it is a complicated platform that requires legacy support of aging systems as well as cutting edge capabilities such as cloud.
Potential respondents to the EIS RFP told FCW that the document was extremely complex and that the 30-day turnaround to provide comments was challenging to complete. They said GSA, to its credit, has been talking to the public about the contract for some time, much like the transparent back-and-forth on OASIS and Alliant.
They also wondered why the EIS effort had not garnered a section on GSA's Interact dashboard, which other contracts such as Alliant and One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) used to power their development with public interaction. "I'm curious about who will go EIS," Sakole said.
The government wants more systems integrators that can balance out the established telecom carriers, according to Sakole. Those integrators, however, would have to provide legacy voice and data services -- which could be a tall order for companies that do not have established telecom infrastructure, she said.
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.
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