Focus on EIS transition pushes regional telecom contracts aside

Shutterstock image: checking documents.

The massive foundation contract being developed by the General Services Administration for its NS2020 telecommunications strategy has overtaken three regional, but ultimately obsolete, telecommunications contracting efforts that had been meant to help in the transition to the new contracting vehicle.

A panel of the managers for the agency's $50 billion, 15-year Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract discussed the developing EIS request for proposals at a May 28 open meeting at GSA's Washington, D.C., headquarters. The meeting was the second of three planned by GSA to increase transparency around the EIS RFP development, explaining progress and development. The final meeting is scheduled for June 30.

In opening remarks to the telecommunications industry contractors gathered in the agency's auditorium, Amando Gavino Jr., director of GSA's Office of Network Services Programs, said he'd officially canceled three regional transitional telecommunications services contracts to speed up the transition to the rapidly developing EIS.

Additionally, Gavino and EIS Program Manager Fred Haines confirmed the agency will push the release of the EIS RFP to September in order to maximize input from industry. Gavino had previously said the RFP's planned July release date might not give enough time to review input. Neither Gavino nor Haines gave a specific date for the release, but Haines reminded the audience that "September has 30 days," hinting that it might be nearer the end of the month.

The three Regional Infrastructure Solutions (RIS) contracts canceled by Gavino on May 27 were planned multi-regional acquisitions for the Northeast, Central and Western section of the United States, and were intended to support the transition to the agency's NS2020 telecommunications strategy. Each was a stand-alone, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) multiple-award procurement.

According to GSA, the three regional contracts were slated for award in the second quarter of 2016, just ahead of the planned end-of-fiscal 2016 EIS award. The official cancellation notice on FedBizOpps included only the Northeastern contract request for information, a GSA spokeswoman said, because the other two were never officially posted.

Instead of using those three regional contracts for the EIS transition, the agency has extended the use of the current Networx contract, and of a series of Local Service Agreement contracts around the country, until the transition to EIS begins in earnest in 2017.

Gavino told FCW after the meeting that he canceled the RIS contracting efforts because, while they were intended to help in the transition to EIS, they could have slowed it down in the long run. With EIS managers working with federal agencies to develop their own transition plans and other transition efforts, the regional intermediate RIS contracts ultimately "didn't make sense," he said.

GSA's EIS team is sifting through more than 1,500 sets of industry and agency comments and suggestions regarding the EIS contract. GSA officials also are already implementing some of those ideas as they roll forward.

For instance, GSA has been making the most of its EIS/NS2020 Interact website, posting numerous updates, including a white paper on transition. Changes made to the draft RFP are also being posted to the online for speedier review.

Some of the changes made to the RFP included a more nimble catalog of services that would allow contractors to quickly add and change offerings to keep up with technology, particularly cloud offerings. The "customer managed" catalogs, according to Jim Soltys, a contractor working with GSA on developing the RFP, "will make offerings immediately available to customers." Contractors will be able to continually add items without GSA's involvement to mirror commercial markets. That flexibility, Soltys said, is particularly important to keep up with rapidly changing technologies such as cloud and managed services. GSA, however, will audit the catalogs.

GSA is aiming to make this transition more quickly than it managed with the Networx contract, which took six years. The NS2020 transition will be "better and faster than WITS/Networx," said Debbie Hren, network services transition director for EIS. GSA, she said, is offering agencies consultancy services, sometimes for free, as well as re-imbursement for transition costs.

Hren said agencies should be preparing a transition plan, identifying a manager to implement that plan, and keeping up with the developing EIS RFP.

In the coming weeks, Gavino said, he hopes to meet with the CIOs of the top 10 Networx customer agencies to discuss the importance of transition plans.

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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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