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NS2020 EIS: Another step forward for GSA

Shutterstock image (by kstudija): telecommunications radio tower.

Delivering flawless network services across very large enterprises is an enormous challenge. In the public sector, federal agencies expect their CIOs and telecommunications managers to meet demands unheard of just 10 years ago: deliver access anywhere, anytime and to any device securely. And they are expected to deliver those benefits while adopting and integrating the technologies needed to thrive in the 21st century, which include cloud services, cybersecurity, big-data analytics and the Internet of Things.

Federal CIOs and telecom managers, in their always-on quest to reduce complexity, are increasingly turning to companies that can deliver those services as an integrated solution.

The General Services Administration is bringing much-needed relief to federal CIOs and telecom managers by developing a set of contracts that simplifies complex purchases of network-related services, one that allows agencies to buy what they need at market-best prices while ensuring robust vendor competition and transparency. The strategy for this new set of contracts is known as Network Services 2020.

GSA’s first contract for buying telecom, cloud, cybersecurity and other network-related services under NS2020 is Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, which is the successor to the current Networx contracts. NS2020 EIS represents lessons learned, insight and input from agency CIOs and reflects the evolution of modern telecom technologies. It is a smart, strategic approach to technology purchasing that prioritizes simplicity, cost reduction, modernization and efficiency.

That is what GSA does best. It creates a flexible market purchasing environment for agencies that caters to their needs with the implicit acknowledgment that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to complex government technology requirements. GSA has created multiple-award schedules for buying common commercial items or services, governmentwide acquisition contracts for broad IT solutions and NS2020 contracts for telecom services.

In effect, GSA has created a menu of options that empowers agencies with multiple choices for how and from whom they buy technology. GSA’s strategy fosters competition within the contracts and among the different types of contract vehicles. It is smart and forward thinking, and it ultimately keeps prices competitive for agency customers.

U.S. telecom companies have invested approximately $1.1 trillion in their networks since 1999, according to the Wall Street Journal. GSA’s strategy allows agencies to directly benefit from that investment in innovation and infrastructure. Then there are the significant cost benefits agencies can achieve as a result of continued innovation and robust competition among providers. Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services, said the agency’s network services programs — FTS 2001 and Networx — have saved agencies more than $8.4 billion in the past 15 years.

EIS is a smart, strategic approach to technology purchasing that prioritizes simplicity, cost reduction, modernization and efficiency.

Although GSA has been criticized for developing multiple contracting efforts, overlap is actually an integral part of its strategy. An agency can buy a turnkey solution using a single solutions-based contract, or it can use a set of contracts to buy and assemble components for an integrated solution. That approach creates a competitive marketplace within contracts and across multiple vehicles, giving agencies enormous flexibility and leverage.

As the latest purchasing advance from GSA, NS2020 EIS puts agencies first and will provide them with secure, resilient, cost-effective, innovative and excellent quality telecom solutions and services by taking advantage of industry investment and expertise.

Additionally, GSA’s process should be commended. Officials reached out to vendors through multiple channels, including blogs, industry-day briefings, draft documents for comment and one-on-one sessions with individual companies.

Meeting the network services needs of federal agencies is not an easy job, but GSA is entering its fourth generation of doing it.

About the Author

Bob Woods is president of Topside Consulting Group and former commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Federal Technology Service.

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