GSA enters quiet mode on telecom RFP

Shutterstock image (by Peshkova): map with a finger to his lips asking for silence.

(Peshkova / Shutterstock)

As the GSA finalizes its request for proposals for its next-generation telecommunications services contract, the agency said the time for gathering input from potential vendors and the public is over and it is  heading into the final stretch of plan development.

“We have experienced wonderful collaboration from all the agencies and industry partners that have commented on the draft RFP for EIS,” a General Services Administration spokesperson told FCW in an Aug. 25 email statement about the RFP for its15-year, $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.

“We have made hundreds of changes due to everyone's input that will make the final RFP and our program even stronger,” said the GSA spokesperson. “For the month of August, we are reviewing and making final changes to the RFP and we will not be responding to any additional inquiries or questions at this time.”

EIS is the foundation contract for the GSA's next-generation NS2020 telecommunications acquisition strategy.

The halt in public input is typical for the agency in the final stages of developing a large contracting vehicle in order to do a “final scrub” of the plan. During the last public information session in July, Amando Gavino Jr., director of GSA's Office of Network Services Programs, and Fred Haines, EIS program manager, had enthusiastically encouraged outside input. But Haines warned that face time with GSA officials to discuss concerns or receive suggestions would become shorter and shorter as the September RFP issue date approached.

An exact release date for the EIS RFP in September is fluid, however. Haines reminded his audience at the July GSA event that September has 30 days, indicating that the release would most likely come at the end of the month – the end of the fiscal year. If the RFP is issued at the end of September, interested bidders would have 90 days to respond, probably by the end of December. However, sources familiar with the contract said there are contingency plans that could push the response time to120 days, if needed to resolve issues.

The agency pursued an aggressive plan to gather input from the public over the last six months, sponsoring three public information exchanges with potential bidders and interested parties, implementing an online discussion environment to post changes and take suggestions, as well as a campaign to talk to as many federal CIOs face-to-face about the contract as possible.

The agency’s existing telecommunications contracting vehicle is chugging along and is informing the EIS RFP. In an Aug. 13 blog post, Bill Lewis, program manager for GSA’s current Networx telecommunications contracting vehicle, said federal communications purchasing in the first half of fiscal 2015 showed steady growth driven by demand for bandwidth, with purchasing for network services exceeding $820 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

Lewis said Networx spending trends are helping shape EIS. For instance, 20 years ago, more than 70 percent of federal purchases were voice related — either long distance voice or toll-free services. Today, he said, less than 10 percent are. The bulk of services now purchased through Networx are Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, with 60 percent of federal Networx spending centered on Network Based IP Virtual Private Networks and management of those services. In the first half of fiscal 2015, NBIPVPN purchasing is up 14 percent and purchasing services to manage this bandwidth is up 12 percent, Lewis said.

Networx purchase data was also a significant factor in the decision to make Ethernet a required service under EIS, he said.

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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