EIS: The other transition

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With a spring award planned for the next-generation, $50 billion, 15-year Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) telecommunications contract, the General Services Administration wants agencies to share the details of their transition efforts to help others with the shift.

"There are a lot of transitions going on now," said Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Information Technology Category, during a presentation at a FedScoop's Next-Gen Network Summit on Nov. 30. "With the administration transition happening, it can be hard to keep a focus on this other transition, but we must."

GSA is helping agencies develop their plans to move from the Networx telecom contract to the EIS vehicle when it is awarded next year, Davie said. She didn't give an exact date for the award, but some federal IT executives listed April 1 in their slide presentations at the event.

GSA officials want to ensure that the incoming administration understands the importance and magnitude of the EIS contract and the preparations underway for it.

Amando Gavino, director of GSA's Office of Network Services Programs, said Davie submitted a white paper on the EIS transition process earlier this month to then-acting Deputy U.S. CIO Margie Graves. The paper explains to White House transition officials why the EIS/Networx transition preparation work is so critical, he added.

As EIS rolled forward this past year, Davie urged agencies to think about what they want and need from telecom services. She also urged them to talk with industry representatives about what kinds of services and capabilities are on the horizon and how they might be used.

Agencies should ask industry "what options do I have to get myself out of a legacy environment into something new and different?" Davie said. "We're cautioning against a wholesale change from something old to something new during the transition. That can complicate things. Look for opportunities where you can transform while you're transitioning."

Most agencies sent their transition plans to GSA by the end of October, she said, adding, "What we have seen so far, it looks like we've got plans across government for about 100 task order requests so far that would be coming against EIS." Task orders are typically for individual services under a contract with a set of specified services.

Davie counseled agencies to consolidate service requests to help with the three-year transition to EIS. "If we have the 100 or so task-order requests come out, I'm not sure how we will be able to support that transition though all of those different things," she said. "It's important that agencies stick to what's been defined on a contract level and, in terms of service-level agreements and things like that, not try to customize too much, as well as look for opportunities to consolidate."

Agencies could get an opportunity to compare notes on their transition plans after the Office of Management and Budget reviews them, Davie added. "I would like to publish them," she said. "I would like industry and everybody to be able to see at a high level at least parts of the plans" that could highlight agency transition timelines and details. "I think the sooner we get that information out, the better off we're all going to be because that's when the dialogue can really begin."

Davie said GSA is still working on the release dates for the transition plans, and it will possibly happen after the contract is awarded. The plans' public disclosure is up to each agency, she told FCW.

The list of bidders hasn't been made public, but sources say about a dozen companies have submitted proposals or set up teaming arrangements.

"The proposals we've received reflect healthy competition, which we're really, really happy about," Davie said.

The bidders include traditional telecom companies AT&T, BT, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Verizon, as well as Core Technologies, Hughes, Level 3 Communications, MetTel and Windstream.

Level 3 and Hughes, the companies that sponsored the FedScoop event, have teamed on an EIS bid, said Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes.

At the event, executives from both companies said they would use software-defined wide-area network technologies to provide expandable bandwidth through a variety of platforms from wireless, satellite and cable, which can support the scalable computing and storage needs of modern environments.

Federal IT managers at the event said they were hungry for the bandwidth EIS will provide and have been planning how to move to it.

"With telemedicine coming, there's more demand on the network," said Rick Chandler, deputy assistant secretary for IT resource management at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Remote X-ray and MRI machines' data files are huge, he added, and traditional T1 lines can't handle them. "There is exponentially more data coming to us on the digital health platform."

The U.S. Geological Survey also faces a huge, exponential data crunch, said Timothy Quinn, chief of USGS' Office of Enterprise Information.

USGS officials want to use high-performance computing facilities to tackle the agency's growing number of remote sensors worldwide, he added. They are looking for "a tighter, high-capacity, secure core" for the agency's network and working with existing telecom suppliers to expand those capabilities.

"We're looking to transform before the transition" to EIS, Quinn 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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