How GSA can make its $50B telecom contract succeed

Telecom networks abstract 

The General Services Administration and a handful of big federal agencies need to better tune their plans to take on the federal government's next generation telecommunications contract, according to a new oversight report.

The GSA must be more efficient at sharing its "lessons learned" from past federal telecommunications services contracts to avoid costly delays, said the Sept. 21 report, requested by leaders of the the House IT and Government Operations subcommittees.

GAO also said five agencies it studied for the report should tweak plans to transition to GSA's recently-awarded $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract.

The report said the Departments of Agriculture, Labor and Transportation, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Social Security Administration all had some polishing to do on their migration plans.

That polishing primarily consisted of further identifying agency communication needs, as well as having agency CIOs identify specific roles for managers and departments, such as asset and human resource management to facilitate the move to EIS.

GAO identified 35 "lessons learned" that GSA took from transitions to previous telecommunications contracts, such as EIS predecessor Networx, specifically related to actions that agencies should take during a telecommunications transition.

The GAO said GSA so far had disseminated 17 of those 35 to agencies in its efforts to help them move over to EIS.

The GSA began getting agencies to think through the transition process back in 2015, even before it issued the EIS request for proposals, with an eye to having them complete the process by 2020. The longer transition timeline, it hoped, would avoid the costly delays that plagued Networx.

Agencies risk delays and unneeded costs in their transitions if they can't avoid previous errors and inefficiencies. Assuming an agency's transition from an old contract to a new contract using the same vendor isn't easy, said GAO. That lesson wasn't addressed by GSA adequately, according to the report.

GAO recommended GSA coordinate with the Office of Personnel Management for future transitions to examine potential governmentwide expertise shortfalls. It also recommended GSA provide agencies with guidance on project planning and fully archive, prioritize and share lessons learned.

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 or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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