Contracting

EIS contractors want more time for transition

Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu 

Some of the contractors for the General Services Administration's $50 billion, 15-year next-generation Enterprise Infrastructure Services telecommunications services contract are concerned time is growing short for federal agencies to make the shift to the new contract.

The three-year transition period GSA planned for agencies to move from its old Networx contract to EIS has been eaten up by contract award timing and a scarcity of live agency task orders, some contractors said.

Instead of having 36 months to make the transition, agencies really only have 18 now, David Young, regional vice president of strategic government at CenturyLink told FCW in a recent interview.

"We believe GSA should remove the artificial deadline" for the EIS transition, he said.

GSA set 2020 as the deadline for agencies to move over to EIS as old telecommunications contracts, such as Networx, Local Telecommunications Services and Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 3 expire.

The agency began assisting federal agencies with transition plans ahead of the EIS award last summer in hopes of avoiding the lengthy and costly process it faced when transitioning to the last big telecommunications contract, Networx. That transition took six years.

"GSA is committed to facilitating a timely transition to the new contract, the Transition Coordination Center is working closely with agencies big and small to help ensure their success," said an agency spokesperson. "EIS industry partners are instrumental in helping focus agencies on modernization through transition, including meeting with agencies to demonstrate capabilities, participating in Industry Days for the EIS supplier community, and working with GSA to help all stakeholders track transition progress, identify areas of concern, and adjust as needed to keep transition on track," the spokesperson said.

While contractors had expected EIS task orders from agencies to start rolling in last fall, they said only a trickle has come though so far.

The Social Security Administration issued two separate task orders, one for voice and one for data, Diana Gowen, general manager and senior vice president for MetTel's federal program told FCW. Those orders haven't yet been acted on by the agencies, she said.

The Departments of Justice, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security have had initial meetings with EIS contractors, and there are draft requests for proposals and for information from the Treasury and Agriculture Departments, but no contract awards, according to Gowen.

That may change, however, as GSA is set in the coming days to release a revised calendar of task orders expected from agencies, according to MetTel.

The new task order release calendar could present its own set of problems, Gowen said. GSA is about to issue a new schedule of planned task orders that could be clumped closely together, she said, predicting either a tsunami of activity that industry will be pressed to respond to all at once, or the GSA will push the transition deadline out.

Young and Gowen pointed to the GSA's slow performance testing on contractor networks as a bottleneck for the sluggish pace of orders and transition. 

The testing ensures contractor networks can effectively connect to federal systems to support functions like purchasing, billing, account management, inventory, payments and other back-office functions. The testing results in an authority to operate certification for the contractor networks.

Without an ATO, contractors can't provide services to agencies. ATOs probably won't be issued until this fall, according to GSA's January testing report. That timing squeezes not only contractors, but agencies looking to leverage EIS to help transform their IT operations, said Young.

"GSA actually has done a lot to make transition efficient -- they have issued templates for [task orders], but agencies just don't seem to have their hands around how they want to buy and what exactly they want, for example, one large TO for everything or two for voice and data or smaller ones," Gowen said

This story was updated March 26 to include comment from GSA.

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, tele.com 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 mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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