Acquisition

EIS vendors don't see rush to modernize

fiber cable (alphaspirit/Shutterstock.com) 

The White House wants agencies to use the $50 billion, 10-year Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecom contract to support IT modernization but in the early stages most customers want to make sure the phones stay on.

"We're seeing discussions about how to get to the next generation technology. Agencies are saying 'now we'll do like for like,' but they're also asking [vendors] to tell them how to get to the next generation tech," said Diana Gowen, senior vice president at MetTel, one of nine prime contractors under the General Services Administration's governmentwide telecommunications contract.

Officials from other EIS contractors told FCW that agencies weren't going for extensively transformational EIS plans up front.

"We're not seeing it," said one top manager at an EIS carrier. "So far, most of what we're seeing is 'like-for-like' plans from agencies," they said.

"We're seeing a mix" of like-for-like and more transformational plans from agencies, said Chris Smith, vice president-technology at AT&T Global Public Sector. "Most are looking for a smooth transition" that will set them on a path to more solid transformation, he said.

Another vendor said one agency had set out a modernization plan under EIS, but it was drawn out over four years.

There has been a relatively steady stream of EIS proposals and even contract awards from agencies large and small over the last few months. EIS contractors said they are looking for the pace of awards and proposals to accelerate as the fourth quarter approaches.

The Department of Treasury, NASA, the Social Security Administration, GSA, the State Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the Veterans Administration are among a rising number of agencies that have asked vendors for EIS proposals, according to Gowen and other contractors.

The Justice Department, NASA, and the Railroad Retirement Board have awarded EIS contracts to carriers in the last few months. One of the largest federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to issue its final request for proposals.

MetTel has not yet been awarded Authority to Operate under EIS, but it can take orders from agencies, it just can't implement the work until it has ATO. The three biggest EIS vendors, AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon got their authorities this past spring.

The 'get me transitioned first, then give me a good plan to modernize' approach by agencies is similar to how agencies adapted to EIS' predecessor, Networx, according to Gowen. Expecting extensive transformative EIS task orders up front from agencies could be unrealistic, she said, as they're immediately concerned about the practicalities of moving.

The Office of Management and Budget has set EIS as a primary driver for IT modernization, and some vendors said that GSA could set more incentives and penalties for agencies who aren't taking a more aggressive approach.

While some vendors were concerned agencies were slow making plans, others said agencies were performing relatively well in adapting to EIS and its possibilities.

"Everyone has their eye on the ball," said AT&T's Smith, but "how they put points on the board" is still unfolding. "The appetite is there."

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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