Acquisition

GAO: Agencies are missing EIS targets

Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu 

Federal agencies are slow to adopt the governmentwide $50 billion next generation telecommunications contract vehicle, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Only a handful of federal agencies have made progress in moving to the General Services Administration's $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract by 2022, according to the GAO's report.

The oversight report is an expanded version of data and findings released for the record of a March 4 hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Government Operation.

The bottom line, according to GAO: agencies aren't moving quickly to EIS with only 8 of 19 agencies telling the congressional watchdog that they to achieve GSA's Sept. 30, 2022 milestone to fully transition to the new telecom contract.

Only one agency, the Small Business Administration, met GSA's Sept. 30, 2019 deadline to issue all of its task orders, a lone order issued on Sept. 27. Larger agencies have larger jobs. While other agencies on average told GAO they plan up to a half dozen task orders under the contract, the Defense Department estimated it will issue 75 task orders, while NASA plans 14 and the Department of Homeland Security will issue 11.

Agencies told GAO that delays were caused by the complexity of requirements for their operations, staff shortages and agencies seeking clarification on industry proposals. Previous government shutdowns also were cited as contributing to delays.

The GAO report doesn't mention the current extensive slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic -- research took place before the crisis began.

"The coronavirus has exposed federal agencies' need for modern telecommunications infrastructure and services," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations in an email to FCW on April 8.

"If agencies had met the original deadline to transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, they would have been in a better posture to securely expand telework. Agencies should use the coronavirus as an impetus to prioritize transitioning to telecommunications services under EIS rather than as a reason to delay this much needed modernization."

The report showed that 15 of the agencies said they were working towards a combination of "like-for-like" and transformative services through EIS. Four agencies, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration said they were looking to replace what they had with "like for like" solutions.

Five of the 19 agencies said they had met GSA's March 31, 2019 goal of releasing all their EIS solicitations. Those include the Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, GSA, and the Social Security Administration.

In 2018, GSA shifted the deadline to move to the EIS contract, citing slow agency transition responses from 2020 to 2023. As part of that extension, GSA set March 31, 2020 to begin limiting agencies' use of Networx, WITS 3, and Local Service Agreements (LSAs) through 2023. Agencies were to have awarded EIS task orders by the end of last September, but those awards have been slow to materialize.

GSA held firm to a March 31, 2020 deadline to begin limiting agency access to existing Networx, WITS and LSA contracts.

The report highlights the delays GSA endured in trying to get agencies to move from old telecommunications contracts, to use EIS to modernize their capabilities.

GAO has estimated that Networx delays led to $66.4 million in additional costs to GSA and $329 million in missed savings opportunities. A transition going back to 1998 resulted in $74 million in missed savings.

"Agencies are again at risk," GAO stated.

Dave Young, senior vice president for public sector at EIS vendor CenturyLink, told FCW in an email that "in light of the looming contract expirations, it feels like there needs to be a new plan for accomplishing the original goals."

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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