AT&T seeks FTS 2001 re-bid

AT&T filed a protest with the General Services Administration late on April 27 that asks the agency to terminate its FTS 2001 telecommunications contracts with Sprint and WorldCom Inc. and reopen competition.

AT&T is protesting GSA's decision to relax FTS 2001 requirements and specifications — such as service performance requirements — during the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001. The transition deadline has been delayed many times.

AT&T contends that because GSA relaxed contract requirements, the nature and purpose of the FTS 2001 contracts were materially changed and the awards are invalid.

The protest responds to information revealed in a General Accounting Office report titled "FTS 2001: Transition Challenges Jeopardize Program Goals" that was released April 26.

In the report, GSA said it relaxed contract requirements, including the length of transition; quality and grade of services; collection of data for an automated transition management database; and billing. Such information also was presented in testimony that Sandra Bates, commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service, gave April 26 before the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

GSA's evaluation of FTS 2001 proposals was based on vendors' ability to meet those requirements, AT&T said in its protest. As a result of relaxing those requirements, FTS 2001 has suffered higher costs to taxpayers, staffing shortages and a lack of transition data that could have helped GSA better manage the transition, AT&T said.

AT&T said in the protest that it had submitted a proposal for FTS 2001 that was designed to achieve those goals.

"We made it clear to the government that we didn't think the transition schedule they had was realistic," John Doherty, vice president of AT&T Government Markets, said at the subcommittee hearing April 26.

During the hearing, Sprint and WorldCom officials said they delivered the system capabilities required to meet the transition.

AT&T's protest says that as a result of the relaxed requirements, none of the principal goals of FTS 2001 — getting the best service and technology at the lowest price while maximizing competition — will be realized under GSA's current implementation of the contract.

"I think competition is flourishing as we imagined it would," Bates said at the hearing. "New entrants are already beginning to emerge." Bates said GSA intends to open FTS 2001 to additional service providers this summer, when the transition will be substantially complete.

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