How a telecom contact might spur IT upgrades

A month after the GSA named 10 winners for its next-generation telecommunications contract, the $50 billion vehicle has a big supporting role in the White House IT modernization plan.

abstract network security
 

The Trump administration's IT modernization plan issued in late August looks to leverage a newly issued governmentwide telecommunications contract to lower agency costs, improve efficiencies and potentially jump-start IT modernization efforts at smaller agencies.

The plan sets two high-level goals -- a vision for the future of federal IT maximizing secure use of the best commercial technology available, and a plan to jumpstart the government's transition to that vision.

How can the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle help?

In remarks at a Sept. 7 Deltek conference, acting federal CIO Margie Graves said EIS could potentially be used as a strategic sourcing vehicle for the federal government's IT modernization push, as well as for cloud and cybersecurity efforts.

The White House draft plan tasks DHS and GSA with crafting advice on how to use EIS to spur modernization. For instance, its asks DHS to provide GSA and agencies with baseline configuration guidance on EIS Managed Security Services

It also asks GSA and DHS to provide roadmaps for small agencies to more easily and cost-effectively leverage EIS services, as well as identify areas outside of EIS where they could consolidate acquisition of cybersecurity services and products.

"I was surprised to see [EIS] so prominently highlighted" in the plan, said John Okay, executive consultant at Topside Consulting Group. But he noted that the move to stress the telecom contract, "sends a message to smaller agencies without the staff and resources" looking to modernize their IT operations to use EIS.

EIS' relative prominence in the White House draft is in line with the ongoing efforts to bring costs and contracts in line with an eye to more efficiency and leveraging commercial technological advances, said Deniece Peterson, Deltek's director of federal market analysis.

"EIS makes sense" as a path towards the federal government's move towards more service and contract efficiencies, she said in an interview with FCW.

For instance, by using EIS for managed services, cybersecurity and other telecom services, agencies would tap a common contract, as well as mostly similar services, instead of developing piecemeal plans and capabilities, she said.

The 10 carriers under EIS, Peterson said, could offer a faster path to tighter cybersecurity and other capabilities for federal agencies. Telecom carriers, she said, were tasked by GSA with blending in cybersecurity capabilities into their EIS proposals. Those capabilities were specified by the Department of Homeland Security as the contract was drafted.

Peterson said agencies could leverage those capabilities into their modernization plans.

The contract, said added, could also allow agencies to move more quickly to adopt cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence or block chain, without the long development and adoption cycles that have often slowed federal IT. GSA developed the EIS vehicle with relatively easy-to-use technology "on-ramps" that let the contractors add services without months of development time.

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