EIS extension still a question mark

As big EIS contractors close in on their ATOs, officials could take up the issue of a contract extension after the Thanksgiving break.

By asharkyu shutterstock ID 311303981
 

As the May 2020 deadline for the transition to the General Services Administration's $50 billion next-generation telecommunications contract closes in, many procurement watchers are banking on an extension being announced soon.

One former GSA official speculated the topic would be addressed at a CIO Council Meeting on Nov. 28.

"They've got to talk about an extension," said the former official.

GSA officials have been saying for months that federal agencies might get more time to transition to the Enterprise Information Services contract, if they show plans that move beyond simple replacement of telecommunications capabilities and move to leverage the EIS for a more transformational approach.

However, analysts told FCW, officials have been wary of offering an across-the-board extension to agencies, out of concern that the extra time won't be used to develop modernization plans.

Analysts were optimistic that Laura Stanton, who has been reassigned to the Office of Information Technology Category as deputy assistant commissioner for category management, will take a strong hand in managing the contract.

Stanton has a lot on her plate, including the massive IT Schedule 70 and ALLIANT 2 governmentwide acquisition contract. Additionally, according to an internal memo obtained by FCW, Stanton will continue to oversee the agency's efforts to pilot and implement commercial e-commerce platforms as required under a recent National Defense Authorization Act.

Contrator ATOs

The biggest of the three carriers in the contract's stable of nine providers, are closing in on or passing the 80 percent completion mark in obtaining authority to operate certification.

Procurement industry expert Larry Allen predicted in his Nov. 19 newsletter that GSA would start giving EIS contractors ATOs within the next 30 to 60 days and those contractors will "quickly ramp up" business. AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon lead the ATO roster.

The progress of the three "isn't a surprise," federal IT market analyst Deirdre Murray told FCW. AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon have been preparing to move quickly through the ATO process and have the resources to do it, she said.

Once GSA grants the ATO, contractors are clear to put their system in operation. Agencies have been free to designate their EIS carrier preferences before contractors are granted ATOs, but haven't been able to sign contracts with those providers. With ATOs issued, they can.

Completing the ATO process can cost millions or more depending on the contractor's facilities, according to a couple of former GSA officials FCW spoke with. 

Some of EIS carriers, they said, could take more time gathering resources to complete the ATO process, which means the big three carriers will most likely get a jump on responding to agency solicitations. They said those smaller carriers have different, niche business plans aimed at specific agency services that the big carriers don't offer. They also speculated that head start could lead to protests from smaller carriers that get their ATOs later.

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