Agencies are getting up to three more years on existing telecom contracts before having to shift to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle.
Federal agencies have up to three more years to transition off aging telecommunications contracts and onto the 15-year, $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, a top official told FCW.
The General Services Administration is extending Networx and Washington Interagency Telecommunications System contracts for an initial base year, plus two one-year options. Under initial GSA plans, agencies were supposed to migrate to EIS contract by 2020. Now agencies that qualify for extensions have until 2023.
Bill Zielinski, deputy assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Category in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, told FCW that agencies shouldn't assume the extension reduces the urgency of making EIS plans.
"I'd stress that this isn't simply moving the deadline to the right," he said.
Telecommunications industry and federal market experts have speculated for months that GSA would have to offer an extension, as federal agencies were slow to issue initial solicitations for the contract.
Some said the White House's increased emphasis on using EIS to facilitate broad IT modernization, instead of like-for-like replacement of basic telecom services, complicated plans to complete the transition by 2020.
Zielinski said the extension was designed "to remove a timeline barrier" for modernization planning and not make that planning a "race against the clock."
To qualify for an extension, agencies must incorporate four modernization ideas, including moving away from time-division multiplexing technology, moving away from legacy services and adopting VoIP or unified communications, tapping cloud and managed services and improving overall network cybersecurity.
GSA expects 147 EIS solicitations issued by agencies overall. While GSA doesn't have a total number of EIS solicitations, as of Dec. 1, only a couple dozen have been deemed "in scope." That means they have satisfied an internal review of EIS solicitations valued at $150,000 and above.
GSA wants agencies to release their EIS solicitations by March 31, 2019. Zielinski said agencies should be "substantially complete" in moving to EIS by 2022.
Likewise, he said, the nine EIS contractors "should not let up on the gas pedal" to get authority to operate certification (ATO) even with the extension.
"This doesn't change the urgency on the front end," he said.
GSA's December report on its testing of EIS vendor back-office systems shows three carriers -- AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon -- nearing the 90 percent completion mark for an ATO. The remaining six vendors are below 50 percent completion.
Zielinski said he expects the first ATOs for vendors to be issued in the second quarter of 2019.
The extension comes as Laura Stanton joined EIS leadership as deputy assistant commission of category management, office of information category at FAS.
Additionally, according to sources close to the agency, GSA has hired, or is near hiring, a new director of Telecommunications Services, who is the senior manager providing strategic guidance on EIS and other issues to the Office of Telecommunications Services in the Federal Acquisition Service. That position has been open since last April.
Zielinski, however, declined to comment on possible new hires.
This article was updated Dec. 6 with additional information.
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