Agencies got extra time to prep for the transition to the $50 billion governmentwide telecom contract, but the partial government shutdown could interfere with those plans.
Late last year, the General Services Administration extended existing Networx and Washington Interagency Telecommunications System contracts, giving agencies until 2023 to transition to the new $50 billion governmentwide telecom contract, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions. The current contracts had been set to expire in 2020.
Even with the extension, contractors named to EIS are seeing some effects on planning from the partial shutdown of government.
As part of the extension, Bill Zielinski, deputy assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Category in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, told agencies they would have to make good use of the additional time, including taking a more aggressive approach to their initial EIS solicitations. Zielinski said he wanted agencies to have solicitations out by March 31 with a slate of awards by September.
That revised deadline is likely to slip, said Diana Gowen, senior vice president at MetTel, one of the prime contractors on EIS.
"The government will have to extend. There is no real choice," Gowen said.
She noted that some agencies that had been out front with EIS transition and modernization plans, such as the Departments of Justice and Commerce, are operating on shutdown plans and unable to proceed with solicitations.
David Young, senior vice president of strategic government at CenturyLink, told FCW that GSA's goals for 2019 are mostly "aspirational" and that a delay in issuing solicitations doesn't affect the longer-term goal of transition by 2023.
"It's going to end," said Young of the shutdown. There are over 100 agency fair opportunity solicitations currently under review by GSA and the Office of Management and Budget. "We expect a tsunami" of solicitations in the coming months, he said.
The shutdown is impacting EIS contractors as well.
Gowen said that MetTel, one of the smaller services providers to land a prime spot on EIS, has reduced working hours for some of the hired hands it brought on to help with duties in support of the vehicle.
Young said that CenturyLink, one of the bigger vendors, is still hiring people to help with its EIS work.
Both companies are using the reduced activity as a result of the shutdown to bolster their offerings and hammer out specifics for responses to agencies. Gowen said MetTel is responding to task orders from agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board that are in operation.
Federal contractors across the board have told the Professional Services Council in the last few days that they are feeling the effects of the shutdown, said David Berteau, the organization's president and CEO.
Berteau said the effects of the shutdown on federal contractors are cumulative and accelerating during a Jan. 17 call with reporters.
"We've heard stories of no one home to answer questions on proposals" or respond to requests for clarification, said Berteau. Uncertainty about how contracts will proceed is a big issue and a very bad thing for companies, he said.
Small businesses, in particular, are in trouble. With revenue absent, some face staff reductions or worse, said Berteau. "This is an intolerable situation for anyone who does business with the government," he said.
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