Agencies are entering a critical time for telecom transitions as March deadline to limit activity on an expiring contract vehicle approaches.
The nine vendors for the General Services Administration's $25 billion, 15-year, next-generation telecommunications contract expect to see the long-expected flood of agency contracts in the coming three months, as a critical deadline draws near next spring.
In just over three months, the GSA plans to begin limiting the use of its old telecommunications workhorse contracts, such as Networx, to agencies that haven't issued task order for its Enterprise Infrastructure Solution (EIS) contract.
"It's a key moment for EIS," said Laura Stanton, deputy assistant commissioner, Category Management, at GSA during a Nov. 19 EIS conference at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters. "GSA remains focused on getting those [agency EIS] awards done by March 31, 2020" to ensure agencies can focus on moving their operations to EIS in the remaining three years GSA's current telecom contracts — Networx and local service agreements, she said.
Representatives from all nine EIS vendors said they're preparing for agencies to push out solicitations, awards and task orders in the coming months.
"The floodgates are beginning to open," said Matthew Scelza, EIS program director at CenturyLink, in a panel discussion at the event.
"We had expected it," Andrea Cohen, VP, civilian sector at Verizon, said on the same panel.
"We call it a 'pig-in-a-python,'" with a sudden bulge of contracts and solicitations that need processing, said Jason Tolbert, assistant vice president, solutions and operations, at AT&T. The company, he said, has been planning on the surge for months.
Some industry officials at the conference speculated there could potentially be over 100 solicitations and a dozen contract awards before the March deadline. Each requires substantial commitments to process and fulfill.
Carriers and federal agencies have said similar things before about a looming mass of task orders and solicitations. That mass, however, has been slow to materialize. Last December, GSA pushed the deadline for the expiration of Networx for three more years to give agencies until 2023 to deal with the transition.
This past summer, Allen Hill, director of the Office of Telecommunications Services in GSA's Federal Acquisition Services, eased up on a September deadline for agencies to award task orders. He said the Sept. 30 deadline for agencies to award EIS contract was a "yellow light" for agencies that hadn't. Then only three agencies had awarded contracts -- the Department of Justice, NASA and the Railroad Retirement Board.
Since then, things have picked up.
In late September, The Social Security Administration and the IRS issued big orders for data and telecommunications services under the GSA vehicle just days before the deadline. The Small Business Administration also awarded its EIS contract in September.
Both vendor and agency officials told FCW during the event that they're not expecting another extension for transition to EIS, even if some agencies haven't issued contracts or solicitations.
Correction: This article has been updated to indicate that the General Services Administration hoping for agency EIS contracts to be awarded by March 31, 2020. The article previously stated that date was March 3, 2020.
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