State Of The Transition

Accelerating the Networx Transition
State Of The Transition

By Beth Aluise

So with all of the advantages and benefits the Networx contract provides to federal agencies, why are they still struggling to make the transition? As Karl Krumbholz, deputy assistant commissioner of network services at GSA and Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, CIO, Department of the Interior told an Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) panel last November, “transition is difficult and complex”.

In their presentation, Krumbholz and Bhagowalia pointed out that the Networx transition has been delayed by the overall growth and increased complexity of network services, the need for statements of work (SOWs), and the ability for industry to protest task orders.  Other factors include higher agency priorities, turnover within agencies, the lack of technical resources and the burden of SOWs on vendors.

“There’s literally thousands of connections to FTS2001 and they’re all operated in a very decentralized manner for many agencies,” INPUT’s Kevin Plexico told 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media.  “So it’s very difficult – particularly for a larger agency – to orchestrate the resources and changes that are necessary across the organization to move them to the Networx contract.” 

There is also an overhead cost associated with making sure that an entire agency is on the same page and transitioning in a cohesive manner. “I think that’s where the challenge came in and the complexity many agencies face in moving over,” he said.

Pressing Deadlines
But despite the complexity of the task of transitioning to Networx, one thing is certain: agencies will have to find a way to get it done.  After all, the last FTS2001 bridge contract will expire on June 30, 2011. 

“It’s absolutely mandatory that we get it done on schedule; it’s an unacceptable alternative not to get it done,” Krumbholz said in an interview with Washington Technology last December.  “The phones will only not go dead as long as we maintain a contract. Without it, we can’t even pay bills, and I don’t think carriers are going to just provide free service.”

Whether or not there are alternatives to transitioning to Networx - contractual or otherwise - is not a thought GSA and Krumbholz are entertaining at the present time. “Look at the challenges we’ve had,” he said.  “These are difficult things we’ve been working on, but nevertheless, that’s the bottom line. We’ve got to get it done. It’s hard, we know, but it’s one of those things. All transitions are difficult.”

Since GSA extended the original September 30, 2008 filing deadline to August 31, 2010, where exactly does the transition stand now?  As of Feb. 28, 2010, GSA’s numbers are as follows: of the 136 SOW orders required to be submitted to GSA by the new deadline, 39 percent are awarded, 31 percent are in progress, and 30 percent are expected. Of the 376 Fair Opportunity (FO) Decisions required to select a vendor, 54 percent are awarded and 46 percent are expected.

Of the 5,089,059 services that first must be disconnected from the FTS2001 contract before connecting to Networx, 41.9 percent have been disconnected, leaving 58.1 percent of services still to be disconnected from the FTS2001 contract.  Those percentages are far from uniform among the various federal agencies, the GSA data revealed.  Leading the pack with the highest percentage of completed disconnections is the Department of Energy (84 percent), followed closely by the Department of Transportation (77 percent) and the Social Security Administration (72 percent). 

Based on those numbers, the agencies with the lowest percentage of completed FTS2001 disconnections include USDA (5 percent), HHS (6 percent) and Judiciary (11 percent).  One thing is certain: continued pressure from GSA and from Congress over the transition will drive senior leadership within agencies to turn up the heat on the operations personnel.

“That’s probably going to have agencies moving as fast as anything,” Plexico said. “Given that they don’t necessarily have a lot of additional money to make the transition, political pressure and pressure from their leadership is obviously the key to getting people over the hump.”