Agencies Face Tight Deadline in Move From Networx to EIS
The eventual success of the GSA’s EIS contract will depend on how fast agencies transition from using Networx, with which they are now familiar, to the new telecom and IT infrastructure vehicle.
Lessons learned from the earlier switch to Networx from FTS2001 show how difficult that could be. Agencies were initially confused over which contract to use because the two were offering similar technology and services. They were also confused by the split between Networx Universal and Enterprise vehicles, and by the overall complexity of Networx compared to FTS2001.
These and other things meant agencies didn’t complete a full transition to Networx until April 2013 — some 33 months later than expected, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It cost a total in agency transition budgets of nearly $400 million, as well as causing them to miss out on potential Networx price savings and earlier adoption of better technology.
In a September 2017 report to Congress, the GAO said GSA had still not applied the full list of lessons learned, with only around half of these addressed in transition guidance released by the GSA to federal agencies. By not including all lessons learned in its plans and guidance to agencies, GAO said, GSA limits agencies’ ability to plan for actions that will need to be taken later in the transition.
GSA agreed with the GAO’s finding and said it would disseminate the missing lessons learned to agencies. In a briefing earlier in 2017, Bill Zelinski, deputy assistant commissioner at the Federal Acquisition Service, described three major lessons he said had been learned from the Networx transition:
- Make sure the vendors on EIS are ready as early as possible to begin providing services through the contract.
- Have both the GSA and agencies budget appropriately for the transition, including for those not directly involved in the transition, such as for new technology they’ll receive through EIS.
- Agencies must make sure they have an accurate inventory of services needed before the transition starts.
The difference between the experience with EIS and Networx is that discussion with agencies started some time ago, Zelinski said, with all agencies providing transition plans well before the contract awards were made. These were “good starting points,” he said.
The full list of lessons learned were published on GSA's EIS Site.
As of the end of FY 2017, the GSA reported that just four small agencies had completely transitioned from expiring network contracts. In a survey of 18 large- and 25 medium-sized agencies, it found that none had released Fair Opportunity (FO) solicitations for EIS contractors, though a number were projected to do so. The Defense Department had by far the largest number of projected releases, at 447.
EIS has fairly hard deadlines for when agencies need to have moved from Networx. They are expected to start awarding task orders by October 2018, and to have achieved at least 50 percent of their transition of services by June 2019. A full transition is expected by the planned March-May 2020 end of the Networx transition.
There is a one-year “continuity of service option” for Networx contracts built into the timeline after that 2020 deadline, to March 2021. But the GSA warns agencies to be cautious about how they consider this, as it’s for already-expired contracts only. Once the period ends, the GSA said, “there is no opportunity to extend the contract or services.”