USDA says it won’t make EIS deadline; HUD says ‘it will be close’

Concerns about whether agencies will be able to make the 2020 transition deadline for the Enterprise Infrastructures Solutions (EIS) contract have been swirling for some time. Now the Agriculture Department is weighing in, saying it won’t make the deadline. Meanwhile, the Housing and Urban Development Department says it’s going to be close, and is preparing for the worst.

“We’ve been very candid with industry, with GSA from the beginning on what it takes to move an organization like USDA with 14 unique infrastructures down to a single managed network infrastructure,” USDA Director of Enterprise Network Services John Donovan said at an Oct. 25 ITPA event. “We’re going to be late. It would be an unreasonable, I would call it an impossible specification to ask industry to transition us when the network vehicles expire in March and May of 2020.”

The General Services Administration released the solicitation for the 15-year, $50 billion EIS in October 2016. In the 251-page statement of work, GSA details four mandatory services: virtual private network service, Ethernet transport service, voice and managed network service. GSA says all other offerings are optional, and it recognizes the changing nature of technological and user requirements and encourages vendors to incorporate upgrades and innovations into their offerings.

But multiple chief information officers have said that the timeframe just wasn’t realistic, and even GSA itself said that deadline extensions are on the table.

HUD’s Principal Deputy CIO Kevin Cooke said the department is concerned about the timing.

“I think the issue, again, is the end of the current vehicle,” Cooke said. “It’s going to be close for us, based on the time available. We’re already having that discussion on what would happen if we have not fully transitioned everything and we come to the end of the current vehicle. It will be close.”

That said, both departments are pushing forward. Both Donovan and Cooke said they are finalizing requests for proposals, and will have them out next month.

“Here’s how it’s going to go down at USDA. I am the throat to choke for the success or failure of our transition,” Donovan said. “We have been very clear in our timelines, we have been very clear to industry that we recognize that we’re not going to make the deadline. We can’t modernize the infrastructure that we have in the time left. We recognize that. We are going to crest forward. The solicitation will go out, the solicitation will be awarded. We will work with our industry partners to transform and transition, and we will have to see what happens. We have invested too much time and very good work on behalf of the USDA CIO council.”

Concerns about whether agencies could meet GSA’s EIS deadline originally arose from past experience. In 2014, GAO found the transition to Networx took 33 months longer than expected and cost the government an extra $395 million.

But GSA and the White House see the transition to the next-generation governmentwide telecoms contract as a major milestone in the Trump administration’s broader IT modernization agenda.

The president’s 2017 IT modernization report, for example, mentions the EIS transition more than 20 times. This year’s President’s Management Agenda identifies IT modernization as one of three “drivers of transformation” in government aimed to continue well beyond the current administration.

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