GSA gives agencies drop-dead date for Networx transition

Agencies now have until Aug. 30 to hire a telecommunications provider. GSA and the carriers still are concerned that they will not have enough time to complete ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor

The General Services Administration is giving agencies four extra months to transition to the Networx telecommunications contract.

GSA has set Aug. 30, 2010 as the new and final drop-dead-date for agencies to hire one of five vendors and begin moving their voice, video and data services from the FTS 2001 contract to Networx.

“We will not make the January or April deadlines so we’ve decided to move them both back to Aug. 30,” says Karl Krumbholz, GSA’s director of the Office of Network Services Program in the Federal Acquisition Service. “Our carriers told us even as of the April deadline was causing them concern over whether or not they could actually transition orders in that length of time. So it’s problematic even August to the extent they would get all the work done.”

Agencies had to tell GSA by January if they needed parallel operations during their transition between the two contracts. And then departments had until April to make their award decisions in order to receive money from GSA for their transition costs.

Krumbholz, who spoke on a panel during a lunch sponsored by AFFIRM in Washington, says agencies requested the extra four months and GSA, working with the reinvigorated Interagency Management Council (IMC), decided on the extension through August for both deadlines.

The IMC Open is an advisory group of senior executives that help with the development, coordination and oversight of telecommunications programs.

GSA and the Chief Information Officer’s Council over the summer breathed new life in it with a hope that the IMC could bring more focus and urgency to the Networx transition.

Krumbholz says the government is losing $18 million a month on telecommunications services that are not under Networx.

One of the first ways the IMC is adding that sense of urgency is through metrics. Sanjeev Bhagowalia, the Interior Department CIO and chairman of the council, says the IMC presented a draft set of measures to the CIO Council Wednesday with the idea of tracking agencies monthly on their progress.

Bhagowalia couldn’t offer too many specifics on the metrics, but did say all of the information would be fed into an online dashboard.

“How do we make sure all CIOs are looking at metrics and measures and how do we make sure this gets done,” he says. “We also are seeking executive commitment that comes from the top to make this happen without it being mandatory.”

Bhagowalia says the IMC has come up with several metrics that describe where each agency is in the transition process.

“It’s normalized across all the agencies so we can look at the magnitude issue,” he says. “Currently it’s an internal dashboard of metrics. At some point, depending on the direction we get from the CIO Council, maybe it will become a public dashboard.”

Bhagowalia says it’s important for agencies to see that the metrics are fair and comparisons are made equally.

“We look at lagging indicators too often and we need to look at leading ones,” he says. “There is a lot of coordination that needs to happen still.”

Krumbholz says there are 20 months left for agencies to make the transition, and there only 33 percent of all services have been disconnected from FTS 2001 and about half of all agencies still need to award a contract to a provider.

The IMC and GSA also are considering a Networx industry day for both agencies and vendors. Krumbholz says to the goal is to bring senior executives together from all disciplines-finance, acquisition, technology and program management-to understand the transition goals and help influence the process.

Bhagowalia says such an event also would help promote best practices and encourage agencies to share problems more readily.

No date has been set yet, but he says it is a priority.

“We are contemplating the other fact of how we engage more with the public,” he says. “The idea is to get some ideas to move this along.”

Krumbholz also says the four vendors providing services under the Trusted Internet Connections initiative should finish building out their capabilities by the end of this year. GSA then will certify and accredit the facilities in early 2010.

GSA also is on track to issue two draft requests for proposals in the coming months; one for its new satellite services contract it’s working with the Defense Information Systems Agency on, and the other for its Connections 2 contract.

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