The government’s transition to the Networx telecommunications contract has been five years in the making.
During that time, the General Services Administration has politely asked, sternly demanded, enticed and did everything else in between to get agencies to move off the old FTS-2001 contract and on to Networx.
Even now, with 96.4 percent of all transitions either done or in progress, GSA still may have to extend FTS-2001 for up to another nine months to March 2013.
“We have about 100 agencies that have some service on the old FTS-2001 bridge contract,” said Frank Tiller, the acting director of Networks Service Programs within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Integrated Technology Services, in an interview with Federal News Radio. “We are approaching the period between May and June of this year where the bridge contracts will end, and we are rapidly having two or three agencies conclude their transitions each week. We may be down to 20, maybe 12-to-15, that are active on FTS 2001 by the end of the bridge period.”
Tiller said GSA recently issued a bulletin to agencies telling them under what circumstances they could have more time to transition.
“We have some emergency periods that we can implement that will give them a little more time,” he said. “We are able to name agencies that will move into this emergency period. If they are having difficulty transitioning some of their services or completing orders or whatever their individual issue is, and we are aware of how we can help them, we can give them nine more months. And we even have a very limited, there may be, depending on how circumstances work out, one or two agencies that may need a little additional help. And we are able, if they do a sole source justification, to award a very temporary task order on [FTS-2001] that would give them a little more time to get things done.”
A fourth extension?
The decision to let even a handful of agencies potentially continue under the FTS 2001 contract would be at least the fourth extension GSA has given lagging agencies.
Among the 20 agencies which still must award Networx contracts are:
Federal Communications Commission for a wide area network;
Social Security Administration for data services
GSA for Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS)
National Labor Relations Board for MTIPS
“Sometimes a protest has taken place or their requirements have changed,” said Tiller explaining why there still are outstanding task orders at this stage of the transition. “Some of these fair opportunities are pretty small, minor services. It’s really in the stage of getting the orders done, getting them turned on and actually removing the services from the old contract. We’ve seen a steady 6-to-8 percent growth.”
While GSA is trying to get the remaining stragglers to finish moving to Networx, the agency is planning both the follow on to the contract and new services under MTIPS.
Tiller said the Homeland Security Department is developing Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 2.0 standards. He said the four vendors providing MTIPS should implement the new requirements this summer.
“TIC 2.0 standards are not radically different,” he said. “It’s an update with what people are asking for. Probably the big capability is making sure it can filter IPv6 traffic the government will be using.”
So far, 45 agencies have transitioned to an MTIPS provider through GSA. Agencies had until Jan. 31 to implement a TIC. Repeated requests to DHS asking about agency progress were not returned.
Tiller said GSA also is trying to make the contract easier to use and offer more services. He said his office recently added telepresence. In the future, GSA could add cloud-based shared services as well.
Meanwhile, GSA is developing the strategy for the possible follow on to Networx, called Networks 2020.
Tiller said the initiative is a “top to bottom scrub” of the entire telecommunications contracting process.
“We are looking at not just this particular contract, but our whole portfolio,” he said. “How we do our regional business as well as other contracts we have, such as satellite, wireless and hardware.”
Tiller said GSA talked to their customers about their experiences, what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved in the future.
“We will probably put an action plan together that will bring to life the strategy,” he said. “We are hoping to do a mini-conference in the July time frame. We will be socializing the plan in the spring with our customers and other stakeholders and we also want to share what our potential objectives are and get confirmation that will make the process and portfolio better.”