FTS 2001 bid deadline slips 2 months as vendors squawk

Once again, the General Services Administration's $5 billion FTS 2001 procurement is
facing delays as the agency continues to iron out disagreements with vendors over the
requirements.


In its most recent move, GSA extended the bid deadline. Proposals are now due Sept. 29
instead of July 31.


Federal Telecommunications Service commissioner Robert J. Woods said the postponement
was necessary because "all the likely players have asked for extensions in one form
or another."


Like its predecessor, the follow-on procurement to FTS 2000 is proving protracted.
GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service issued its first post FTS 2000 draft request for
proposals in August 1995. The final RFP was released May 2 but continues to draw
objections from vendors.


Jim Payne, an assistant vice president for Sprint Corp., said certain specifications in
the FTS 2001 RFP do not meet federal requirements for using best commercial practices.


Woods' office plans to award up to six long-distance contracts for FTS 2001, each with
a four-year base period and four one-year option periods. But Woods is fighting the clock
to get them in place before extensions to the FTS 2000 contracts, held by AT&T Corp.
and Sprint, expire in mid-1999.


"We are tight," Woods said. "But if you're going to do it, you've got to
do it right."


A June 11 letter to GSA administrator David Barram from Gary D. Forsee, president of
Sprint's long-distance division, called the RFP "flawed in several respects." He
said if certain provisions are not changed or deleted, they "will make it extremely
difficult for any carrier to bid."


One potential deal-breaker is the requirement that carriers live up to business and
services decisions mandated by the government, which Forsee called intrusive and not a
commercial practice.


"The government cannot be given contractual authority to make business decisions
for the contractor," he wrote to Barram. "This provision has no parallel in
commercial practice and must be deleted."


Sprint also expressed concern about an evaluation process that requires bidders to
undergo multiple bidding rounds for portions of the contracts until GSA declares a winner.


"The RFP requires approximately 240 reports at various intervals from carriers,
which is not only onerous but surely will be expensive for the government," Forsee's
letter also said.


Payne said FTS' requirement for a 97 percent completion rate on all calls is
considerably higher than the telecommunications industry's current 93 percent rate.


Despite the complaints, Woods said he does not expect any problems in working out the
differences.


One issue that should be easy to resolve is billing, he added. Some bidders want direct
agency billing to be optional rather than part of the overall price.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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