Revisions again delay FTS 2001 bid deadline

The moving target that has become the bid deadline for FTS 2001 proposals just jumped
again by 30 days.


General Services Administration officials said they will make a major revision this
fall to the request for proposals for the long-haul telecommunications contracts.


The already delayed bid deadline will move to Oct. 29, officials in GSA's Federal
Telecommunications Service said.


FTS had already extended the bid deadline from July 31 to Sept. 29, after potential
bidders complained that the RFP released last May did not meet federal requirements for
structuring procurements according to best commercial practices.


"The government anticipates release of a significant amendment to the FTS 2001 RFP
in October and will reopen the question period at that time," the Federal
Telecommunications Service said Aug. 18.


FTS plans to award up to six FTS 2001 long-distance contracts, each with a four-year
base period and four one-year options. The estimated total value is $5 billion.


Timing has grown critical because it will take GSA about 18 months to award and
implement the multiple contracts. The final extensions to the FTS 2000 contracts held by
AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp. expire in mid-1999.


"On the one hand, we're not happy about the delay," said Rick Slifer,
director of FTS programs for MCI Communications Corp., a probable bidder. "But it is
very important for the RFP to represent commercial practices, since the government is
insistent about getting the best price."


FTS officials held one-on-one meetings in July and August with representatives of
AT&T, Sprint and MCI to discuss concerns. Industry and government spokesmen have said
there was a general consensus about the RFP's problems.


The meetings also included discussions on government-specific products and services,
performance standards, billing and reporting requirements, and interoperability.


FTS deputy commissioner John S. Okay said the FTS 2001 contracts will be awarded before
the FTS 2000 contracts expire.


But the delays "will make it more difficult for GSA and agencies to make the
transition," he said.


Opinions elsewhere differ as to whether agencies can switch to the new contracts before
the old ones expire, said Jay Nelson, FTS program manager for GTE Corp.


"Some say it's not going to happen," Nelson said. "Other people believe
that if you build a big enough fire under the government, you can get it done. The delay
has squashed the timing right down to the line."


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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