GSA predicts smooth cutover to FTS 2001







The government’s telecommunications chiefs are predicting a smooth
transition from FTS 2000 services to new long-haul communications providers, despite
delays by many agencies in setting plans for new comm services.


“I’m very confident we’ll get through this in good shape,” Federal
Technology Services commissioner Dennis J. Fischer said last month.


Most civilian agencies now get their long-distance telephone and data transmission
services through extensions to the FTS 2000 contracts that expired in December. Unlike the
FTS 2000 contracts, the FTS 2001 contracts, awarded in December and January to Sprint
Corp. and MCI WorldCom Inc., are not mandatory. Even so, agencies must select new
providers because the FTS 2000 extensions are good for two years only.


To avoid complications during cutover to new services, deputy commissioner Sandra Bates
said FTS wants agencies to finish the selection process soon.


So far, only a handful of agencies have selected new providers. The Treasury Department
and Federal Election Commission are going with Sprint, and the Interior Department with
MCI WorldCom. The Veterans Affairs Department has selected Sprint for its data network but
will not make a decision on voice service for another three to six months.


Many agencies still have a lot of work to do before making a decision, said analyst
Warren H. Suss of Warren H. Suss Associates of Jenkintown, Pa.


Some agencies are “seriously behind the eight ball,” Suss said.


“They haven’t performed their baseline inventories; they haven’t
conducted trade-off assessments of their migration or upgrade options, and they
haven’t lined up their transition oversight services,” he said.


Bates agreed but said these delays are not fatal. Agencies are “in pretty good
shape,” he said. “I think they can adequately recover.”


The old contracts have been extended for up to two years to give agencies time to
handle the transition. But industry and government officials said some agencies seem to be
delaying because the extended contracts are available.


Agencies now using X.25 service from AT&T Corp. have an added impetus to switch
providers before year’s end: AT&T is discontinuing the service rather than ready
it for 2000.


VA made a quick decision on a vendor for its Integrated Data Communications Utility
because its current contract with Sprint and Science Applications International Corp. of
San Diego expires in May, VA CIO Harold F. Gracey said.


The decision to go with Sprint was based on future needs rather than replacing current
services, Gracey said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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