GSA will field new services initiatives
- By Jason Miller
- Jul 02, 2003
John Johnson, government taste tester
To describe his work at the General Services Administration, the Federal Technology Service's John Johnson likes this saying: 'I get to eat my own dog food.'
By spearheading service development and delivery at FTS, Johnson leads decisions regarding the service's offerings and then must deliver on those choices to federal customers.
Johnson, assistant commissioner for service development and acting assistant commissioner for service delivery, has been with GSA since 2000.
He has spent most of his public service career with the Defense Department.
Johnson led DOD's transition to GSA's FTS 2001 contract for telecommunications services. He also helped lead the Defense Information Systems Agency's strategy analysis team that worked on the departmentwide Defense Information Systems Network and was deputy program manager for DISN.
GCN staff writer Jason Miller interviewed Johnson at FTS' offices in Fairfax, Va. GCN: How does your office's operation relate to the mission of the General Services Administration and its Federal Technology Service?
JOHNSON: There are four things we primarily do.
We provide direct agency support of program management and solutions development.
We also provide contract service modifications, which include technical and administrative modifications to meet ongoing customer needs.
We have product development activities, which include the development of new services and technologies to meet unanswered or anticipated needs. We look at what customers may want or desire based on current trends or policies.
Contract refreshment is the fourth area. This includes development of new contracts to replace expiring network services contracts and answer new service requirements.GCN: What new contracts are you developing?
JOHNSON: Right now we are working on a contract vehicle called Networx, which will replace FTS 2001. We also have some other activities in the early stages of concept design.
One is enhancing our federal wireless contract, which expires next year. We are trying to determine if we should go out with another one or incorporate it into another existing vehicle.
We also are looking at establishing an e-government contract that would help agencies get any e-government support they require.GCN: What is the status of Networx? What kind of feedback have agencies given you on their needs?
JOHNSON: We are looking at Networx, and our intent is to share our strategy with industry this summer. Some of the initial dialogue may occur in the next few months in terms of asking industry about their views about the follow-on to FTS 2001.
We've also had three or four meetings with members of the Interagency Management Council, which is our advisory council for FTS 2001 and network services contracts, to discuss the acquisition and requirements. We intend to communicate with the CIO Council on the FTS 2001 initiative, and right now we are in the process of establishing some working groups on acquisition strategy, transition planning and other elements of the program.GCN: What's the status of a new wireless deal?
JOHNSON: We are in the strategy development phase.
If you look at the current wireless contract, the question we are looking at is whether we are positioned to meet the needs of our federal customers, given their desires for greater mobility and ubiquitous access.
But we also want to make sure the technologies they seek are available.
When I think about wireless, I think about two categories: One is what we generally consider wireless such as cell phones, pagers, mobile computing and 802.11 wireless technologies. The second includes some satellite connectivity, and we don't have the access we would like to have in all the areas.
The satellite area and our wireless contracts are growing at a significant rate, and I see that type of technology being something we need to pay close attention to'how we are going to embrace it in the future.GCN: What are the biggest challenges agencies face in using wireless?
JOHNSON: Without a doubt, security is the biggest challenge. Certainly we've made some progress in the past couple of years, but it is of increasing concern for everyone who uses the technology.
The folks who worked on our new security offerings are looking at the technologies that could be used to provide secure wireless services.
We have talked about providing wireless vulnerability assessments to agencies, searching for vulnerable wireless networks. But I'm not sure all customers would appreciate that as a service, and we are not sure if we want to pursue it yet.GCN: What was your office's role in developing FTS' new cybersecurity offerings, and what were some the challenges?
JOHNSON: We attempted to identify four categories of security services that are relevant to our customers' needs. We defined clearly the different types of capabilities that may be needed to secure the information.
What we are attempting to do with our Multitiered Security Profile Program is not offer new technology, but to package services in a manner that is easy for customers to understand so that they basically know what they are getting when they ask for it.
We recently modified three of our vendor contracts under FTS 2001 and the Metropolitan Area Acquisitions to accommodate the MTSP offerings. We have four other vendor contracts in the queue to be modified.
While I don't know if MTSP is perfect, I would like to see someone adopt this approach and build from it.
I would like to see, for example, the CIO Council look at MTSP as a standard that could be improved. Let's establish a common set of criteria and common definitions for how that requirement would be fulfilled. That was my idea when I was putting MTSP together.GCN: Have you had any conversations with the CIO Council?
JOHNSON: We are attempting to get on the council's agenda.
We have briefed the Office of Management and Budget, and talked with GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy.
There seems to be a great deal of customer interest in the program. We've had some orders placed for these services since we have modified the contracts'some in support of the Homeland Security Department.GCN: How is your office helping NASA and other agencies move to integrated infrastructures, such as One NASA?
JOHNSON: We were asked some time ago to participate by former NASA CIO Paul Strassmann to help NASA integrate some disparate activities and to unify its services. We will take separate contracts and pull them together to eliminate duplicity and to create greater efficiency.
We have a joint approach. I have a person who is working with their contract service provider as well as NASA points of contact. We are not doing the entire enterprise but selected area elements.GCN: Is this a trend in government?
JOHNSON: I'm encouraged by our work with NASA. We are beginning to see a lot of that activity, where customers are looking at the separate infrastructures they have and seeing if they can pull these together to create greater technological and management efficiencies.GCN: What kind of work are you doing with Homeland Security?
JOHNSON: Our FTS 2001 contractors provide telecommunications and IT support for all DHS agencies.
At the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an FTS vendor installed backbone circuits to link components that make up DHS.
Also at Customs, a contractor is migrating a 900-plus node network to FTS 2001.
The network will have a new element of managed network services. Customs also is implementing elements of MTSP into its network.