Changes delay GSA's Networx RFPs

Pressure from Congress and vendors persuaded the General Services Administration to consider more changes to its multibillion-dollar Networx data and telecommunications procurement.

GSA officials said late last month that they are modifying requirements for billing, reporting and verification of operational support systems.

The changes will delay the release of the final requests for proposals until the first week of May instead of early this month, said John C. Johnson, assistant commissioner for service development and delivery for GSA's Federal Technology Service. Vendors will have until early August to submit bids instead of the original July deadline.

The change of heart follows agency officials telling lawmakers recently that the 2,500 comments received in response to draft RFPs would result in no major changes to the final RFPs. GSA officials said vendor and agency comments did not raise any major concerns about the agency's buying approach.

The Networx procurement is estimated to be worth between $10 billion and $20 billion. GSA plans to issue two RFPs.

The first, the Universal RFP, will cover a broad range of telecom services needed at all government locations nationwide.

The second, the Enterprise RFP, will cover a mix of specialized IP and wireless services available in specific geographical areas. GSA said it plans to award both contracts next April.

'We've adopted about 40 percent of the comments, and we think we've made significant changes to the Networx RFP,' Johnson said at a press briefing late last month. He said the responses to lawmakers at the House Government Reform Committee hearing early last month were preliminary and drafted far earlier.

Johnson also said GSA hoped the delay of the RFPs would not affect the transition period to Networx from the current FTS 2001 contracts, which expire next year.

A Government Reform spokesman reacted to GSA's changes with optimism.

'We're glad to see that GSA is taking advantage of the wealth of information that has been made available to it throughout the comment and discussion process and through the Government Reform hearings,' spokesman Drew Crockett said. 'It is crucial for GSA to design and implement this program properly. It is more important for GSA to do this right than to do it on schedule. Timeliness is important; doing it right is imperative.'

Slimming down
Johnson said GSA has been working with industry and agencies to rework the RFPs. The changes will reduce:
  • The requirements for plans, reports and data to a minimum number to evaluate proposals, track contractor performance and manage the contracts

  • Billing elements to 119 from the 513 in the draft request for information

  • Metrics and reports to 103 from 165

  • Requirements for operational support systems verification, which support the transition process.

The billing elements and reports demanded by GSA have been major sticking points for vendors. Johnson said the changes should help alleviate these concerns.

'Of the 119 billing elements, 97 are commercial standards and only 22 are government-unique,' Johnson said.

He added that of the 103 reports, 13 are due when the vendors submit their proposals, 12 are for agencies, 23 would be triggered when the winning vendors make changes in the infrastructure and 33 are due each time the Networx vendors receive a task order.

Washington Technology staff writer Roseanne Gerin contributed to this article.

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