GSA vows to avoid FTS-2001 mistakes

Treasury, DHS poised for early transition to Networx

"Our challenge is to make sure there are no hold-ups. That's going to take a cooperative effort between the industry and government teams." Karl Krumbholz, GSA

Rick Steele

As agencies prepare for Networx, the General Services Administration's latest governmentwide acquisition contract for telecommunications services, the Treasury and Homeland Security departments appear ready to lead the way.

Karl Krumbholz, GSA's Networx program manager, told GCN at the Networx summit last week in Reston, Va., that Treasury and DHS have expressed the most initial interest in moving to the replacement for the existing Federal Telecommunications Systems 2001 GWAC.

'As far as we know, those are the first two,' Krumbholz said.

GSA officials said the 10-year, $20 billion Networx contracts still are on schedule to be awarded in March ' for Universal ' and in May ' for Enterprise.

In a memorandum of agreement signed in December, GSA agreed to give Treasury the ability to place orders within 30 days of GSA awarding Networx.

The MOA was part of GSA's effort to get Treasury to stop pursuing its own separate telecommunications contract, the controversial Treasury Communications Enterprise. A day after the MOA was signed, Treasury agreed to drop the TCE contract.

Similarly, DHS also has said that it intends to place orders within a month of the Networx contract award, Krumbholz said. He was not aware of any other agency looking to joining Treasury and DHS in taking the lead on orders.

'Most of the agencies, in their participation in the transition working group, have said they want to wait for both contracts so they can compare and contrast both Enterprise and Universal, and make their decisions based on all of the information,' Krumbholz said.

GSA is making a special effort not to repeat the mistakes of Networx's predecessor, FTS-2001, officials said. The initial implementation of that contract resulted in many delays, some taking up to two years to resolve, according to Mark Provus, an integrated-technology specialist at GSA.

'I think we're on the verge of a great Networx contract start-up,' Provus said.

As part of this effort, GSA will test and certify a vendor's critical functions before service orders can be processed. GSA will include functions such as billing, inventory and security in the testing.

The agency will set up a 'testing status' Web site by March, so agencies and contractors can keep abreast of results.

The security testing alone could take three to five months, given the extensive federal requirements in that area, officials said. Vendors will have to provide information on system boundaries, types of applications and number of servers, among other things.

Challenges ahead

Ensuring that all this testing and certification goes smoothly will be no small feat, officials said. 'Our challenge is to make sure there are no hold-ups. That's going to take a cooperative effort between the industry and government teams,' Krumbholz said.

GSA also will open a Transition Coordination Center by March to help resolve potential problems.

Jack Braun, GSA's Networx contracting officer, cautioned agencies not to expect one-size-fits-all models. 'We can't do everything that's going to give you one-stop shopping,' he said. 'There's too much variety among the agencies.'


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