Though some agencies will not meet the General Services Administration’s Sept. 30 deadline to award task orders for the massive Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract, they’re making progress and GSA does not anticipate extending any of the other related deadlines, Director of GSA’s Office of Telecommunication Services Allen Hill said Wednesday.
“I’ll say this—it is extremely important to be deliberate in the beginning. There’s a lot of mission needs that agencies have and they are complex,” Hill said at an event hosted by ACT-IAC in Washington. “And it’s easy for an outsider to look at things and say, ‘Why isn’t it going faster?’ But we have a responsibility to the American public to not only modernize but to not break our services that we provide to the public.”
GSA rolled out the $50 billion next-generation contract vehicle for network and telecom services in 2017 to promote modernization and support governmentwide procurement of everything from phone and internet lines, to voice over IP and other emerging technologies. Nine vendors were deemed capable of doing the work, but so far only three have received the required security certifications to begin the real business. And while the contract is meant to replace other large contract vehicles, including Networx and WITS-3, the transition has been challenging.
The most recent report from GSA revealed that as of late June, only 23 out of an expected 127 solicitations were released.
Offering an update to attendees, Hill said to date there’s now 54 solicitations that have passed the public scope of review and four public awards have been made: two from the Justice Department, one from the Railroad Retirement Board and one from NASA.
“Of the solicitations that passed the scope of review, there’s a lot of opportunity for the industry and all nine vendors to capitalize on and compete those things and provide the best value back to those agencies,” Hill said. “And so I would say that I think it’s going to get really exciting here within the next couple of months.”
At EIS launch, GSA set a variety of milestone deadlines including a Sept. 30 deadline for all agencies to have solicitations awarded, a March 2020 deadline for when GSA will begin limiting agencies’ use of extended contracts if they have not made task order awards and that 90 percent of agencies’ telecom inventory must be moved off current contracts to EIS by March 31, 2022.
Hill said that GSA recognizes that some agencies will not be able to meet the Sept. 30 deadline. For example, he was recently in conversation with executives at one agency who had to redo a solicitation because modernization was not baked in from the beginning. But he said doing so is worth it to make sure they all get this just right.
“Even though the Sept. 30 date may pass for some agencies, it’s more of a yellow light type thing for folks who really need to turn it up a little more in these next few months and get things out there,” Hill said. “And agencies are responding, they really are. They are buckling down.”
GSA also originally set the date for current telecommunications contracts to expire by May 2020, but the agency later opted to extend those contracts through May 2023. Hill said the agency is not planning for any future deadline extensions.
“Deadlines dont change. They are there because we have mandates that we have to meet and so those dates don’t change,” Hill said. “We have been working very closely to understand where the agencies are and I don’t think they are going to miss any of the other dates, they are really applying all the resources and they’re working as hard as they can.”
And of the nine chosen vendors, so far Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink are the first three to meet the security thresholds and gain authorities to operate. Hill said the agency is in constant communication with the companies that are working to reach that status and that several are on board to receive ATOs within the next month, while the rest should over the course of the next two.
“They are making great progress,” Hill said.