DorobekInsider: Lieberman, Collins want Networx delay answers

Everybody pretty much saw this coming — with so many agencies… is dragging their feet too strong… how about — having failed to transition to the Networx telecommunications contract, Sens. Lieberman and Collins of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have asked the Office of Management and Budget why… and what they’re doing about it.

Essentially, they are asking for answers to three questions:

1. What action s has OMB taken to assist the transition to Networx?
2. Why have agencies delayed the transition from FTS200 I to Networx?
3. What remedial actions can agency managers take to ensure transition activities are taken before the current contracts expire?

The full letter is posted below.

Advertisement

I mentioned that I got to moderate an AFFIRM pannel billed as Voice of the Customer: GSA, Networx Transition, & Beyond. We had a great group:

Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, CIO, Interior Department (bio);
Karl Krumbholz, Director, Network Services Programs, GSA Integrated Technology Solutions (bio)
Michael Brown, Executive Director, IT Services Office, Homeland Security Department (bio);
Mike Ponti, Director, Strategic Resources Planning, ASD/NII, Defense Department (bio)
Bhagowalia and Krumbholz focused on the strategic issues of the transition, while Brown and Ponti focused on the tactical issues — what are the challenges to making this happen.

Bhagowalia and Krumbholz gave a lot of information about how the CIO Council and GSA are really working with agencies to urge… push… cajole… encourage agencies to move from FTS 2001 to Networx.

You can see the PowerPoint slides here:

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller was at the session and you can read and hear his report here:

The General Services Administration is giving agencies four extra months to transition to the Networx telecommunications contract.

GSA has set Aug. 30, 2010 as the new and final drop-dead-date for agencies to hire one of five vendors and begin moving their voice, video and data services from the FTS 2001 contract to Networx.

“We will not make the January or April deadlines so we’ve decided to move them both back to Aug. 30,” says Karl Krumbholz, GSA’s director of the Office of Network Services Program in the Federal Acquisition Service. “Our carriers told us even as of the April deadline was causing them concern over whether or not they could actually transition orders in that length of time. So it’s problematic even August to the extent they would get all the work done.”

Agencies had to tell GSA by January if they needed parallel operations during their transition between the two contracts. And then departments had until April to make their award decisions in order to receive money from GSA for their transition costs.

Here is the story from NextGov:

GSA pushes back Networx deadlines
By Gautham Nagesh 11/19/2009

The General Services Administration has extended two intermediate deadlines for agencies switching to the Networx telecommunications contract, but an observer said it remains unlikely that they will finish the move by June 2011, when services under the previous arrangement will expire.

GSA is giving agencies until August 2010 to pick a Networx vendor and begin changing services, said Karl Krumbholz, director of the network services program at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. Originally they had until January 2010 to request funding and until April 2010 to submit their orders. The extension comes in response to a request from the Interagency Management Council steering committee, chaired by Interior Department Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia.

Read the full story here.
Meanwhile, here is the release from Lieberman and Collins:

LIEBERMAN, COLLINS SAY STRONGER LEADERSHIP NEEDED FOR TELECOMMUNICATIONS SWITCH
Agency Transition Delays Cost Taxpayers $18 Million Per Month

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday pushed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to exert stronger leadership in federal agencies’ transitions to new telecommunications services.

The new services, provided by contracts under the General Services Administration’s Networx program, are expected to save the federal government millions of dollars but instead are costing taxpayers money as agencies delay transitioning to the new system. Networx will provide telephone, network and cyber security services to agencies.

A letter to OMB outlining the Senators’ concerns follows:

The Honorable Jeffrey D. Zients
Deputy Director of Management and Chief Performance Officer
Office of Management and Budget
7257′” Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Deputy Director Zients:

The General Services Administration (GSA) telecommunications contracts provide basic telephone, network services, and information technology services to federal agencies. These contracts are very important for ensuring that agencies have the telecommunications abilities to perform their missions and efficiently manage taxpayer dollars. As you are aware, GSA’s existing telecommunications program, known as FTS2001, is the successor to a line of programs that have provided telecommunications to the federal government. FTS2001 is scheduled to expire in June 2010.

In 2007, GSA awarded contracts for a successor program, known as Networx, and has been working with more than 135 agencies to assist the transition of 50 types of services and thousands of voice and data circuits. As potentially the largest telecommunications service s transition ever undertaken by the federal government, this transition has experienced its own challenges. In particular, as of November 2009, GSA reported that nearly 96 percent of the savings projected by this transition have not been realized, and agencies have been slow to take appropriate steps to ensure a smooth transition.

During the previous transition to FTS2001, delays were encountered that resulted in raised telecommunications costs and an estimated savings lost of $74 million. We are concerned that the slow transition to Networx is a repeat of the past. Specifically, every month that agencies delay transitioning to the new program, an estimated $18 million of savings are lost.

We understand GSA has taken a number of steps to assist the transition to Networx and is working to ensure agencies have adequate information on the steps needed to transition before the FTS2001 contracts expire. However, we also believe that strong leadership from the Office of Management and Budget would be useful in speeding the transition.

In addition to the cost-savings, we also believe that agencies should be using Networx to take advantage of newest technologies instead of solely using the same or similar services from their existing contracts. This is of particular concern given the security of federal networks and the opportunities to use new technologies to assist agencies in strengthening their cyber defenses.

We are interested in knowing the specific actions your office has taken and is taking to ensure that federal agency managers have prioritized this very important transition of telecommunication services. To that end, we would appreciate your responses to the following questions:

1. What action s has OMB taken to assist the transition to Networx?
2. Why have agencies delayed the transition from FTS200 I to Networx?
3. What remedial actions can agency managers take to ensure transition activities are taken before the current contracts expire?

We also request your office provide a briefing on Networx to this Committee no later than January 31, 2010.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and assistance in working with federal agencies during this transition to ensure the effective and efficient use of telecommunication services to perform their missions.

Sincerely,

Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman

Susan Collins
Ranking Member