The General Services Administration is approaching the future of federal telecommunications much differently than the models used for the Networx or the FTS contracts over the past 20 years.
Instead of planning a large worldwide contract, GSA is developing the Network Services 2020 strategy more like the satellite services contract of a few years ago.
“If you look at our partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency, which we called the future Com/SatCom services agreement, it was a very tight partnership,” said Kevin Gallo, the program director of Network Services 2020 at GSA, in an interview with Federal News Radio. “We worked hand-in-hand with them to develop these contract vehicles. They were customer focused offerings and that partnership model is something we intend to follow forward. We also applied what the DoD called targeted scope.”
He said targeted scope means GSA and DISA looked at the way the government was procuring commercial satellite communication services and developed the contracts to fit that approach.
For example, GSA and DISA split the Future Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) Services Acquisition (FCSA) program into three areas: transpondent or bulk bandwidth needs; managed services; and end-to-end solutions. Each of these areas had separate strategies that were all coordinated under the main procurement.
Same basic formula
Gallo said the Network Services 2020 (NS2020) initiative will be more complicated because the range of services is broader than just satellite services, but still will follow the basic formula.
GSA is receiving kudos from industry so far in how they are proceeding with NS2020.
Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for government markets North American division of Hughes Network Systems, said at the event the FCSA model is a good one for this larger initiative. He said the satellite communications contract is flexible and meets the customer’s buying model.
Gallo, who spoke Thursday at the Independent Telecommunications Pioneer Association (IPTA) luncheon in Washington, said GSA over the last 12-18 months has discussed the future of telecommunications with a broad range of government and industry experts through a top-to-bottom review of the entire telecommunications portfolio.
“[NS2020 is] looking at the whole gamut of telecommunications and other IT services. These days it’s very difficult to draw a line between telecom and other IT,” Gallo said. “Services such as cloud computing, wireless and managed services are all part of the considerations for Network Services 2020. It will result in a strategy for the contract vehicles, the support services that we provide for that and really it will be a follow-on effort for what are the appropriate acquisition or reuse of existing contracts? We also are considering this within the context of all of GSA, not just network services programs.”
Under the NS2020 program, GSA is reviewing how several contracts, including Alliant, Schedule 70, the wireless blanket purchase agreement, Connections II and others, fit together, and whether it makes sense to have all of these products and services separated in different vehicles.
“We are trying to match how the government buys these products and services with how vendors sell them,” Gallo said. “It’s all about making it easier to buy and sell these services.”
Strategy and milestones
He said GSA launched in interagency advisory panel consisting of deputy chief information officer, senior procurement executives and others who have more of a day-to-day oversight and interaction with the network.
The committee will meet monthly to further develop the strategy and milestones.
Gallo said the feedback GSA has received so far focused on the importance of mobile devices and services, bring-your-own-device and the consumerization of devices and services, cybersecurity and managed services.
Gallo said the strategy development also will include one-on-one meetings with industry and possible industry days in the next year.
Once a draft strategy is completed, Gallo said GSA will ask the CIO and CAO councils for approval.
Among the questions GSA will try to answer in the strategy develop phase are:
What should the program areas be?
What should the acquisitions strategy for those program areas be?
How can the program areas work together to allow agencies to buy holistic solutions with one acquisition?
What should the support services we provide at GSA be?
“When we arrive at a strategy, there will possibly be some follow-on acquisition activities, which will really be strategy efforts in themselves,” Gallo said. “We will not necessarily wait until the strategy is all completed before we start making improvements today on our contract vehicles, on our operations and on procedures.”
He added GSA also is asking agencies for their goals, priorities and telecommunications and IT services over what they think they will need in the next five years.
“We are trying to develop an efficient platform that will lower the cost for the government, both acquisition costs and the ultimate costs in savings through aggregated volume buying,” he said. “It has to be efficient for the government so they can have convenient access to the solutions they need, and it has to be efficient for industry so they can lower their transactions costs.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.