EIS deadline extension still on the table, says top GSA acquisition official

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As agencies fret over the 2020 deadline to transition over to the new Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) telecommunications contract, a General Services Administration senior acquisition official says the possibility of granting an extension remains on the table.

“We have had conversations with the senior procurement executive, who is ultimately the person in GSA that’s responsible for extensions,” Kay Ely, the deputy commissioner in the office of information category in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said Tuesday at a FedInsider conference on the future of EIS.

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In its conversations with the Government  Accountability Office, GSA has also reviewed “money left on the table” as a result of extensions it granted in the transition from FTS200 to Networx in April 2013.

In 2014, GAO found the transition to Networx took 33 months longer than expected and cost the government an extra $395 million.

But GSA and the White House see the transition to the next-generation governmentwide telecoms contract as a major milestone in the Trump administration’s broader IT modernization agenda.

The president’s 2017 IT modernization report, for example, mentions the EIS transition more than 20 times. This year’s President’s Management Agenda identifies IT modernization as one of three “drivers of transformation” in government aimed to continue well beyond the current administration.

In order to get a better sense of where agencies are in the EIS transition process, Ely said she plans to soon meet with GSA’s 70 agency representatives.

Going forward, she said she wants to make sure that agencies have all the resources they need to make the EIS transition part of their broader IT transformation.

“I really think we stumbled out of the gate a little bit. I think we did not support the agencies as well as we could have [on] day one. I think we were just so thrilled to have the award, we’d gotten through some protests, and were like, ‘OK, it’s here.’ We’ve done a lot of work since then — we’ve done a lot of conversations, we’ve done a lot of work with the agencies,” Ely said.

GSA awarded 10 companies a spot on the $50 billion EIS contract last August, and will replace more than 90 Networx contracts.

“From an industry standpoint, managing multiple contracts takes time, energy, money and people,”  said Dave Young, CenturyLink’s senior vice president for strategic government. “I’m now able to consolidate that, from an industry perspective, into a single contract vehicle that’s very broad, but allows me to reap some efficiencies from a management side into my own company.”

While GSA has yet to grant an extension to any agency, Ely said agencies struggling with the transition may have a compelling case. But, she added, agencies just looking to check a box on transitioning shouldn’t count on receiving an extension.

“What I really need to go back to [GSA’s Senior Procurement Executive] Jeff Koses with is here’s some of the larger agencies that really are focusing on transformation and modernization, and then I think we can have that conversation — and even have that conversation with GAO,” Ely said.

“What we have said, and we’re sticking to it, is that if we just hear transition and an agency, for whatever reason, can’t even do a partial transformation,” then extensions are off the table, Ely said.