CIO Briefing

Here Comes GSA's Next Governmentwide Telecom Contract Vehicle

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The General Services Administration’s information technology contracting office is seeking industry feedback on plans for the next governmentwide contract vehicle for telecommunications and related services.

GSA is in the process of developing Network Services 2020, or NS2020, a slate of approved vendors offering everything from basic telephone and data services to niche satellite and infrastructure contracts for federal agencies. The request for information posted Tuesday seeks industry feedback on how GSA should structure that global contracting vehicle.

GSA will begin soliciting bids in fiscal 2015 from vendors who want to be part of the NS2020 contract vehicle, according to the RFI. Contracts with the vendors approved under NS2020 will likely be available for 15 years or for 10 years with five option years, the RFI said.

NS2020 will replace Networx, a similar global contract vehicle for telecom services that’s set to expire soon, but will include a broader suite of services.

NS2020, Networx and other GSA contract vehicles work something like a menu of services. GSA vets and approves vendors to provide specific services, but those vendors must still compete for actual agency contracts.

Agencies’ transition to Networx from its predecessor contract vehicle FTS 2001 progressed slowly, resulting in lost savings of more than $300 million, according to a December 2013 Government Accountability Office report. GAO blamed the delays on overly complicated acquisition procedures and diminishing contracting expertise at agencies.

Whether NS2020 can be designed in such a way that it cuts down on that transition time will be vital to whether the program proves successful or not, said John Johnson, a partner with the consultant Deep Water Point and former assistant commissioner for GSA’s Integrated Technology Service, which managed Networx.

Johnson also suggested lowering the fees GSA receives from new agency contracts under the NS2020 vehicle. Those fees were typically 7 percent under Networx. That would reduce agencies’ transition costs and also give GSA an added incentive to find operational savings to make up for the diminished fees, Johnson said.

“Defining what is to be purchased isn’t the hard part,” he said. “The hard part is how you operate and maintain [NS2020] efficiently and effectively so the transitions aren’t so long. It’s not so much what you buy but how you buy and deliver it that’s going to make the difference.”

(Image via hxdyl/Shutterstock.com)

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// July 24