EPA’s New Telecom Contract Will Ensure Every Employee Can Telework

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The agency has yet to pick a vendor off the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract but has built-in key modernization goals for remote work, according to the inspector general.

The Environmental Protection Agency was well-prepared for mass teleworking during the pandemic thanks to smart planning during the agency’s transition to the new governmentwide telecommunications contract, the inspector general reports.

The General Services Administration awarded spots on the 15-year, $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract in 2017, designed as a replacement for the governmentwide Networx and Washington Interagency Telecommunications Systems, or WITS-3, contracts, set to sunset in 2023.

Trump administration officials touted EIS as an opportunity for agencies to upgrade their infrastructure as part of the new contract and EPA did just that with regard to remote work capabilities.

“Specifically, in its solicitation for network and telecommunications services under the EIS contract, the EPA included a requirement that the selected vendor provide remote access solutions to support 12,500 concurrent remote users, with the capability to expand to 20,000 concurrent remote users,” 6,000 more seats than EPA’s workforce as of the end of 2020, the report states.

That remote work capability “became mission critical in March 2020” with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a governmentwide push for maximum telework.

While EPA is on track to shift all of its telecom contracts to EIS by 2023, the agency has yet to pick a vendor and award a task order to begin the work as of July, the report states.

The IG report also included some criticism of EPA’s remote work program.

While EPA’s move to EIS was strategic and timely, the agency has not fully moved away from its legacy telecom services, “such as analog phone and digital subscriber lines,” also contracted through GSA.

“Specifically, as part of its EIS transition activities, which began in 2015, the EPA identified unneeded GSA services, but as of May 2021, 268 of the services determined to be unneeded were still not disconnected,” the report states, noting delays have cost the agency “at least $7,850.”

However, the IG notes EPA has already disconnected more than 18,000 unneeded GSA services since 2016, showing significant progress and intent.

“Because the EPA has taken steps to disconnect unneeded services as part of its EIS transition activities, we make no recommendations regarding this finding,” the IG wrote.

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