GSA issues RFP for EIS telecom contract

The wait is over: After years of preparation, the government's $50 billion telecom RFP has hit the street.

Shutterstock image (by kstudija): telecommunications radio tower.

After years of collaboration with the public and with potential bidders, both online and in person, the General Services Administration on Oct. 16 issued its formal request for proposals for its massive, $50 Billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions.

EIS is the foundational contract for its overarching NS2020 Strategy framework and acquisition strategy, for future federal information technology and telecommunications needs.

Potential bidders have until the end of the year to sift through its 890 pages before responding. GSA released a draft RFP in February, and pushed the final RFP's issue date first to the end of September and then into mid-October as it worked to incorporate industry feedback and refine increasingly complex approaches to services, including cybersecurity services.

Ultimately, the agency had to comb through, and address, 1,600 formal comments from industry to refine the scope and language of the solicitation and make final RFP.

GSA expects to award the EIS contract in late 2016 and it make it available for agency use in early 2017.

EIS replaces GSA's Networx contract, which had just over $1.5 billion in sales in FY 2014.

GSA officials declined to answer FCW's inquiries about the RFP, citing its policy of not commenting about active procurements, but a look through the massive RFP shows dozens of new and legacy services that look to provide a bridge between dying circuit-switched, private-line voice services and the emerging and growing array of digital and cloud services.

The contract bundles mandatory telecommunications service areas with such "optional services" as cloud, managed services, data centers, managed network services, and security operations centers.

"As providers retire legacy infrastructure, agencies will modernize their networks and applications, reducing pricing, ordering, and billing complexities," per the RFP. "EIS seeks to provide an orderly path to future pricing by accommodating current legacy services pricing while allowing for the evolution of future services pricing toward greater flexibility and simplicity. This approach is expected to result in fewer pricing elements and greater pricing transparency."

Decoupling access and pricing

Critical to the EIS approach, according to the RFP, is allowing, but not requiring, network access to be decoupled from pricing. The document said decoupling is accomplished by allowing common access prices to be defined for services and service groupings regardless of location or access engineering, thereby reducing price points and simplifying price structures.

In an Oct. 16 statement, GSA called EIS "a comprehensive solutions-based contract addressing all aspects of federal information technology, telecommunications, and infrastructure requirements bundled for ease of use, ease of ordering, and savings for government agencies."

"The EIS acquisition demonstrates GSA's commitment to provide federal agencies with the business solutions they need to fulfill their important missions," said Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the GSA's Office of Integrated Technology Services.

"This is the culmination of an extensive and successful collaborative process between GSA, federal agencies, and industry which lasted more than two years and provided GSA with valuable feedback that helped us build and refine the RFP," she said. "We believe the EIS RFP achieves the appropriate balance between industry's goals and capabilities, GSA's objectives, and federal agency's current and future needs."

Alliant 2 in the telecommunications mix

A day before the EIS release, GSA also issued a draft request for proposals for its next generation Alliant 2 Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) vehicle for packaged, customizable hardware, software, and services IT solutions. Some in the telecommunications industry have questioned whether the Alliant 2 contract might compete with some of the services that would be offered through EIS.

The agency's current Alliant GWAC ordering period is set to expire April 2019, but the vehicle has proven so popular with federal users, the agency has been working hard to insure it gets as much input as possible for the next version.