GSA Official: Next-Gen Telecom Contract Is An Opportunity For Transformation

Sahacha Nilkumhang/

Agencies should think of the move to the Enterprise Infrastructure Services contract as more than a transition.

Challenges are often opportunities—at least that’s how the General Services Administration wants agencies to think about the impending transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Services, or EIS, the massive contract for communications technologies and services.

It’s been one year since GSA awarded spots on the 15-year, $50 billion contract for everything from basic phone service to wireless, VoIP and advanced communications infrastructure. Agencies have until May 2020 to transfer their communications contracts from GSA’s old vehicle, Networx, to the new EIS.

But EIS is “much, much more than just a contract,” said Kay Ely, assistant commissioner for GSA’s Office of Information Technology Category. Agencies should view the host of new technologies on EIS as an opportunity for transformation rather than just a transition to a new vehicle.

“It’s not that simple,” she said. “Part of this is transition. But what we’re really trying to focus on—and we’ve made tremendous progress since last July—is the actual transformation and the modernization. I was talking about how we built the contract itself and did incorporate a lot of modernization and things that the agencies need.”

Those tools earned EIS a call-out in the White House’s IT Modernization Report, a baseline for the administration’s efforts to upgrade government technology.

“EIS is mentioned as a contract vehicle—which is a little unusual in a report,” Ely said. “It’s mentioned several times as a tool for modernizing.”

She also noted Congressional interest in investing in federal IT, citing the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which established the Technology Modernization Fund to support agency efforts.

“It really is unprecedented in my career,” Ely said. “Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are working very closely together for IT modernization. It doesn’t get any stronger than that. All the stars are aligned.”

Agency chief information officers at the event said they thought the terminology was apt.

“There’s sort of a forcing function with EIS—there will be transformation,” said Doug Perry, deputy CIO at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who said his agency is planning to use EIS.

For NOAA, that will mean converting approximately 1,700 analog servers to virtual servers as part of the new contract, Perry said. It’s also given the agency the impetus to do a full inventory of communications infrastructure—a useful tool as it plans for the future.

“We’ve got a really good idea now of what our inventory looks like—what needs to be transitioned or transformed,” he said.

“I love the redefinition,” said Gary Barlet, CIO for the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, whose office will also be an EIS customer. He sees a secondary use for the term “transformation”: an opportunity to get buy-in from the rest of the organization.

“When you communicate with your customers and talk about how you’re transforming things it establishes a relationship with them and they understand you’re going through a transformation,” he said. “There’s going to be hiccups along the way as you’re going through these transitions from different vendors, different contracts to new models and new ways of doing it. If you really talk about it as a transformation, I think it helps adjust that transition you’re going through and helps your customer understand that you’re leading them on a journey. Working through that transition is a little easier if you couch it in terms of a transformation.”

Modernization “is not a journey, it’s a lifestyle,” said David Young, senior vice president of government strategy at CenturyLink, an EIS vendor. “What we have to do is get in a new culture, a new rhythm around how we embrace technology and how we use technology.”