Government IT Buying New Year’s Resolutions

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Time to make our New Year’s resolutions for 2016!

In my last 13 blog posts, we looked at government IT trends for FY15 and what might be ahead in FY16 technology acquisitions for telecommunications, cloud, cybersecurity, mobility/wireless, hardware, software, and small business. We’ve got a good sense of the technology trends.

But how we go about buying the technology is equally important. I recommend these New Year’s resolutions:

  • Use existing government-wide contracts, like those from GSA and other agencies, instead of new and open market contracts.
  • Each time you need IT or telecommunications products, services, or solutions, check out the latest GSA offerings, which we continuously enhance.
  • Use the Acquisition Gateway for market research, to link to existing contracts that offer the IT solution you’re looking for, and to stay informed on best practices.
  • Collaborate across agencies every step of the way.

We can save lots of taxpayer dollars and achieve better acquisition and operational efficiencies with this resolution.

For more information about who we are and what we do, check out the slide presentation posted below.

And be sure to follow and engage us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and on the ITS LinkedIn page we launched last year.

This presentation covers ways to improve the acquisition process for customer agencies, by leveraging existing contracts, using category management and the acquisition gateway, and reducing IT acquisition duplication and costs.
Government IT Buying New Years Resolutions: To Improve What and How You Buy (PDF)


HSPD-12 A Look Back and Peek to the Future

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

The USAccess Homeland Security Presidential Directive # 12 (HSPD-12) shared service is a comprehensive offering available to federal agencies to issue and maintain (PIV) cards, using a nationwide enrollment-activation infrastructure and high-availability hosted data centers, linked to federal agency data systems and commercial and government PKI certificate authorities, as well as physical card production facilities.

Fiscal Year 2015 was an exciting year for our USAccess Managed Service Office (MSO). The program finished the year in a strong position, while increasing the quality of services and value add being provided to customer agencies. USAccess continued the pattern of helping micro to medium-sized agencies improve each customer agency security posture by deploying Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Cards for employees and contractors.

Fiscal Year 2015 results

  • Addition of six new agency customers
  • Growth of 60,000 new cardholders
  • Demonstrated business vitality and being a good steward of taxpayer funding

As part of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) cyber sprint push to improve federal agency physical and logical security – the MSO provided customer agencies accelerated deployment of fixed enrollment/activation stations and light activation kits. The net result to agency clients included:

  • Enabling more coverage for PIV card issuance particularly to remote sites
  • Increasing PIV compliance government-wide

As part of its effort to improve card delivery times and broaden its service offering the MSO worked with the Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau to augment mobile and fixed sites nationwide with “Local Printing” capability. The net end results:

  • A sponsored applicant now can enroll and receive an activated card in one site visit to a credentialing center.
  • Increased scalability of some 10,000% and reduced time to deliver for a PIV card from 3-5 days to real-time
  • Census typically averaged 75 applicants over three days. With the deployment of the new equipment, Census was able to enroll and provide a PIV card to 780 applicants over the same three-day period.

Quick look ahead

USAccess is committed to its agency community in finding new unique ways to deliver credentialing capability. The MSO has its eye to the horizon. Exploiting new:

  • Lightweight physical technology to collect applicant enrollment data
  • Cloud technology to deliver application hosting and support for PIV credentialing from anywhere, anytime and on any device
  • Logical technology that would enhance virtual credentialing, authorization and authentication, to include next-generation biotechnology, voice, fingerprinting, etc.

These are all long-term aims. Over time, this cutting-edge leadership, partnership development, and entrepreneurial spirit will open new markets for GSA to support, ensure a higher level of security posture for federal agencies, and help to keep costs to a minimum.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.


New Year: New Focus on EIS Transition Planning

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

In my last blog post, we talked about the government’s Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) networking trends and activity as evidenced by GSA’s widely used Networx contract.

Last year was also a breakout year for the government’s new telecommunications initiative: Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) acquisition. EIS will be the follow-on contract to replace Networx and regional telecommunications contracts (including WITS 3), which many federal agencies use today. When fully implemented, we expect EIS to:

  • Simplify the government’s process of acquiring information technology and telecommunications products and services
  • Provide cost savings to each agency through aggregated volume buying and price and spend visibility
  • Enable the procurement of integrated solutions
  • Promote participation by small businesses and foster competition
  • Offer a flexible and agile suite of services supporting a range of government purchasing patterns into the future
  • Provide updated and expanded security services to meet current and future government cybersecurity requirements

Government and industry collaborated quite a bit on EIS requirements and planning in FY15. GSA engaged industry, worked with federal partners, held three well-attended industry days, and issued the EIS Request for Proposal (RFP), with proposals due February 22.

Focus on Transition Planning in 2016

Going into 2016, one of the government’s biggest priorities for telecom is planning the transition of services from expiring Networx and regional contracts to EIS.

Validating the current inventory of services on Networx, WITS 3 and other regional contracts requires joint collaboration of GSA, federal agencies, and industry partners.

GSA’s Transition Coordination Center (TCC) completed the initial inventory validation on January 29. We compared multiple data sources and worked with the contractors to match up services and reconcile data.

We  then notified  the agencies on January 29 that the Transition Inventory is ready for their initial confirmation and use in transition planning. Throughout the transition period, GSA will continue working with agencies and industry partners to maintain a valid and current transition inventory for tracking transition progress.

Each agency’s transition inventory consists of “service instances,” which are single records representing each active service that will be impacted by the expiration of the contract it’s on.  By today’s count, there are over seven million service instances that have to be transitioned to EIS before the current contracts expire by May 2020.

Important Steps Agencies Must Take Now

We’ve worked extensively with the agency users of Networx and our regional Local Service Agreements (LSAs) to complete the initial validation of the transition inventory.  These are the steps we’ve followed and guidance given:

  1. Download your agency’s transition inventory from the existing E-MORRIS web application. There is a separate module within E-MORRIS titled “Transition Inventory” that will allow agency users, as authorized by their existing E-MORRIS profile, to see their transition inventory, that will consist of Networx and regional inventory.
  2. Review your transition inventory for completeness and provide feedback to the GSA TCC following the instructions provided by the TCC.
  3. Continue to develop your Agency Transition Plan and continue transition planning. Refer to the EIS webpage for further transition updates and guidance or contact your Technology Service Manager.

Successful inventory validation now will assist agencies with more focused planning in advance of award of the EIS contracts. This will help expedite a smoother transition for each government agency starting next year.

You can reach the TCC by contacting the IT Customer Service Center at 855-482-4348 or ITCSC@gsa.gov.

Are you following ITS on Twitter? If not, join us at @GSA_ITS for updates and to engage us on government IT acquisition topics.


Looking at Year-End Telecommunications Insights from Networx

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/

In FY15, federal agencies purchased $1.62 billion in network and telecommunication services under GSA’s Networx program. This reflects a 6.3% increase over FY14. Much of the increase was driven by demand for bandwidth, which more than offset declines in purchasing of legacy services like long distance voice, toll-free services, and other obsolete data-oriented services.

The source of the purchasing numbers is Networx billing data. On behalf of federal agencies, GSA operates a billing and inventory system for telecommunications services. These systems allow us to see purchase and price trends for every federal agency as well as the program as a whole.

Overall in FY15, more than 120 federal agencies used the Networx program, which consists of the Networx Universal and Network Enterprise contracts.

Beyond purchasing, a significant milestone in FY15 was the decision to extend the Networx contracts to four of the five Networx suppliers to FY20. This extension gives federal agencies time to transition to the next generation network and telecommunications acquisition – Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – which is currently an active solicitation. And, the Networx contracting and program offices are using this extension period to continue ensuring our agencies pay not only fair and reasonable prices but better than commercial (in most cases) for services.

Annual Networx Buying Trends

As in FY14, the two largest in-demand core services on Networx continued to be Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (NBIPVPN) and Managed Network Services (MNS), making up 48% and nearly 12% respectively of Networx purchases.  NBIPVPN is simply bandwidth, designed for use within an enterprise.

Demand for these two services continues to grow. Government agencies increased purchasing of bandwidth by 12% and managed network services by 3% in FY15 over FY14. But, the growth trend on these two services tapered from past years. In FY14, the year-over-year growth trends for these two services were 17% for both services.

The real interest around bandwidth purchasing is a trend away from the digital signal hierarchy (DS-1, DS-3) towards Ethernet services. The most common circuit in the federal inventory is the DS-1. However, the number of these low bandwidth circuits dropped by 5.9% in FY15 and for the past five years has a negative compound annual growth rate of 4.1%. Conversely, the growth rate associated with 100MBps Ethernet transport circuits grew by nearly 100% in FY15 compared to FY14. We believe this trend will continue and are acting proactively to ensure our pricing is fair and reasonable given the buying power of the federal government.

Evolving Security Needs

One of the bigger growth areas on Networx was security. Network security is a fundamental component of information technology security. The Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS) grew at nearly 36% from FY14 to FY15 and the five-year compound annual growth rate is 209%.

MTIPS is a unique service to the government and combines bandwidth and security services. GSA continues to have productive working relationships in the federal IT community to enhance MTIPS. And, we expect demand for MTIPS to continue to grow faster than the rate of Networx as a whole.

Security services, like MTIPS, constantly evolve. They will continue to do so on Networx and on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), which is the follow-on contract vehicle for Networx, the Regional Local Service Agreements (LSAs), and other current contracts. EIS will have a suite of advanced security services in addition to MTIPS.

FY14 to FY15 year-over-year purchase increases are shown below for some of Networx core services:

Highlights of Networx Purchases by Service from FY14 through FY15 Percentage Growth (FY14 to FY15) Percentage of Networx Purchases
Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network Service 12.1% 48.4%
Managed Network Services 3.2% 11.6%
Toll Free Services -7.5% 7.5%
Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS) 35.9% 1.7%

Delivering Cost Savings

One of the missions of GSA is to use the purchasing power of government to drive down prices and reduce costs for agencies. GSA closely and continually evaluates how Networx is meeting this mission, especially around the area of pricing. In FY15, the Networx program saved taxpayers and agency users approximately $670 million on telecommunications, compared to best commercial prices.

GSA calculates savings by keeping and using detailed Networx data on both the services agencies purchase and agency usage volume. Third-party market research allows us to compare best commercial rates for these services to Networx pricing. If you are interested in seeing current year pricing by service on Networx, please visit our Networx Unit Pricer.

Going forward, we will continue to closely evaluate prices paid for services. Through effective data collection, we closely track purchasing by supplier, by service, and by agency. And, based on this data and the subsequent analysis, we will act on opportunities for savings through effective supplier management.

This practice will continue throughout the life of Networx as well as subsequent acquisitions within the Network Services Program.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the government IT and networks conversation.