Freezing Modifications and Limiting Use of Extended Contracts

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on March 24, 2020

Timeline of the Planned Transition to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions

In December 2018, GSA announced that we would extend the expiring Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3, and Regional Local Service Agreement (LSA) contracts to allow the necessary time for agencies to complete transition and modernize.

The successful transition to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), the federal government’s $50 billion, 15-year, Best-in-Class acquisition vehicle for telecommunications and networking, is a strategic priority for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.

Originally set to expire in 2020, GSA is extending the expiring contracts by an additional three years to May 2023. In extending these legacy contracts, GSA requires agencies to meet certain critical milestones to continue using services on the extended contracts.

Additionally, GSA is taking steps to curtail the growth of services on the extended contracts by freezing modifications and limiting use. These actions will minimize the impact of GSA having to maintain dual operations.

Freezing Modifications on Extended Contracts

Effective October 1, 2020, GSA will implement controls on its extended Networx, WITS 3, and LSA contracts by freezing all future growth on these vehicles. All new services should be provided under the EIS contracts.

Processing Modifications on EIS Contracts

GSA recognizes that many agencies have released their EIS solicitations and are waiting for EIS contract modifications to be evaluated and awarded by GSA. We are prioritizing modifications needed for agency awards.

Limiting Use of Extended Contracts

On March 31, 2020, GSA will begin to limit the use of its extended contracts for agencies that are not making progress towards transition. GSA will disconnect agencies, in phases, to meet the September 30, 2022 milestone for 100% completion of transition. The first phase will include agencies that have been “non-responsive” to transition outreach from GSA. Future phases will be based on each agency’s status at that time and the individual circumstances impacting that agency’s transition progress, such as protests or pending contract modifications.

Once a phase is complete, agencies identified will no longer be allowed to process any modifications or orders, will be ineligible for an exception, and will have their active services disconnected.

We applaud the agencies that are taking active steps to modernize and we will continue to monitor progress across the federal government. Taking steps to curtail growth on the extended contracts will encourage agencies to transition existing and new services onto EIS. GSA will continue to communicate with agencies at all levels, provide resources and support to agencies through transition, and pull all available levers in support of significant cost savings, greatly improved efficiencies, and enhanced cybersecurity— all achievable through EIS.

Questions? Contact Allen Hill, Executive Director, GSA’s Office of Telecommunications Services at allen.hill@gsa.gov or (202) 701-7891.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Recent Network Services Updates Benefit Agencies, Suppliers

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 16, 2016

Now that the launch of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is just around the corner, some recent Network Services updates will benefit both federal agencies and telecom suppliers.

In July, we unified 11 Regional Network Service programs and one program office into a single national Network Services program.

In the past, GSA’s regional and national network services’ offices provided separate solutions — regional programs provided local telecom services and the national program office provided long-distance telecom services to agencies. Each region managed regional-based contracts with different fees that provided similar services. Agencies made buying decisions geographically and GSA provided local personnel in each region to support local and long-distance ordering and service delivery.

This made sense when lines between ordering local service and long-distance service were more distinct, but it’s not true today.

Now, our agency customers will have one person to go to for their regional and long-distance (wide-area network) telecommunications.

What to Expect Going Forward

Service delivery representatives have begun to reach out to agency customers to provide guidance on local service ordering. You will see:

  • A standard single fee for local service
  • One mailbox for service requests (tsr@gsa.gov) and one for trouble reporting (fas.phonehelp@gsa.gov)
  • No more regional boundaries for Network Services
  • No more service delivery inconsistencies across the program
  • Consolidated order writing and billing departments means a central group will help you with any billing/inventory questions or disputes
  • One group of pricing and technical experts will help gather agency requirements
  • Beginning in FY 2017, consolidated agency-facing website and operational budget

When EIS is awarded, agencies and suppliers will also have:

  • Fewer contracts to manage
  • Easier-to-understand offerings, with a streamlined acquisitions portfolio
  • One portfolio of contracts with
    • consistent offerings and pricing,
    • transparent fee structures,
    • a deeper field of technical expertise,
    • consolidated operations, and
    • standard procedures

New EIS Transition Website

At the same time we’re realigning, another big priority remains transition planning to move services to EIS. The EIS transition must be complete by May 2020.

To meet this deadline, we need you to be working now on EIS transition planning.
To help you with this effort, we have:

What You Can Do Now

With realignment off and running, and transition planning in full swing, here’s what you can do:

  • Stay tuned for your new local ordering instructions
  • Work with your GSA customer service representative
  • Submit telecom service requests to tsr@gsa.gov
  • Send telecom trouble reporting to fas.phonehelp@gsa.gov
  • Confirm your agency’s telecom inventory now and have the agency EIS transition plan completed and to GSA by October 2016

Once GSA awards EIS, federal agencies will begin to issue task and service orders and start moving telecom services to EIS starting in early 2017.

If you need assistance or have any questions about agency transition, please email ITCSC@gsa.gov or call (855) 482-4348.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Updates on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 15, 2016

We at GSA, customer agencies, and industry partners have been working diligently to prepare for Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) — the 15-year, multi-billion-dollar contract that can transform government infrastructure and telecommunications while improving government efficiency and effectiveness and saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

Our road to EIS has been a collaborative, open, and transparent journey, and we’re almost there.

We want to be sure you’re aware of the next steps and when you can expect each one.

Transition Readiness

We’ve been talking over the past year about how important it is for your agency–and others–to prepare for transition, including confirming final inventories and delivering your transition plan to GSA by October 2016. The goal is for agencies to be ready to start transitioning and do fair opportunity competitions for EIS task orders early in calendar year 2017 after EIS is ready for agency use.

With EIS just around the corner, you need to already be planning to move services to EIS now. All agency transitions will need to be completed by 2020, and it’s going to be complicated.

To meet this deadline, think of us as your business partners. We hope you’ve already started to plan. Download a copy of GSA’s EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact community site. If you need help with agency transition or other matters, reach out to us at the IT Customer Service Center at (855) 482-4348 or ITCSC@gsa.gov.

Proposal Evaluation Status and Discussions with Offerors

We are evaluating offers submitted on February 22, 2016 in response to the EIS Request for Proposal (RFP), issued in October 2015.

On July 28, 2016, we posted on the GSA EIS Interact site that we planned to contact offerors by mid-August. We are finalizing the information we intend to discuss with offerors.

Award Date and EIS Availability for Use

We want to award EIS as quickly as possible and plan to do so in early calendar year 2017. EIS can transform government infrastructure and telecommunications for the next decade.

Since we take this responsibility seriously, we’re being diligent, thoughtful, and thorough to maximize value for the government, industry, and the American people.

We remain committed to collaborating and working openly with you now and going forward.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Focusing on the EIS Customer Experience

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 30, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of acquisition vehicles that provide government agencies with a diverse set of telecommunications solutions, including Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, and the Federal Relay Service.

On June 22, the General Services Administration (GSA) joined more than 200 representatives from across government and industry for a dynamic, customer-centric discussion about next-generation telecommunications under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), a comprehensive solution-based vehicle to address all aspects of federal agency information technology telecommunications, and infrastructure requirements.

EIS will provide mission-critical telecommunications infrastructure to the federal government for the next 15 years. It replaces the Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3, and GSA Regional telecommunications services contracts that expire in May 2020.

This event allowed us to hear from agency officials on a wide range of topics, including:   

  • What they need from EIS
  • How important it is for each agency to find opportunities when transitioning telecom services under current contracts to EIS
  • How they will meet the aggressive transition challenges

I’d like to take this opportunity to share more of the valuable feedback we received during the event. The customer-focused themes and advice give EIS stakeholders across government and industry more insight as we collectively move to EIS.

Top Customer Takeaways

  1. Every federal agency is affected – more than 150 agencies and 60 Tribal organizations
  2. Agencies need to have a sense of urgency, focusing continuously on preparing for their complete transition until finished
  3. The EIS program holds opportunities for agencies, including modernizing, securing and transforming agency infrastructure. Think transformation as a key goal, rather than simply transition to the new acquisition vehicle.  This means approaching EIS transition as an opportunity to transform agency telecom operations and add mission value.
  4. Top priorities for agencies include:
  • Complete transition before the current contracts expire in 2020
  • Increase bandwidth demands
  • Meet agency cybersecurity requirements (cyber is built into EIS)
  • Focus on network modernization
  • See both short and long-term cost savings
  • Pay only for what the agency uses
  • Improve performance at lower cost

  5. Agencies are driving demand, not the EIS acquisition vehicle

  • For example, due to local area networks increasingly connected to wide-area telecommunications networks over Ethernet interfaces (that time-division multiplexing interfaces were challenged to provide), demand drove Ethernet transport to be a mandatory service

  6. To have a successful transition, each agency needs an accurate inventory and strong senior leadership commitment

  • Inventory includes everything from traditional long distance to fully redundant, mission-critical, secure VPNs
  • More than seven million inventory items across 90 regional and eight Networx contracts must move

  7. Engage with GSA early, get the agency contracting officer on board early, and put agency governance in place

  8. Agency Transition Plans are due to GSA in October 2016

  9. Download a free copy of GSA’s just-released EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact site

Industry Takeaways

  1. Industry needs to prepare for the anticipated tsunami of EIS task order requests;  Partners, teams, and processes have to be ready to go
  2. Agencies will be looking for high-quality proposals for task and service orders
  3. EIS wants to deliver tomorrow’s technology today and GSA encourages industry to work with government on ways to make that happen

Common Threads for Everyone

  1. EIS is designed as a flexible and dynamic acquisition vehicle that will require continued collaboration with GSA, government, and industry going forward
  2. All current federal government telecom inventory must be moved to EIS before the end of May 2020 – 47 months from now
  3. EIS will address changing technology needs throughout the life of the acquisition vehicle
  4. The EIS acquisition vehicle is expected to extend into 2031 with continuous technology refresh
  5. Year 2020 is just around the corner. Even though we’re in the midst of the EIS acquisition, we are also planning further into the future. We are updating the NS2020 strategy, which will become the NS2025 strategy

GSA looks forward to continuing this EIS transition customer-centric dialog with our industry and government colleagues. We will continue the conversation on this blog and our GSA EIS Interact community. If you need assistance with agency transition, reach out to us at the IT Customer Service Center at 855-482-4348 or ITCSC@gsa.gov.  And again, please download a free copy of GSA’s just-released EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact site.

Thanks to @ACTIAC and @ITAlliancePS  for supporting our June 22nd transition conversation.  The event was hosted by the ACT-IAC Networks and Telecommunications (N&T) Community of Interest (COI),Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS), and other industry groups.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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New Year: New Focus on EIS Transition Planning

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 4, 2016

(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.

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Looking at Year-End Telecommunications Insights from Networx

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 2, 2016

(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.

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Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) RFP is Here!

Posted by Mary Davie
on October 19, 2015

spinning globe with silhouette overlay of binary code

GSA issued the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Request for Proposal (RFP) on October 16.  

Issuing the RFP represents a major milestone for government in two significant ways.

First, it means that we are well on our way to providing the federal government the comprehensive solutions based vehicle for telecommunications and IT infrastructure services that our customer agencies need.  

Second, the RFP is a great example of the collaboration and teamwork that allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government and industry. We feel very confident that the results achieved by the EIS acquisition will provide our customers flexibility, choice and convenience, and industry an agile platform for meeting unique agency requirements for the future.

In the spring and summer leading up to the RFP release, we held three information exchange days with industry. Over 150 industry and agency participants attended each session. In addition, we held over 60 one-on-one meetings with individual companies and obtained input from the ACT-IAC NS2020 Working Group and the NS2020 Interagency Advisory Panel (composed of Federal IT and Acquisition Executives). We received over 1,600 comments on the draft RFP that we analyzed. The final EIS RFP incorporates that feedback and comments received from numerous meetings with individual agency CIOs, the NS2020 Executive Advisory Panel, and industry.

I am confident that the final product will give industry flexibility to offer technologically current solutions to agencies at great prices, and agencies will have the flexibility to easily adopt those solutions to meet their mission needs.

We are looking forward to some robust competition on EIS.  It is still our goal to have EIS ready for agency use in early 2017.

Preparing for the Transition

In the meantime, we are focused on preparing for the transition from Networx and our Regional telecommunications contracts to EIS.  The three-year Networx contracts extensions to 2020 give agencies time to transition to EIS. We are also extending many of our local service agreements, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications Contract 3 (WITS 3), to 2020. It’s imperative that federal agencies complete the transition of all their telecom services to EIS by May 2020 as this is the hard deadline for contract expiration.

Together, industry, agencies, and GSA have a lot of work to do to achieve the May 2020 deadline for transition. We have solicited industry ideas for the most efficient ways to transition services. The transition effort is the next opportunity for agencies and industry to continue the high level of collaboration so far achieved under the EIS initiative.  We look forward to the challenge.  

Agencies should now be working on transition plans and telecommunications services inventories, both essential steps to a timely transition. We are currently working with some agencies on these steps. If you haven’t already been in touch with us regarding transition planning, please go to the EIS webpages today and download the template for transition planning or contact your GSA Technology Service Manager.

Please check out and register on our EIS Interact site for status updates on EIS and our transition efforts. And be sure to follow ITS on Twitter @GSA_ITS for updates on all GSA’s IT offerings.

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Collaborating for Better Government

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 16, 2015

Wikipedia defines “collaboration” as “working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.” According to the Free Dictionary, collaborating is a partnership, working as a team, or being in concert.   

For GSA, collaboration is more than just a buzzword or standing at a podium talking to stakeholders. It is a dialog a give and take that includes understanding and respecting everyone’s needs, goals, and values.

Successful collaboration happens when everyone is committed to the core principles of trust, understanding, and compromise– and the end result is a better outcome for all parties.

Creating the IT Portfolio of Solutions

At GSA, collaboration is a driving force as we re-shape many of our government-wide programs and contracts. For those of you working with GSA, you’ve seen or been part of any number of working groups, industry days, interagency meetings, and requirements teams. You’ve contributed thousands of ideas and comments on our RFIs, draft RFPs and in our Interact communities.  You’ve rolled up your sleeves and helped shape our offerings from adding a new Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70, to developing OASIS, Alliant 2, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), Network Services 2020 (NS2020), cloud strategies, identity management solutions, mobility and wireless solutions, satellite solutions, software, hardware and so much more.  

The Government’s shift to Category Management (CM), has also guided our planning and resulting solutions. We have experts that know telecom, software, IT hardware, IT services and IT security. The category hallways within the Acquisition Gateway provide access to many government-wide contracts, tools, pricing information, buying guides, templates, best practices and access to other buyers across government so you don’t have to figure things out on your own and are able to leverage work others have already done.

Our collective work has led to a very clear strategy for GSA’s next generation of IT and telecommunications solutions.  As a result, GSA is implementing solutions that better meet agencies’ needs, provide flexibility in acquiring IT/telecom, provide savings, reduce duplication and are reflective of technology market offerings. The graphic below shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development. 

This graphic shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development.

Reducing Duplication While Providing Flexibility

Our category management approach ensures that our contract solutions provide different ways to buy technology based on agency collaboration and feedback. We’ve been asked why you see similar technology or services available on more than one of our contracts. Some might say this also results in “duplication” or confusion, but our customers are telling us that they  need flexibility to buy technology products and services in different ways based on what I refer to it as, “the nature of the buy.”  

ITS prides itself on providing both general and niche solutions for IT and telecommunications products and services to federal, state and local agencies.  These solutions draw on GSA’s acquisition and IT expertise and they help our customers by allowing them to direct more resources into focusing on their core missions. About 30% of federal IT spend flows through ITS contracts and programs. We hold ourselves accountable for increasing federal procurement efficiency, reducing costs for both government and industry, and helping government achieve better results.  Reducing overlapping and redundant contracts is important to ITS. We’ve taken a true portfolio approach to planning our solutions and ensuring we provide maximum flexibility for government buyers as they make complex procurement strategy decisions.   

For example, agencies today are procuring wireless services and devices in a number of ways.  Our FSSI Wireless BPAs offer certain terms and conditions, plans, features (such as aggregated pooling of minutes and data) and pricing for services with devices provided as part of the overall solution. On IT Schedule 70, agencies have the option of buying just devices or service plans and devices and constructing their own terms and conditions.  If an agency were to use Networx for the wireless services/devices, they may be doing so to consolidate mobile services on a broader enterprise platform implementation.  

Cloud is another great example. We have cloud-based services available on IT Schedule 70, on our IaaS and EaaS BPAs, through GWACs (especially where integration or transition services are also needed) and through our network services contracts (off premise hosting or data center solutions are examples).  Our network services contracts are telecommunications focused but also recognize broader, related products and services may need to be part of the overall solution. EIS will provide best in class virtual private network services, Ethernet, voice, and managed network services at significant discounts.  These services may also be related to an agency’s enterprise implementation of data centers or call centers — either on-site or cloud-based.  While these are just a few examples, you can see it really doesn’t make sense to try to define, “bucket,” and limit technology solutions to individual contracts.

Guiding Agencies to the best choice

GSA’s job is to understand the market, listen to agency and industry partners, and use what we’ve learned to create solutions. While creating solutions will involve some overlap, we want to act as an honest broker and help agencies get to the best solution for them. Sometimes that includes guiding agencies to other non-GSA enterprise contracts that might be a better fit for their requirements.

We are making it our responsibility to help agencies through the process, especially when overlap could cause potential confusion about which vehicle is optimal for certain requirements. We will accomplish this through our continued proactive management approach with both customers and vendors. Through collaboration, scope reviews, and relationships, we want to better understand the core requirements and make the best acquisition recommendation.

As I pointed out earlier, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. If an agency has a cloud requirement that is within the scope of multiple contracts, we will work with that customer to understand their requirements and help assess their acquisition choices. We will make the best recommendation to ensure the agency requirements are being met in the most efficient and effective manner with the highest quality vendors possible.  On contracts such as our GWACs, Networx, and EIS, GSA performs pre-award and post-award scope reviews ensuring requirements are not only within the scope of the contract but that the contract is being used most effectively.  In addition, on our GWACs and on EIS, training is mandatory for contracting officers who use these contracts prior to GSA issuing them a delegation of procurement authority.

Final Thoughts

Even with slight overlap, these vehicles will deliver flexibility to buyers across government through pre-existing, pre-vetted contracts, which ultimately saves government and industry from investing time and money on new and redundant open-market contracts.

A few final, important thoughts I want to share with you about collaboration:

  • Collaboration allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government agencies and industry
  • Continual collaboration is always a goal, often a challenge, and clearly an opportunity
  • We always look for ways to make IT acquisitions seamlessly support agency missions, rather than hinder them. We also work to align to industry partners’ business goals, when they do not detract from government goals
  • Customer convenience, flexibility, and choice will always matter

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

Join us for a live webcast demonstration of the Acquisition Gateway with Q&A on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m. PT. There’s no charge for this training, and you can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP). This webcast is open to all and only federal government agency personnel. Register today!

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Networx Buying, IP Services, and Ethernet Migration Grow in FY 2015

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 13, 2015

For this Great Government through Technology Blog post, we welcome special guest author Bill Lewis, the Program Manager for GSA’s Networx program.

Most federal agencies continue to purchase network services through GSA’s Networx telecommunications program. Federal communications purchasing in the first half of FY 2015 shows that Networx continues to be a stable program with steady growth driven by demand for bandwidth. Overall, purchasing for network services on Networx exceeded $820M in the first half of the fiscal year, a 7.6% increase over the same period last year.

Like our last telecommunications insight blog, we wanted to explore and dive into some interesting trends we’ve seen in our Networx program. These purchases–and their associated trends–are also helping us shape the next-generation Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, which GSA intends to have ready for government-wide use in 2017.

Internet Protocol Services Sales Dominate

Twenty years ago, more than 70% of federal purchases were voice related — either long distance voice or toll-free services. Unsurprisingly, today less than 10% of the purchases are voice-related services. Most of us have seen this same trend in our personal buying.  

Today, the bulk of services purchased are Internet Protocol (IP)-based services. Sixty percent of federal spending on Networx  is Network Based IP Virtual Private Networks (NBIPVPN) and management of these services. In the first half of FY2015, NBIPVPN purchasing is up 14% and purchasing services to manage this bandwidth is up 12%.

Purchase trends for various Networx services are shown below.

 Networx Service Type  Purchase Volume (FY15 First Half)  Percentage Change (First Half, FY14-FY15)
 Network Based IP Virtual Private Network Bandwidth  $391.1M  14%
 Managed Network Services  $102.0M  12%
 Toll Free Services  $64.4M   -10%
 IP Services (External Bandwidth)  $28.5M   8%
 Long Distance Voice Servies  $19.8M   -6%

 

Migration to Ethernet Technology

In terms of networking technologies, federal wireline purchasing is clearly migrating away from the traditional digital signal hierarchy towards native Ethernet.

The bulk of the federal inventory of bandwidth is still around the traditional DS-1, Digital Signal Hierarchy Level 1, which is a 1.5Mbps service. But in the past five years, the number of DS-1s in the federal inventory has shrunk nearly 4% annually. And number of “sub-rate” DS-1s (circuits with less than 1.5Mbps) has shrunk over 6% annually over the same period.  

Many of us have more bandwidth going into our homes than a DS-1, so it’s no surprise federal agencies are demanding more bandwidth as well. We rely more on applications stored in remote data centers or the cloud as we use more video, and rely on other services around unified communications.

We’ve seen some migration towards 45Mbps services, a “DS-3”, where growth was up 21% over the past five years. Now the trend is slowing, as evidenced by DS-3 growth only up 8% through the first half of this year. This slowdown is expected since DS-1s and DS-3s are legacy services originally designed for Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) equipment and voice-dominated networks.  

Because Ethernet services are designed for networks dominated by IP-based data rather than voice, Ethernet growth is higher as shown below for the past five years.

 Ethernet Purchasing off Networx  5-Year Annual Compound Rate
 10 Mbps Ethernet  138%
 100 Mbps Ethernet  78%
 1 Gbps Ethernet  60%

 

Shaping EIS and Preparing for Transition

Networx purchase data has driven some of the requirements for GSA’s EIS contract, which is in its final stages of development. For example, Ethernet will be a required service under EIS. But we haven’t developed EIS requirements in a vacuum by simply looking at historical purchase data.  

This spring and summer, we held three information exchange days with industry. These were well-attended, lively events, with over 150 participants in each session. In addition, we have been in frequent contact with government agencies and industry in other forums and individually to shape EIS.  

Over the next year, we will go through the acquisition process on EIS. At the same time, we are preparing for the transition from Networx and our regional telecommunications contracts to EIS.  As you know, we are extending the Networx contracts three years to 2020 to give agencies time to transition to EIS.  Four of the five Networx suppliers have submitted modification extension proposals.

We are also extending many of our local service agreements, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications Contract 3 (WITS 3), to 2020. We are also working with agencies to develop transition plans and examine inventories of telecommunications services, both essential steps to a timely transition. Agencies will transition all telecom services, including secure Internet and data services as well as voice and toll-free services.
Please check out and register on our Interact site for status updates on EIS and our transition efforts. And be sure to follow ITS on Twitter @GSA_ITS for updates on all GSA’s IT offerings.

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Regional Telecom Extensions Underway

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 23, 2015

Federal government agencies largely order their telecommunications through GSA’s Networx telecommunications program or through our Regional Local Service Agreements (LSAs) for local telecommunications.

As announced in March, we are extending the period of performance for the Network Universal and Enterprise contracts from 2017 to 2020.

We are currently working with our industry suppliers to extend the LSAs, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3 contract in the metropolitan DC area.

In addition, we are working closely with our federal agency partners to begin rigorous transition planning and preparation. These extensions will allow agencies time to develop requirements and evaluate and implement solutions using the follow-on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract and/or other contracts in the GSA ITS portfolio.

As part of our overall NS2020 strategy, we will also be incorporating services currently available on our regional LSAs into EIS, eliminating the need for many duplicative contracts.  To bring these two programs together and minimize transition time, cost and risk, GSA will extend those LSAs expiring earlier than 2020 to coincide with the Networx contract extensions to 2020.

No Longer Pursuing RIS

GSA originally looked at a Regional Infrastructure Solutions (RIS) strategy to extend service for the expiring Regional LSAs by consolidating acquisitions and awarding interim contracts to provide service continuity until the competitive awards of EIS were made.

That approach would involve three larger geographic interim solutions: Northeast Infrastructure Solutions (NIS), Western Infrastructure Solutions (WIS), and Central Infrastructure Solutions (CIS).

However, in looking further at the approach, we found the schedules for the EIS and RIS procurements began to run parallel, and we questioned the purpose and cost effectiveness of separate RIS acquisitions. Industry partners and agencies were also concerned about RIS running in parallel with EIS and the additional acquisition investments the approach would have required.

GSA found eliminating the RIS acquisitions could achieve significant savings for industry and government and avoid unnecessary duplication and transitions.

Focusing on EIS

With our full focus now on EIS, we have a lot of information to share with you. And we’re also hoping you’ll continue to share your input with GSA as we work to finalize the EIS requirements.  To facilitate the sharing of information, we created the new EIS Interact Community and created a series of Information Exchange Days. Register now for the last Information Exchange Day on June 30.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to hear more about EIS and to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

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