Strides in Government Telecommunications

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 30, 2014

GSA created the first government-wide telecommunications program in 1960. And since that time, we’ve seen technology shift from largely voice-based services to data and IP with the Internet. We’ve seen bandwidth demand increase by orders of magnitude in the past decade.

We’re moving from hardware-based networks to networks operated by software and services, and we’ve moved from owned legacy infrastructure into operating models leveraging cloud and mobile technologies.

Now we’re seeing moves by others than the traditional telecommunications providers into the space, creating even greater changes in the market. This includes leveraging broadband wireless technology for data connectivity and voice service, relying solely on IP data connections for voice and text, and potentially using solar-powered drone technology in place of some traditional satellite capabilities to provide basic Internet access much cheaper to many more people.

Today, many federal agencies depend on GSA’s Networx contracts for their network and IT infrastructure, the backbone needed to support agency missions. The contracts provide agency toll-free numbers; allow agencies to build secure and complex agency-wide networks for voice, data, and video services; and enable access to services like video chat, virtual private networks, and web conferencing. Trends such as cloud computing, virtualization, and the movement toward everything-as-a-service (XaaS) are further increasing the criticality and demand for network bandwidth.

Over the decades, GSA has provided access to state of the art and emerging technology solutions reflecting current and shifting market offerings and government needs. We continually assess the market and work with agencies and industry to add new solutions to our programs and contracts.  If you watch this blog, or have an interest in government telecommunications, you’re most likely familiar with NS2020, our strategy for our next-generation telecommunications and IT infrastructure portfolio.

Let’s take a look at where we are so far.

Evolving Telecom is Essential to Government

  • After conducting a comprehensive market assessment and lessons learned analysis, we’ve just published our Network Services 2020 (NS2020) Strategy. We’ve outlined a portfolio of IT and telecommunications related offerings and services, and are planning new contracts and solutions to replace the Networx program and other contracts.

Cross-Agency and Industry Collaboration Is Critical

  • Agencies, industry, other stakeholders such as GAO, OMB and Hill staff have played and will continue to play a critical role in the success of our next generation program.
  • The NS2020 Interagency Advisory Panel (senior IT and acquisition representatives from a dozen agencies) and our industry partners, including the ACT-IAC NS2020 Working Group and TechAmerica’s GSA Subcommittee, have been actively involved in developing our strategy.

We’re Starting to Execute the NS2020 Strategy

NS2020 Acquisition Activity

  • In December 2013, we released an RFI for a new consolidated Northeast Infrastructure Solution. Comments for the RFI have closed. This is part of a multi-region interim strategy to create three acquisitions (Northeast, Central and Western) to replace local service contracts put into place by 11 Regions.  Expect to see RFIs for two additional consolidated regional acquisitions during 2014.
  • The multi-regional consolidation will allow GSA, vendors, and customer agencies to have an interim strategy driven in part by expiring contract vehicles in regions to cover gaps in regional coverage. It will also allow us to implement and validate some NS2020 concepts in advance of the larger integration.
  • On April 8, 2014, we released an RFI for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solution (EIS), the main contract vehicle expected from the NS2020 strategy. We highly encourage responses to the EIS RFI from all of industry so we can gain more insight on its perspectives towards creating a successful acquisition. Deadline for comments is May 22.
  • The NS2020 strategy’s resulting single global EIS of the future will include the requirements for Networx and the Northeast, Central and Western solutions, plus additional capabilities to meet the comprehensive range of Federal Agency IT/telecommunications requirements through 2028.

What’s Next

  • We continue to work with Congress, the White House, and OMB to ensure the success of NS2020.
  • Stakeholders across government and industry are showing significant interest and commitment to success of evolving telecom.
  • We look forward to everyone’s continued engagement on NS2020 acquisitions, including comments on the recently released EIS RFI, the upcoming consolidated regional RFIs, and the expected release of a draft EIS RFP in FY15.
  • As the EIS acquisition progresses, we anticipate conducting industry days and engaging in other forms of outreach and communication.

As technology continues to shift, GSA will persist to find easy, efficient, and cost savings ways to enable agencies to access and use those technologies.

I encourage you to stay up to date on everything NS2020 and EIS going forward. You can bookmark and regularly check our NS2020 website.

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

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Applying Lessons Learned To Telecom Transition

Posted by Mary Davie
on March 10, 2014

GSA’s strategic network services program is critical to the services and missions of almost all civilian and
defense agencies. Our telecommunications and IT contracts are designed to reduce risk and increase efficiency for government agencies.

The government completed the FTS2001-to-Networx transition about a year ago. The transition took longer than expected, but here’s the great news: In FY13, the Networx contract saved US taxpayers over $678M and agencies purchased over $1.3B using it.

Networx offers significantly better pricing than FTS2001, typically 10% to 40% depending on the service. By leveraging this buying power of government, agencies can procure the services they need at lower prices, and they can avoid the costs and risks of creating and managing their own contracts and support systems.

Networx enables government agencies to save taxpayer dollars, meet many mandates such as Trusted Internet Connections and IPv6, modernize networks, and use advanced technologies as they become available.

GSA did a lot to support agencies in the Networx transition. We performed transition planning and provided extensive transition assistance, including:

  • Transition Credit Reimbursement
  • Direct technical support
  • Inventory and billing systems
  • Operating a Transition Coordination Center
  • Acquisition support for some smaller agencies

Networx benefits and successes are clear, but we can do better! The Government’s transition to Networx took longer than anticipated, resulting in lost savings opportunities. Transitioning an agency’s enterprise network is complex, there are considerable costs associated with transition, and many stakeholders that must work together.

Apply Experience

We recognize the need to apply lessons from the past to enhance future transition success. We’ve analyzed lessons learned over the past few years to plan better for a future transition and follow-on contract and program.

And we are also working on implementing recommendations from the recent GAO report on Networx Transition.

Among the many lessons we and our partner agencies learned from the Networx transition are that improvements are needed in:

  • Project planning
  • Executive visibility
  • Coordination between IT and acquisition personnel
  • Managing complex acquisition processes to avoid duplicative contracts
  • Technical and contracting telecom expertise across government and need for more GSA support

We recently posted the Network Services Programs Lessons Learned Overview and Network Services Programs Lessons Learned Report to gsa.gov and are working to create a Lessons Learned government database for agencies to search and access.

Network Services 2020, or NS2020, is our strategy for our next-generation telecom and IT infrastructure portfolio. We’re applying lessons learned and proactively engaging our stakeholders to define the complete set of service offerings under NS2020.

Successful transition involves many steps that require executive-level attention and dedicated resources:

  • Transition Planning – Establishing a Transition Working Group, recommending a standard process, developing Statement of Work (SOW) and Fair Opportunity templates, developing a Transition Management Plan, creating a methodology to compute transition credit reimbursements, defining transition tracking metrics, and customer education
  • Direct Transition Preparation – Implementing agency education program and developing requirements by agencies, including drafting Task Order statements of work
  • Active Transition – Making Fair Opportunity decisions, ordering services, and transitioning the services
  • Inventory Management – Agencies, with assistance from GSA as needed, must continuously manage and validate their service inventories; it’s not just a one-time event to be conducted during a set transition period

Our Next Steps

  • Develop our successor to Networx and our regional contracts
  • Incorporate lessons learned to fully address improvements for transition, contracts, the program, acquisition strategy, ordering, billing and inventory management – we want to reduce duplicative contract vehicles, and continue savings to federal agencies
  • Establish an inter-agency Transition Working group
  • Establish clear and realistic end-to-end transition schedules and milestones
  • Recommend establishment of a senior-level “Transition Transparency Group” to provide needed visibility, transparency and focus
  • Offer full life-cycle support options to enable agencies to succeed in any transition step
  • Continue to engage IT and acquisition stakeholders (including industry) early and continuously throughout the process
  • Work with OPM to identify skills needed and skill gaps or resource shortages and strategies for
    addressing

As we move into a new phase of government telecom, we take with us applied knowledge and those lessons from the past to aid the transition. We continue to be committed to offer a marketplace that provides agencies with buying options, access to data and information, access to expertise, an improved buying experience, and continue to deliver significant savings.

Find out how we can assist you through our new Need Help Page. And be sure to follow us and continue the conversation on Twitter@GSA_ITS.

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Five guiding principles for FY13

on November 28, 2012

NOTE: Mary Davie is serving as the Acting Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). Her Deputy, Kevin Youel Page, has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Commissioner of the Integrated Technology Service (ITS) during this period.

Recently, I participated in a discussion with other federal government leaders to explore new and exciting IT solutions during GSA’s Network Services 2020 (NS2020) roundtable. It was the agency’s second roundtable, this time with CIOs, CAOs, and deputies throughout the federal government. Our goal was simple: Create a list of priorities for a future network services portfolio. The discussion gave us guiding principles for the NS2020 Strategy. Some apply beyond IT, to any government acquisition.

GSA shares initial lessons learned

We shared findings from GSA’s top-down review of previous and current telecommunications contracts, including FTS2001 and Networx. We reached out to over 100 stakeholders, performed market trend and data analysis, and held one-on-one meetings.

Our past outreach shows that GSA needs to match portfolio structure to agency buying patterns, as well as to industry market segments. Agencies value the more than $700M in savings achieved by Networx in FY12. We must continue to achieve greater savings through strategic sourcing to keep us in line with the September 20 GAO report that concludes government should do more strategic sourcing.

Here are the top 5 ideas:

1. Deeper government partnerships. Agencies want a spectrum of offerings ranging from complete solutions and managed services to commodity building blocks, with which to build their own solutions. They see value in GSA providing a portfolio of services based upon affinity clusters of services. Contract options brought to the table by other agencies also may be part of the mix.

2. Government and industry success. The more government makes our buys look like big corporate buys, the better we can tie into the market and existing industry capability. This means agency commitment, aggregated common requirements, and price visibility. There are benefits to aligning our portfolio with how industry works, and we need industry to weigh in and work with GSA to achieve this compatibility. Aligning offerings with industry practice and good industry partner communications will reduce transaction costs and benefit all. We discussed how to make incentives, instead of penalties, tied to contractor success, which could improve service to users and build upon the win-win.

3. Expand scope and delivery methods. We discussed the need and value of acquisition and operational efficiency. In developing this portfolio, GSA and agencies are looking broadly at how we aggregate requirements. A framework to weave related services and elements in an efficient way might include Software as a Service (SaaS), mobile applications, and other options. Some agencies are looking for turn-key solutions that offer hands-off management. Agencies are also looking for aggregated service and lower infrastructure costs through identifying common needs.

4. Continue commitment to innovation. We must continue to offer options to support continuous and convenient access to industry partner innovations. Looking at how we refresh technology and pricing could give us steady improvements with fewer heavy lifts. Many times, we can add innovation without developing new acquisitions.

5. Increase transition support and more. GSA can provide tailored customer support throughout the acquisition life cycle, including assistance with acquisition, fair opportunity, and transition processes. The systems and processes we have in place for consolidated and centralized billing have provided operational efficiencies. Enhancing these systems will further drive down government and industry operating costs.

Our current program provides more than $1.8B of networking services to federal agencies. We continue to enhance our existing portfolio as we plan for the future. We came away from the Roundtable with a plan of action. An NS2020 Interagency Advisory Panel will guide the strategy work for NS2020 and bring the strategy to the Federal CIO Council. Our joint commitment will turn shared priorities into real-world improvements.

Please share comments or additional priorities in the comments section below or follow us on twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

 

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We Are Listening

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 31, 2012

We’re down to the last few agencies making the move from our Federal Telecommunications Service 2001 (FTS 2001) contract to the Networx contracts and I am proud of the work we’ve done with our agency partners and OMB to make Networx a success.  

As many of you know, the Networx transition has not been easy. While the adoption has experienced challenges, we continue to work with agencies and industry to improve the offering, ease the transition, and highlight its benefits. In fact, we are applying the lessons learned from this effort to ensure our future program and offerings are an unqualified success.

Recognizing success

Most agencies now see the benefits of Networx. Almost 99% of services have transitioned and only 12 agencies remain on FTS 2001—four of which will make the transition by September.

In my discussions with agency CIOs and staff, it is clear that we all agree that centralized purchasing of network services saves money, improves service levels, and allows our government to get more for our mission. What is also clear is that agencies are looking for even more ways to share services and solutions where possible. GSA is committed to providing this kind of support.

The savings story of GSA’s telecommunications program is unmatched. Because we know exactly what agencies are buying and how much they are buying through  FTS2001 and Networx, we know we’ve saved the government about $7.7 billion (cumulative since 1999) when compared to commercial rates. Despite its imperfections, Networx adds tremendous value to agencies by leveraging the purchasing power of the federal government and providing access to new technologies.

The technologies offered in the contract have enabled the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to keep the country safe while allowing the Departments of Justice (DoJ) and Treasury to free up employee time so they can better serve citizens and save taxpayer dollars.

Specifically, Networx allowed these, and other agencies, to transform disparate telecommunications and networks infrastructure into an enterprise-wide managed network and security service, allowing them to reinvest savings in newer technology and increase bandwidth by almost ten-fold.

Applying lessons learned

Over the last few months, we’ve been reaching out to our agency and industry partners to talk about what’s working and what could be done better.  These lessons learned are helping us develop the Network Services 2020 strategy – the way forward for our telecommunications and network services program.  The Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Acquisition Officers (CAOs), and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) must be involved during the planning, execution, and implementation phases of the program. As such, we have held and are planning to hold additional cross-agency, CXO discussions. The first discussion occurred in June and focused on the future of government IT.

The roundtable discussion was a success and many of the agency CIOs told us that the NS2020 strategy must help facilitate the acquisition of more efficient network services solutions, which could eliminate the need for agencies to make costly infrastructure investments and could also help us buy more “as a service.”

Moving forward

We at GSA will continue to talk with agencies, industry, and our stakeholder community to ensure that our next generation solutions are easier to use, facilitate a faster and smoother transition, and enable government to buy those technologies that transform the way we serve our citizens.  

At its core, GSA provides agencies with IT acquisition solutions that save them time and money. We are committed to working together to develop the best solutions possible.

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