Working Hard to Improve Security, Safety, and Quality of Life for Americans

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 9, 2017

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Telecommunications Services. Gavino is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements.)

ITC’s Office of Telecommunications Services provides a wide variety of offerings to federal, state and local governments which includes voice, video, data, managed network services, call center services, mobile and wireless, satellite services, last mile connections and much more. Because of our partnership with industry and our robust solution sets, we are able to provide government agencies seamless access and support, thus achieving shared value and expanding the benefits of modern technology. We’re continually transforming and enabling improvement to the security, safety, and quality of life for our nation and its citizens.

We enhance security by providing the communications services that connect law enforcement resources with information locally and worldwide to counter crime and terrorism. We also support the safety of our men and women in uniform, humanitarian relief, disaster-response, and counterterrorism efforts through satellites. And the telecommunications service we provide also improves government’s ability to respond  anywhere and anytime through mobile devices (i.e., tablets and wireless smartphones); enhances patient health care for veterans and aging population; supports farmers and ranchers; tracks wildlife and diseases; and ensures food safety and inspections.

A Look Back at 2016

We’re always trying to improve, and here are a few ways:

Simplifying, Standardizing, and Buying in Volume

The Category Management (CM) approach to simplify, standardize, and make use of volume to streamline enterprise-wide telecom is the focus of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). CM helps us adapt our solutions as the industry changes and as agency needs change. For example, we’re being less local and more global to ensure agencies adopt security and unified communication technologies that comply with best practices.

Managing Telecom as a Subcategory

We are managing Telecom and all of our offerings in IT as a comprehensive portfolio and have technical, functional and acquisition experts to help agencies buy in a more efficient way and improve mission delivery.

Engaging Agencies and Industry

In 2016, GSA continued to engage agency and industry partners to shape the upcoming EIS, which will replace Networx and local and regional telecom services. We formed the EIS Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) to define priorities share best practices, plan for transition and ensure the final EIS solution meets government’s needs.

Optimizing Telecom Use and Spend

Because of our strong partnerships with agencies, GSA’s telecommunications program is recognized as “the government’s telecommunications program,” and as a result, we are able to aggregate and leverage more than $2 billion in annual spend and document over $675 million in savings.

Providing a Range of Purchasing Options

We recognize that ease of use is critical for our agency customers so we offer a range of purchasing solutions across our IT and telecommunications contracts — everything from self service through delegated procurement authority … to monitoring contract service level agreement achievement … to providing advice and consulting to providing fully assisted services.

Enhancing Agencies’ Understanding of Telecom Purchases

Telecom has been managed as a category for a while. Because of standard service definitions and contract terms in contracts like Networx, agencies can make “apples to apples” comparisons around services. This makes it easier for GSA and other agencies to make comparisons between suppliers and to get the best value for their purchases. And, because of the data we collect on purchasing, GSA can clearly see purchasing trends which shape future contracts (e.g., EIS, etc.) and our discussions with agencies and suppliers. We continually refine this data driven approach to supplier management to get better value for agencies and taxpayers.

Here is what we have seen over the past 10 years. Demand for bandwidth has increased at a compound annual growth rate that exceeds 30 percent, but our normalized costs for the bandwidth has decreased. Part of this is simply an industry phenomenon. Bandwidth is getting cheaper; however, part of this is due to our data driven approach to our interactions with suppliers. We expect bandwidth to be “cheaper by the dozen” and we have an approach to ensure this is the case. Further, most agencies are modernizing their networks through increased bandwidth demand, especially via Ethernet services. For instance, enterprise network services are migrating towards 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; our Networx extensions focused on this migration and Ethernet is an EIS required service.

The increased demand for these services drove purchasing up 10 percent on Networx in 2016, which further lowers telecom costs, especially for Ethernet services. The availability, performance, and price of Ethernet services will remain important for years to come. In 2017 and beyond, EIS is on target to continue lowering costs for government.

2017 Telecom Priorities

Our biggest priority in 2017 is to continue to collaborate across government and industry, and begin the transition to EIS.

The EIS Transition Challenge Government-wide

GSA and agency partners are preparing for the EIS awards so transition can begin and be completed by 2020. All agencies using Networx were required to submit Agency Transition Plans, which were due in fall 2016. We are excited to continue to work with industry and agency partners to take advantage of new solutions and new technology.

Mobility Savings and Enhanced Management

Mobile services are also in the spotlight in 2017. Five wireless service plans — three data and two voice plans — represent more than 90 percent of federal government’s purchases of mobile services. Standardized buying forces competition to focus on price and quality since many features and requirements are the same (Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) customers paid 26%  less in 2016 than in 2012 because of this simple standardized strategy). In 2017, the government-wide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) will drive further savings as FSSI-W growth continues and the MSCT defines the next-generation mobility program.

Demands for Bandwidth, Security, and Satellites

Bandwidth demands and security capabilities will continue to grow in 2017, and we’ll also launch a new Commercial Satellite Custom Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) contract.

In all these areas, we partner with agencies to find the best telecom infrastructure solutions to meet mission needs.

Learn More about Telecom Solutions

To find out more about available tools, best practices, and telecom solutions, select Telecommunications and Network Services on GSA’s website and visit the Telecommunications Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit all the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.

 

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Satellite Solutions on Course

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/)

Satellites Make a Difference

Use of commercial satellite systems continue to give government the ability to make a huge difference in the lives of Americans. Defense and other systems can monitor global events and rapidly implement communications infrastructure almost immediately without advance resource and lead-time commitments.

We depend on satellite solutions more and more to meet critical warfighter and disaster recovery communications requirements. In addition, satellites provide network diversity and resilience in the event that a terrestrial-based network fails.

We rely on satellites for weather alerts, search and recovery, shipboard and maritime navigation, distance learning and training, and many scientific and research programs depend on commercial satellite capacity.

SATCOM also supports additional remote and mobile applications in the areas of humanitarian relief, disaster-response communications, and counter terrorism efforts.

Satellite Use, by the Numbers

Use of commercial satellite services in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) by government under GSA-DoD’s joint Satellite Communications (SATCOM) program continues to be strong.

Usage exceeded $532 million in FY15. Nearly 2,000 services and items have been delivered through the SATCOM contracts since inception in 2011.

A total of 44 agencies, including 34 civilian agencies, ordered satellite services in FY15 from the joint GSA-DoD program called Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA).

Defense needs continue to dominate the government’s commercial satellite buys under FCSA with approximately 93.7% of business volume from defense and 6.3% from civilian agencies. This is consistent with FY14 demand.

Agencies buying through the FCSA program obtain lower prices. Bandwidth prices in FY15 using the FCSA contract averaged 34% savings off of Schedule list prices. GSA estimates that the SATCOM centralized competition and increased price transparency driven by the GSA-DoD partnership saved the government $211 million in FY15.  

Today’s Satellite Buying Trends

The buying patterns on the SATCOM contracts remain consistent with last year, showing which satellite services are most often used and how agencies are buying them.

Most commercial satellite requirements (approximately 75%) continue to be satisfied through use of IT Schedule 70.

  • Agencies continued to order mostly transponded capacity from Schedule 70 Special Item Number (SIN) 132-54, to use dedicated bandwidth on a commercial communications satellite. Agencies pay for service from fixed and mobile locations to a satellite and back to the end user. In FY15, transponded capacity accounted for 57% of orders.
  • Subscription services (Schedule 70 SIN 132-55) continue to be the second most in demand, accounting for approximately 18% of government satellite solution demand in FY15.

In addition, more complex solutions that often contain customized components associated with technology, geography, mobility, or security are satisfied via Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and Custom SATCOM Solutions – Small Business (CS2-SB). Use of CS2 and CS2-SB rose from 20% to 25% of GSA’s commercial satellite demand from FY14 to FY15.

The SATCOM program again proved to be a strong supporter of small business. In 2015, $63.9 million (12% program-wide) of purchases went to small businesses compared to $45 million (9% program-wide) in FY14. In FY15, $20.8 million was through GSA’s-DoD’s joint CS2-SB contract and $43.1 million through Schedule 70.

Planning for the Future with CS3

The past year also included the Department of Defense’s commitment to the next generation GSA-DoD joint satellite services solutions.

In FY15, GSA, DoD and other government agencies started to plan for what government commercial satellite contracts and solutions we’ll have for the future: Complex Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3).

CS3 will be the follow on contract for CS2 and CS2-SB which expire in August 2017 and February 2017, respectively. CS3 looks to build upon the success of CS2 and CS2-SB to create contracts as flexible and agile as possible to meet and satisfy the widely differing requirements of the federal government both now and for the next decade and beyond.

In 2015, we met several CS3 milestones, which included forming the GSA-DoD CS3 development team, issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to industry, engaging and collaborating with industry at a GSA-hosted CS3 Industry Day, and launching a new Interact Site to continue the dialog with industry on the future CS3.

On December 29th, we posted the CS3 Request for Proposals (RFP) on FedBizOpps.

Stay tuned for more in 2016 about CS3.

Join the Interact Site and follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to hear more and join the conversation.

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Satellite Solutions Reach New Heights in FY14

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 9, 2015

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14. Read previous posts at  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Government relies on satellite solutions more and more to meet critical warfighter communications requirements. In addition, satellites provide network diversity and resilience in the event that a terrestrial-based network fails.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that use of commercial satellite services to government under GSA-DOD’s joint Satellite Communications (SATCOM) contracts grew more than 10% from 2013.

In total, usage exceeded $530 million in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014). Nearly 1,200 services and items have been delivered through the SATCOM contracts since inception in 2011.

Worldwide communications, national defense, weather alerts, search and recovery, shipboard and maritime navigation, distance learning, and training, and many scientific and research programs depend on commercial satellite capacity. SATCOM also supports additional remote and mobile applications in the areas of humanitarian relief, disaster-response communications, and counter-terrorism efforts.

In total 64 agencies, including 45 civilian agencies, ordered satellite services from SATCOM contracts through the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) Program in FY 2014. Of total orders, approximately 90% came from defense and 10% from civilian agencies.

Satellite Buying Trends

The buying patterns on the SATCOM contracts reveal which satellite services are most often used and how agencies are buying them.

Most commercial satellite requirements (around 80%) are being satisfied through use of  IT Schedule 70. These are mostly for satellite bandwidth (transponded capacity) and managed service solutions offered on a subscription basis. More complex solutions that often contain customized components associated with technology, geography, mobility, or security frequently leverage task orders via Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and Custom SATCOM Solutions – Small Business (CS2-SB).

Transponded capacity, which agencies ordered from Schedule 70 Special Item Number (SIN) 132-54, is the use of dedicated bandwidth on a commercial communications satellite. It accounted for 70% of orders in FY 14. Agencies pay for service from fixed and mobile locations to a satellite and back to the end user.

FCSA offers bandwidth in eight separate frequency bands, the most popular being Ku (using frequencies of about 12 GigaHertz for terrestrial reception and 14 GigaHertz for transmission). Ku band dominated with 92% of the transponded capacity. Satellite service in Ku band uses smaller dishes, which can be physically mobile and more easily follow soldiers deployed around the globe to achieve their missions and communicate with their families.

Subscription services  (Schedule 70 SIN 132-55) accounted for 10% of government satellite solution demand last fiscal year. Custom satellite solutions through CS2 and CS2-SB orders accounted for 20% of the demand.

The SATCOM program is a strong supporter of small business. In 2014, $45 million (9% program-wide) of purchases went to small business. Of this, $19 million was through GSA’s-DOD’s joint CS2-SB contract and $26 million through Schedule 70.

Savings and Acquisition Efficiency for Satellite Services

In FY 2014, bandwidth prices using the FCSA contract averaged 34% off Schedule list prices. GSA estimates that the SATCOM centralized competition and increased price transparency driven by the GSA-DISA partnership saved the government $229 million in FY 2014, with $180 million of the savings attributed to DoD orders.

Also of note, the GSA-DoD joint contracts in FY 2014 continue to achieve a reduced number of contracts and acquisition cycles for satellite solution procurements, thereby generating further administrative savings.

For non-custom satellite solutions, the reduced acquisition lead time for task orders under Schedule 70 reduces time to award by about nine months (versus creating new contracts). Shorter acquisition times generally translate into lower administrative costs.

Looking to the future, defense needs will continue to dominate the government’s commercial satellite market. However, we also anticipate growth in civilian demand. This is especially true for the two predefined Schedule 70 SIN solutions, which lend themselves to quickly activated solutions for humanitarian and disaster support services.

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

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FY 2014 Year-End IT Purchasing Data Tell Our Stories

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 6, 2015

This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14.

Gain insights into what rocked IT in FY14….

The government’s IT purchases tell a story. Gone are days when IT was in a silo off in the corner. Now, IT is a key part of the mission equation. IT investments made in Fiscal Year 2014 give us the latest chapter in the story of what’s important to government as a whole.

Agencies are feeling pressure to develop mission enhancing technologies. They want solutions that will expand and contract as needed and serve multiple purposes, without technology investments becoming outdated and stale. They look for ways to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars wisely, realize IT cost savings and acquisition efficiencies, and meet our service goals to the American people. And they look to GSA for help.

GSA is proud to play a role in helping agencies buy smarter, faster, and for greater value. We work closely with CIOs, CFOs, and CAOs across government to understand our customers’ current and future requirements. We can also look at fiscal year-end purchasing data to give insights into what rocked our government IT world in the past year.

Stay Tuned for Closer Looks at Each IT Area

Being the largest IT acquisition organization in the federal government, it is our responsibility to create an environment where agencies and industry can obtain the necessary information to understand buying patterns, trends, and best practices. That means even greater transparency beyond our extensive customer and industry outreach efforts.

To that end, I will run a series of blog posts here in the next week or so to take a closer look at FY 2014 purchasing trends and activity in different IT areas such as cyber, wireless services, commodities from IT Schedule 70, satellite services, and more.

The data we’re using is based on activity and trends we see on GSA’s IT contracts. The data not only gives an idea of our aggregated IT priorities and trends in 2014, but what might be coming next. I encourage you to join us and check back often over the coming weeks as we look back at FY14 IT to better understand this recently closed chapter.

And remember to follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

 

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Customer engagement drives innovation – COMSATCOM

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on March 23, 2010

Several weeks after Martha Johnson’s swearing in, I find myself continuing to think about the themes she addressed – Customer Intimacy, Operational Excellence and Innovation. In my last entry, I focused primarily on the idea of customer intimacy, which has been at the core of recent ITS initiatives.  Furthermore, I firmly believe that engaging the customer and capitalizing on strong professional relationships can drive innovation. As an example, I mentioned COMSATCOM, the partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for commercial SATCOM services. I’d like to take a moment to share more about this partnership.

Every year the federal government relies more and more on commercial satellite communications to provide essential, secure communications to disaster recovery teams, domestic emergency responders, and our men and women in the armed forces – we see the results on the television every day.

As the federal government’s need for commercial satellite communications services increased, both DISA and GSA created various competing contract vehicles to meet the demand. But why manage separate contract vehicles that offer essentially the same services?

Back in July 2009, with multiple contracts expiring by 2012, DISA and GSA joined up to launch the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition program, an innovative, collaborative solution that would not only replace the expiring contracts but simplify the acquisition process through a blending of IT Schedule 70 and multiple award indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contracts.  It would generate significant savings to defense and civilian agencies; state, local and tribal governments and, of course, the taxpayer.

So how did we do it?

It came down to trust and understanding, which can only be achieved through sincere customer engagement, active listening and proactively responding to customers’ needs.

We met with the key players at DISA. They explained their requirements and concerns with our processes and fee structure.  We listened, made some adjustments, and agreed to an innovative partnership that has set a new precedent in government contracting.

Now that is great government through technology!

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