GSA says 'No' to more Networx extensions

Program manager clarifies continuity-of-services clause

Despite rumors to the contrary, the General Services Administration remains unmoved by any whining about agencies needing more time to complete the transition to Networx from FTS 2001.

“There is no new extension,” stated GSA Network Services Program Manager Karl Krumbholz. “Government has until 2011 to disconnect all services from current FTS 2001 contracts. GSA will not extend the existing contacts beyond their May/June expiration dates.”

Confusion about a possible extension may be the result of a misunderstanding about a continuity-of-services clause that can extend by a year agencies’ ability to order services from FTS 2001, Krumbholz said.

GSA in 2007 negotiated 42-month, sole-source bridge contracts with FTS 2001 carriers, Sprint Nextel and MCI Communications Inc., and a similar bridge contract with crossover carrier AT&T Government Solutions. Those contracts were set to expire in May/June of 2010, the same time that GSA’s crossover contract with Qwest Government Services was set to expire.

“Each of these contracts has always had a continuity-of-service provision that allows GSA to extend the contracts for 12 additional months for the purpose of completing transition,” Krumbholz said.

These continuity-of-service contract provisions do not go into effect automatically, but must be invoked by GSA. There is no question, he said, “GSA intends to invoke them.”

Those FTS 2001 service provider continuity-of-service contracts will then expire in May/June 2011, at which time, to continue to receive service, agencies must have placed orders on Networx, Krumbholz said.

“The current sole-source contracts cannot be extended, and GSA is taking no action to get authorization to negotiate additional sole-source contracts with our FTS 2001 carriers,” he said.

A case for speed

The argument for agencies to speedily make the transition from FTS 2001 to Networx is a compelling one: Every month they fail to do so costs them — and taxpayers — between 20 percent and 40 percent more than had they completed the transition. Governmentwide, that translates to $18 million per month.

“Hidden” costs bring that number even higher. For example, agencies must divert resources to handling the transition. Additionally, GSA must continue to maintain two contracts, and those costs are recouped through the fee GSA charges agencies.

Although GSA’s original agreement with agencies called for the agency to provide the contract and agencies to handle the transition, Krumbholz has repeatedly offered to help agencies do whatever is needed to meet the deadline, an offer some agencies have accepted.

With at least half the Networx awards yet to be made, it’s unlikely agencies will be ready to turn off all FTS 2001 services in June 2010 — maybe not even by 2011. But no one believes that on any given “deadline” day, federal agency phones will stop ringing, Web sites will go dark, e-mail and other network services contracted for on FTS 2001 will cease.

However, as much sense the deadlines may make for agencies, they are — in the end — contract expiration dates. The best bet to prod agencies into complying may lie with GSA’s new administrator, still awaiting confirmation by Congress.

During June hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Obama nominee Martha Johnson vowed to “raise the level of dialogue on the Networx transition, so that senior agency officials and newly appointed agency heads are aware of the importance of completing the transition in the time frame available.”

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