Industry supports Networx, with some reservations

A panel of industry representatives testified before the House Government Reform Committee Wednesday that the General Services Administration is on the right track with its revised Networx acquisition strategy, but advised the federal procurement agency to make additional changes.

One executive said he wanted to see a broader range of services included in $10 billion telecommunications contract. Others expressed concern about GSA's ability to manage the contract and ensure competition once it is awarded.

The hearing was the second by the committee to gather information on whether the 10-year, $10 billion, governmentwide contract for telecommunications and data services will be effective in the ever-changing telecom environment.

The procurement will replace the FTS2001 contract that expires in 2006. GSA Networx strategy consists of a two-part acquisition: a Universal portion for large players, and an Enterprise portion for information technology companies.

The panel's five participants included:

  • Donald Scott, senior vice president of U.S. government solutions, EDS Corp.

  • Jerry Hogge, senior vice president, Level 3 Communications LLC

  • Robert Collet, vice president, engineering, AT&T Government Solutions

  • Shelley Murphy, president of federal markets, Verizon Communications Inc.

  • Jerry Edgerton, senior vice president of government markets, MCI Inc.

  • Scott of EDS called for GSA to widen Networx's scope to include a "broader, richer set of services and solutions" that focuses on network applications. Among the specific services he said Networx should include are directory services and metadirectories, IP communications, managed desktop environment, managed wireless networks, multicarrier networks, Web hosting and converged voice and data.

    Hogge of Level 3 Communications said that certain issues of the Networx procurement remain open, because GSA will not issue the full details of its strategy until the draft request for proposals comes out in November. While he said GSA has improved Networx, the agency needs to address the government's commitment to winning bidders and how it will ensure full competition during the life of the contract.

    "These two concepts are at the heart of the Networx program's ability to attract agency participation, motivate vigorous industry competition, and ensure best value for end-user agencies," Hogge said.

    Collet of AT&T said GSA should award only contracts that it can guarantee it will manage well. GSA's revised strategy calls for multiple contracts to be issued under the two parts of Networx.

    "Managing a handful of Universal contracts and a larger number of Enterprise contracts would tax the management capabilities of any agency," Collet said. "The complexity is compounded if all Universal and Enterprise contracts provide up to 53 types of network services."

    Edgerton of MCI, one of the incumbent companies on the FTS2001 contract, said there were two unresolved issues "that could negatively impact the ability of the government to obtain the best possible pricing under Networx and on the effectiveness and viability of the program."

    First, GSA has not set clear limits on the number of Networx contract awards, he said. Second, GSA has not placed clear limits on the number and types of services that will be included in its Federal Supply Schedule program.

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