Rep. Davis keeps pressure on Networx program

Rep. Tom Davis is keeping the heat on the General Services Administration's huge Networx telecommunications program by holding a hearing tomorrow to explore issues of industry participation, GSA's management skills and fees the agency will charge others to use the contract.

Three panels of industry and government witnesses will testify before the House Government Reform Committee chaired by Davis, a Virginia Republican. This is the third hearing on Networx Davis has held in the past year.

"While GSA has made significant changes to the program, I'm not yet certain that it will become the 'best choice' for agencies as they design 21st-century telecom plans," Davis said in a statement.

The congressman added that many questions still need to be answered, such as whether Networx will encourage the broadest possible participation from industry, if GSA will "effectively cripple" Networx with excessive management fees and if GSA can provide adequate leadership and management capability for the program.

The latest hearing comes a month before GSA is expected to issue the request for proposals for the two parts of the 10-year voice and data communications procurement. The committee held two hearings on Networx in February and September of last year.

The procurement is broken down into two parts. The Universal part will provide all government locations with a wide range of telecom services nationwide. The Enterprise part will offer a mix of specialized Internet protocol or wireless services in specific geographical areas. GSA plans to issue the awards in April 2006.

At the end of last month, the agency increased the minimum revenue guarantees for the Enterprise part to $50 million from $25 million in response to industry concerns.

Government witnesses include Stephen Perry, GSA administrator and John Johnson, assistant commissioner for service development and delivery at GSA's Federal Technology Service. Johnson is overseeing the Networx contract.

Industry witnesses include Jerry Hogge, senior vice president of Level 3 Communications Inc., Robert Collet, vice president of engineering for AT&T Government Solutions and Gregory Baroni, president, global public sector, Unisys Corp.

In an interview with Washington Technology last month, Johnson said the hearing would be another opportunity to discuss the status of the program and get more feedback from those attending. In December, GSA received 2,501 industry and agency responses to its draft RFPs for Networx.

One concern for industry is that the program have fair competition and allow for technological innovation and the use of commercial services, said Michael Maiorana, vice president of government sales and operations for Verizon Wireless.

Jerry Edgerton of MCI, who also will testify, said he anticipates that the hearing will discuss the progress of the procurement. MCI and Sprint are the incumbents on the current FTS2001 governmentwide telecom services contract, which Networx will replace in 2006.

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