GSA's Johnson: No truth to early Networx award talk

A top official at the General Services Administration has laid to rest industry rumors that the procurement agency might issue contract awards for its 10-year, $20 billion Networx program before the award dates next year.

John Johnson, GSA's acting assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services, told Washington Technology Friday that although there is potential for earlier awards, GSA plans to issue them for Universal and Enterprise services on the set dates of March and May 2007, respectively.

"I don't know how [industry] would know that, since we are the ones that are evaluating the contracts and making the awards," Johnson said. "There may have been some rumor that there's a potential to award early ? there's always that potential ? but [with] the dates we gave based on our assessment of the work to be done, and the dialogue that is required to eventually make the awards, we're on target to meet the dates we have publicized in the past. The team is working hard to make sure that those dates are met to the extent possible."

The Networx program is a governmentwide contract vehicle for purchasing telecommunications and networks services. It will replace the FTS2001 contract that expires at the end of the year. The Federal Technology Service 2001 incumbents ? the former MCI Worldcom Communications Inc. and Sprint Communications LP ? have contract extensions from GSA to provide service until agencies start to use the Networx contracts.

Networx is divided into a Universal part and an Enterprise part. Universal will supply all government locations with a range of telecom services nationwide. Enterprise will offer a mix of specialized Internet protocol or wireless services in specific geographical areas. GSA will issue multiple awards under Networx, but it has not stated a specific number.

"GSA should make an award when they're ready to make an award," said Ray Baxter, director of business development at Sprint Nextel Corp. "I'd like to see it done as early as possible, but I'd like to see it done in a manner in which they truly go to their new motto, which is 'Get It Right.' "

Agency users would like GSA to issue the Networx contracts earlier than planned, so they can buy new service applications and convergence and get lower pricing, Baxter said, based on his conversations with federal agencies.

Not everyone in industry believes GSA could issue the awards earlier than scheduled, even if it desired to do so.

The "normal kabuki dance" between government and industry with its ritual rounds of proposals and revisions continues, said Diana Gowen, senior vice president of government services sales for Qwest Communications International Inc.

"I would be very surprised if an award could be made before March of next year," she said. "What I hope is that [John Johnson] keeps people's feet to the fire internally in government with pressure that he wants to award earlier just so that we make the March date" for the universal awards.

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