GSA calls monthly Networx meetings to speed transition

The procurement agency hopes regular meetings will speed the shift to Networx

Managers of the General Services Administration’s Networx telecommunications contract have stolen some thunder from their soon-to-be boss.

As Martha Johnson, the Obama administration’s nominee to be GSA administrator, was telling the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that she would make the Interagency Management Council (IMC) take a more active role with Networx, the contract’s managers were doing just that.

They have reinstituted regular meetings of the council’s Networx Transition Working Group.

But plenty of thunder remains for Johnson to wield. Members of the group agreed on only two actions at their May 21 meeting: Agencies should report transition issues to the Networx help desk, and GSA should direct all inquiries about the value of fair-opportunity decisions to individual agencies.

In recent months, GSA has provided a list of some fair-opportunity decisions and estimates of their value, where available. That effort was in line with a Justice Department ruling that “the prices in government contracts should not be secret. Government contracts are ‘public contracts,’ and the taxpayers have a right to know — with very few exceptions — what the government has agreed to buy and at what prices.”

Last month’s working group meeting was the first under GSA’s newly revised IMC charter designating Ed O’Hare, assistant commissioner for integrated technology services, as chairman.

At the meeting, O’Hare suggested that agencies streamline their statement-of-work and fair-opportunity processes, a GSA spokesman said.

“In working with the agencies from the very beginning, we looked at the responsibilities of the agencies and the responsibilities of GSA,” said Karl Krumbholz, GSA’s deputy assistant commissioner of network services, in an interview last month. “And our responsibility at GSA was to make available the contract. We all agreed between GSA and the agencies that the transition was the responsibility of the agencies.”

Increasingly, however, “we’re trying to move across that line and help them all we can to try to get this done because it’s in government’s best interest,” he said.

It’s a position Johnson has vowed to support. “I would like to emphasize the importance of completing the Networx transition before the current contracts expire,” she told the Senate committee. “In addition to the savings agencies will realize by transitioning to the new contracts, the security and interoperability benefits make it extremely important that this transition be completed as rapidly as possible.”

To help agencies meet the deadline for switching to Networx from FTS 2001, she said she would work closely with senior agency leaders to:

  • Identify planning and implementation gaps that prevent transition progress.
  • Ensure that GSA has provided the plans, processes, support systems, guidelines and procedures necessary to help agencies make the transition.
  • Offer technical and acquisition resources to agencies that need them.
  • Provide agencies with direct transition assistance, including technical and operational support.
  • Make transparent all measures of transition progress.
  • Ensure that GSA is doing whatever is necessary to assist each agency in transitioning their services to a Networx contract.

The Senate is expected to confirm Johnson’s appointment later this month.

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

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