Still no extension on EIS

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The General Services Administration has not extended its 2020 deadline for agencies to move to a next-generation telecommunications contract, but one of GSA's top acquisition officials said it's still being considered.

"We're very aware it's an issue," Kay Ely, deputy commissioner in the office of information category in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said at a July 17 conference on the agency's Enterprise Infrastructure Services contract. "We're looking at how we have conversations with stakeholders."

According to Ely, GSA could provide some leeway in deadlines, but agencies must show they're using EIS to transform their networks.

"No modernization, no extension," she said at the FedInsider EIS conference.

Ely's remarks echoed those made recently by Crystal Philcox, GSA's deputy assistant commissioner for category management. In June Philcox said any extension to move to EIS depended on how agencies planned on leveraging the contract to transform their networks.

No official extension has been announced by GSA, however.

Ely said she wants to be able to show the Government Accountability Office and GSA's Chief Senior Procurement Executive Jeff Koses that agencies are demonstrably leveraging EIS for modernizing their IT. "Then we'll have a conversation" about extending the deadline, she said.

A top executive for EIS vendor CenturyLink said his company has seen the deadline altering the way agencies are thinking about the contract.

"We see [the] deadline fueling agencies to take a 'winner take all' horserace" among providers, instead of "being smart" about technology and providers they use, said Dave Young, CenturyLink's senior vice president for strategic government. "The deadline is forcing incorrect behavior" that misses the "transformational" capabilities that EIS offers.

GSA, Ely said, has worked hard to make sure agencies have more assistance in developing their plans.

"Honestly, GSA stumbled a bit out of the gate a little bit. I think we did not support the agencies as well as we could have," she said.

GSA's shift of emphasis -- from agencies' "transition" to EIS to leveraging it for "transformation" of IT operations -- has helped change the way the contract is perceived, she said. Transforming IT facilities has become a focal point of the federal government's II modernization push. The agency, said Ely, has come a long way since the contract's award last July, from supporting agencies' planning to its interaction with providers.

EIS contractors, meanwhile, are completing testing of the back office systems that will support the contract and preparing to possibly respond to agency task orders this fall. In June, AT&T, Core and MetTel joined Verizon on the list of vendors that have completed the testing. They all have to complete Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) moderate compliance before they get an official Authority to Operate. Carrier officials have told FCW they believe they can get an ATO by November.

Federal agency officials are looking to EIS for transformation, which can include dropping some of the labor and budget intensive IT efforts they have to support currently.

"We're the largest airline in the world, we're the largest transportation company in the world," said Leslie Perkins, deputy CTO for the Air Force's Information Dominance and CIO (SAF/CIO A6) office. "We need folks focused on the mission, not on telecommunications."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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