GSA's Mary Davie is optimistic that the NS2020 strategy will meet agency telecom needs years into the future. (James J. Lee / Staff)
The General Services Administration is making strides in developing Network Solutions 2020, the governmentwide telecommunications program that will replace the expiring Networx contracts.
It recently issued two requests for information seeking input on specific aspects of the program. However, some expect Networx to be extended. That assumption is based in part on the transition to Networx from the previous FTS2001 contract, a process that took years longer than hoped.
NS2020, unlike the major communications programs that preceded it, will not be made up of a few large, comprehensive contracts, said Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services. Instead it is a strategy, a portfolio of smaller contracts, including some that already exist.
For example, the agency is currently considering whether the GSA federal supply schedules program could support cloud services. “We know that our existing contracts can support some things, and we know we might need to create some new ones,” she said.
However, whether the agency can get the program ready in time to provide a smooth and timely transition from Networx remains an open question. The transition to Networx itself was rough; GSA issued extensions to the older FTS 2001 contracts to keep services running while agencies made the move.
Bonus: GSA letter to agencies on contract extensions , February 2011.
Tony Bardo, assistant vice president of government solutions at Hughes Network Systems, believes an extension of Networx is inevitable. However, he would like to see GSA create a contract for emerging technologies soon, even if other aspects of the NS2020 strategy take longer.
“The strategy here is, don’t wait for the future,” he said. “Whenever GSA has to or wants to or is mandated to extend the [Networx] contract, they should be working immediately on the emerging services contract.”
While Networx was designed with an eye toward making it easy to add new technologies, things that emerged only after the contract’s initial requirements were set, Hughes has been selling managed broadband services through the schedules because adding it to Networx has been difficult.
Networx “is the preferred vehicle for agencies to buy network services,” he said. “You can go the schedules route, and that’s a legitimate route. The schedules can be an important acquisition tool. We’ve done ok with the GSA schedules. [But] it’s not the preferred path.”
While not committing to a timeline, Davie agreed that an ability to add new technologies to an existing set of offerings is essential.
“Evolving technology will continue to evolve rapidly,” she said. “If we have Networx expiring in 2017 and the next contracts carry us out to close to 2030,” there’s no telling what will change along the way.