The General Services Administration will release this week a draft request for proposals for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, expected to be the biggest federal telecommunications contract yet.
The EIS indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will offer federal agencies next-generation telecommunications services and will replace the existing GSA Networx contract. Networx is scheduled to expire in 2017, but GSA is planning to extend it for three years until 2020 to allow agencies enough time to transition to EIS.
Related: Contract Calendar: See what's coming
The draft RFP is expected to be published Feb. 28, said GSA's Fred Haines, EIS program manager, in an interview.
Resource: GSA's Network Services 2020 Strategy
EIS will be a central pillar of GSA's larger Network Strategies 2020 initiative, which will produce a number of next-generation communications and networks acquisition programs for federal agencies to use in the coming decade.
Haines said some agency customers have criticized GSA's current Networx Enterprise telecommunications contract as overly complex and rigid to use. EIS, he said, will be structured to provide agencies with a more agile, flexible, easy-to-use procurement vehicle to buy next-generation telecommunications solutions at the enterprise scale as well as on a piecemeal basis.
For one thing, the EIS master contract will not force agencies to order through a long list of specific contract line item numbers (CLINS), as Networx does, but instead will enable agencies to work with vendors to assemble a package solution tailored to their needs and list the appropriate CLINs in the task order. This will provide far more flexibility to agencies in terms of procuring tailored package solutions. It also will mean the contract will not need to be modified frequently to add new CLINs as agency demands for services expand, Haines said.
Also, at the task order level, industry will have more flexibility to adjust pricing based on the scale of the procurement, Haines said.
"It also gives industry an opportunity to structure deals based on specific agencies. So if you're a large, large, large buyer – you're one of the major cabinet agencies – industry can give you a deal and price points that they wouldn't give to a commission that represents 30 people. … That's the flexibility we're trying to offer to industry," he said.
EIS also will provide customer agencies a wider range of options to use GSA assistance in crafting their telecom procurements.
"A lot of agencies are like, 'Just give me a contract and get out of our way and let us do our thing.' And other agencies, they need significant help because there's been a brain drain in technical talent throughout government," Haines said.
Haines said he hopes there will be more awardees on the EIS contract than the five now on the Networx Enterprise and Universal contracts: AT&T, CenturyLink, Level 3 Communications, Sprint, and Verizon.
He said a market research survey GSA did a year ago suggested that as many as 15 companies – including Harris, Windstream, Cox Communications and Comcast -- could possibly bid for the contract.
Haines said the draft RFP is based in part on "extensive" meetings with industry, including two previous requests for information and almost two months' worth of one-on-one meetings with vendors.