GSA

GAO warns agencies are behind in preparing for telecom contract transition

Federal agencies don’t plan to meet a significant milestone for a transition to a new telecommunications contract vehicle, according to a April 7 report from the Government Accountability Office.

According to the report — which evaluated agencies’ transition plans to the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract vehicle, a telecommunications vehicle replacing the current Networx contract — several agencies missed important transition milestones laid out by the GSA.

Networx contracts are expected to expire in May 2023. To ensure agencies don’t miss that deadline, the GSA set a Sept. 30, 2022, milestone for the transition of all Networx contracts to the EIS contract, which is estimated to be worth $50 billion over 15 years.

But the GAO report, which evaluated the plans of 19 agencies, found that 11 of them don’t plan to transition by the September 2022 milestone set by the GSA. Rather, they plan to finish the transition by May 2023.

“While transitioning to EIS is a complex undertaking, delaying this transition will cause agencies to miss potential cost savings that would result from the generally lower rates for services on EIS,” the GAO wrote.

The GAO warned that missing the September milestone while planning to complete the transition before the May expiration presents too much risk of entirely missing the deadline.

“By waiting until close to the end of the current contracts to finish the transition, these agencies are at risk of experiencing disruptions in service if any issues arise that result in transition delays, such as inadequate human capital resources or the need to transition previously unidentified services,” the report read.

The 11 agencies that told the GAO they wouldn’t meet the deadlines are:

  • Department of Agriculture;
  • Department of Commerce;
  • Department of Energy;
  • Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Department of Homeland Security;
  • Department of the Interior;
  • Department of Justice;
  • Department of Transportation;
  • Department of the Treasury;
  • Department of Veterans Affairs; and
  • Social Security Administration.

The GSA also evaluated the plans of the departments of Defense, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and State, along with the GSA, NASA and the Small Business Administration. All eight said they planned to meet the September transition milestone.

While agencies risk missing the May 2023 deadline, the GAO also reported that most agencies missed both of GSA’s milestones for EIS in 2019. Fourteen agencies missed the March 2019 milestone for releasing all EIS fair opportunity solicitations, while all but one missed the September 2019 milestone for issuing all EIS task orders.

Agency officials told the GAO that they missed deadlines for several reasons, including staffing shortages and the complexity of the requirements.

The GAO recommended that the agencies fully implement their transition plans in order to transition to the EIS contract by May 2023. According to the GAO, the transition to the Networx contract was delayed because of poor planning by agencies.

“Accordingly, it is critical for agencies to apply a rigorous management approach from the start of the current transition using the information that is currently available, even though changes may be necessary as conditions evolve,” the report read. “Agencies that do not fully adopt the comprehensive approach captured in these planning practices may not make the most of the opportunity for change, and the potential to save costs, that such a major telecommunications transition provides.”

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