The General Services Administration’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract is the network contract that will carry federal agencies into the next decade and beyond. However, they need to transition to it first.
EIS, which is designed to let agencies modernize their networks, especially via technologies such as software-defined networking and 5G wireless networks, replaces the existing Networx contract. Agencies had been required to transition away from the Networx contracting vehicle to EIS by the spring of 2020. However, in December, the GSA extended the deadline to 2023 to give agencies more time to switch.
Agencies are making progress, according to a GSA spokesperson, and are “working hard, with support from GSA, to finalize their solicitations and get them released to industry as soon as possible.”
As of April 16, 47 solicitations had been submitted to the GSA for scope review, and 20 of those had been released to industry, the spokesperson says.
GSA Pushes Agencies to Meet EIS Deadlines
The rate of submission to the GSA and release to industry continues to increase as agencies strive toward Sept. 30, 2019 awards, the spokesperson adds. That date is the deadline for agencies to award EIS task orders. On March 31, 2020, the GSA will limit the use of the extended contracts for agencies that have not made task order awards.
“Not making this deadline is a yellow light,” Laura Stanton, the GSA’s deputy assistant commissioner for category management in IT category at GSA, said in remarks at an ACT-IAC conference on May 8, according to FCW.
If an agency misses the Sept. 30 deadline to award an EIS task order, the GSA will increase its efforts with that agency to move to EIS, according to Stanton, and will work directly with that agency to see how it can aid in the transition.
According to FCW, while the September deadline is important, Stanton said that the March 2020 deadline is critical, and if agencies miss that target date, the light “will go from yellow to red.” By that point, “agencies may not have the time to make the transition” within the three-year window.
According to the GSA, by March 31, 2022, 90 percent of agencies’ telecom inventory must be off current contracts and moved to EIS. And on May 31, 2023, current Networx, WITS and LSA telecom contracts expire.
The GSA is supporting agencies in their transition to EIS in several ways, the GSA spokesperson says. The GSA offers agencies access to its Transition Ordering Assistance program, “which includes transition planning, solicitation drafting, and expert guidance.”
The GSA has also designated agency managers to support each agency with its transition. And the agency hosts the Infrastructure Advisory Group, a customer executive advisory board that meets quarterly.
“We published the Fair Opportunity & Ordering Guide, which provides step-by-step guidance for developing agency solicitations,” the spokesperson says. “We also provide transition inventory analysis to collect, validate and maintain transition inventory from the 94 expiring contracts, in addition to Delegation of Procurement Authority training.”
How Agencies Plan to Upgrade Telecom technology
Agencies face two clear choices when using EIS to upgrade. One is a “like for like” transition, in which agencies would move to services under EIS that are similar to those they use now. The other route is “modernization,” in which agencies would jump forward technologically to solutions such as SDN and 5G wireless networks.
EIS is designed as a best-in-class total solution, the GSA spokesperson says, “so agencies can access and implement technologies that best meet their mission-critical needs.”
Almost every agency’s EIS transition plan proposes modernization efforts that will transform its IT infrastructure, the spokesperson says, including migration to carrier Ethernet and SDN. Additionally, the spokesperson adds “many agencies will be purchasing managed services as part of their efforts to modernize.”
For example, the State Department wants to replace its legacy time-division multiplexing infrastructure throughout the continental U.S. and potentially overseas as well, Kurt Meves, division chief at the agency, said at the ACT-IAC event, according to FCW.
Meves said “the challenge is getting people off the legacy mentality” that wireline TDM technology is more secure than IP-based services and technology, FCW reports.
The Department of Homeland Security has a more ambitious transition plan, and its contract will cover its headquarters and components. Shawn Hughes, director of the agency's enterprise network modernization program and EIS, said at the conference that DHS components will issue task orders for EIS services from that contract.
DHS plans to invest in 5G wireless capabilities to augment its “very brittle” OneNet backbone, Hughes said. The agency also intends to move to agile software development and cloud services, he added, according to FCW.