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FCW : May 30, 2015
20 May 30, 2015 FCW.COM Rethinking acquisition BY SEAN LYNGAAS Changing the way the Defense Department buys weapons and IT has been a decades-long proj- ect, but the latest effort contains a strain of desperation. A chorus of Pentagon of cials, from Secretary Ashton Carter on down, has lamented that DOD risks losing its tech- nological edge to potential adversaries such as Russia and China. That existen- tial crisis is exacerbated by the new era a broad scope, including a wide range of commonly procured communications products and services, so that agen- cies will no longer have to split their enterprise requirements across multiple procurements, she added. The draft RFP for EIS outlines (over the course of a few hundred pages) the government's wish list for the following: • Data services • Voice services • Contact center services • Colocated data center services • Cloud services • Wireless services • Commercial satellite communica- tions services • Managed services, including audio and video teleconferencing When the massive draft RFP was issued, there were some industry con- cerns about how NS2020 was taking shape, but carriers see promise in GSA's approach to opening up collaboration and allowing room for evolution. Learning from past mistakes Lisa Bruch, CenturyLink Government's vice president of federal sales and mar- keting, said GSA has proven that it can handle shifting technological and mar- ket changes. In the late 1990s, GSA navigated a dramatically changing telecom market in which long-distance and local tele- phone companies and services were blending into one another and the shift toward IP-based services began. With Networx predecessor FTS2001, Bruch said, the agency gave itself and bidders room to evolve and unfold new capabili- ties spurred by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Networx, which launched in 2007, further rede ned telecom acquisition. Now with telecom services becom- ing commoditized and integrated into a whole range of IT systems and capabili- ties, GSA again is facing a tricky market and technology crossroads, Bruch said. The business principles GSA is pursu- ing under NS2020, such as acquiring current-generation services for xed and wireless and lowering costs using commercial services, have not changed, she added. “What’s shifted is the state of the industry," she said. "I don't know of any other industry where change is happening at such a rapid pace,” said Mike Leff, AT&T Gov- ernment Solutions' vice president for civilian government business. "Our cus- tomers continue to change how they are buying services and solutions, mov- ing more toward a consumption-based model. We are also seeing a shift away from point solutions to end-to-end solu- tions that can scale. NS2020 and con- tracts like EIS are well aligned to where industry is headed." Furthermore, "NS2020 will not only provide the foundational infrastruc- ture and services to include managed networks, Ethernet, virtual private networks and regional telecommuni- cations," but the new contracts "will have the exibility to address several big megatrends around strategic serv- ices, including the convergence of IT and telecommunications, network, mobility, cloud and the Internet of Things." EIS also represents an opportuni- ty to learn from Networx's mistakes. Although that vehicle, which expires in 2017, tried to tackle the increasingly unstable nature of what telecom ser- vices have become, Bruch said Networx was too detailed in what it offered. With EIS, GSA is taking a looser approach and de ning services and technology in less detail --- and hopefully, she added, not trying to manage technology devel- opment too aggressively. Leff and Bruch agreed that EIS and NS2020 demonstrate that GSA is mov- ing proactively and collaboratively to address rapidly evolving federal telecom needs. However, Bruch said one of her biggest worries about EIS is that the agency will become too focused on the trees and not see the forest by being too speci c in de ning everything it wants. "You don't go to the hardware store when you're buying a house and try to design the kinds of the bolts you will use on the second oor," she said. n The urgency behind DOD's reform efforts Better Buying Power 3.0 has a geostrategic urgency and emphasis on cybersecurity that were missing from previous iterations
May 15, 2015
June 15, 2015