"Commodities ought to be on the schedule, and solutions should be bought using things on the schedule but in a contract that is task order-oriented," says Diana Gowen, senior vice president and general manager of CenturyLink.
Among the issues that carriers want fixed for the Networx follow-on contract are:
-- A shorter transition time, with GSA more involved to help agencies switch contracts.
-- A streamlined process for agencies to choose a carrier from the contract. The so-called "Fair Opportunity" process in Networx required agencies to spend too much time running their own procurements after GSA had already vetted the Networx carriers.
-- Use of the same back-office systems as Networx.
"There was a very large infrastructure investment on the part of the vendors for the back-office capabilities GSA wanted on Networx," says Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president of Verizon Public Sector. "GSA can't do that again. ... If they make the back-office requirements dramatically different in the future, at that point it doesn't make any sense for the vendors."
Bob Woods, a former commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service who runs Topside Consulting in Vienna, Va., suggests that GSA make more radical changes in the way it buys telecom services in the future.
For the Networx follow-on, GSA should "provide something that is secure and state-of-the-art ... a trusted service," Woods says. "They should rename Networx as Infrastructure Services and combine it with cloud. They should sell it on a per-drink basis on a transaction price basis. It will take a hellaciously complicated billing system to do it right."
"I would agree that the procurement model probably needs to be changed,'' Deltek's Bjorklund says. "These major programs take so long to develop, and by the time you award them you're already playing catch-up on the technology side. Maybe it should be more commoditized and more easily purchased through a schedule or open market. But having these very, very large contract vehicles take an enormous amount of time to award and manage."
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