Most agencies missed key 2019 deadlines for transitioning to the federal government’s new telecommunications contract, increasing the chance of service disruptions and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost cost savings as they modernize their networks.
These findings from the Government Accountability Office’s latest report on the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract come less than two weeks after the General Services Administration told FedScoop it doesn’t anticipate delaying future deadlines.
Current telecom contracts — Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications 3 and regional local service agreements — are set to expire in May 2023, and GSA wants 135 agencies to fully transition services to EIS by Sept. 30, 2022.
GAO surveyed 19 agencies that spent at least $10 million on their EIS transitions in fiscal 2018 and found only one, the Small Business Administration, issued all its expected task orders by the Sept. 30 deadline.
As of October 2019, all 19 reported plans to fully transition to EIS by May 2023, but 11 expected to miss the Sept. 30, 2022 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,” reads the report.
The Department of Commerce and Social Security Administration plan to fully transition to EIS by December 2022 and the Department of Transportation by January 2023. Meanwhile, the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Treasury aim for March 2023.
Remaining departments — Energy, Interior, Justice, and Veterans Affairs — expect they’ll finish in May 2023, the same month EIS’s predecessor Networx expires.
Of the surveyed agencies, 13 plan to issue between one and five task orders. The Department of Defense, DHS, DOL, Treasury, VA, and NASA all expect more than five task orders.
Agencies’ most popular excuses for not yet issuing task orders were the complexity of EIS requirements and insufficient staff, according to the report.
Only four agencies — the Department of Education, Energy, VA, and SSA — are doing a like-for-like transition between Networx and EIS telecom services. This means 15 agencies plan to transform the way they modernize telecom.
GAO selected five agencies from among the 19 surveyed, based on size and structure, to evaluate their EIS planning. DOC, HHS, the State Department, VA, and NASA were selected and all were found to have only partially implemented the five recommended planning practices for transitioning:
- Develop an accurate inventory of telecom services
- Perform a strategic analysis of telecom requirements
- Develop a structured transition management approach
- Identify the resources needed for the transition
- Develop a transition plan
DOC, NASA and VA all said their telecom service inventories were incomplete because they’re not responsible for tracking all such services they use. Some of the agencies said they planned to implement planning practices after issuing EIS task orders.
“However, the limited time remaining to complete the transition makes it critical that agencies conduct early planning with the information available and fully implement these transition planning practices to reduce the risk that the agencies experience the types of delays that occurred in previous transitions,” reads GAO’s report.