With telecom modernization in flux, officials encourage modifying EIS solicitations during pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has “heightened” agencies’ awareness of their need to modernize information technology and modify telecommunications solicitations in light of the large-scale disruptions to everyday work, say federal officials.

The comments come as large agencies continue to plan for transitioning to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) telecom contract. In mid-March, the General Services Administration‘s Federal Acquisition Service began working with agencies individually to determine what end-user devices they needed for telework and how telecom transitions were being affected.

“This is a chance for the agencies to take a look and see where there might be gaps in what they were rolling out and look to expand their EIS solicitations,” said Laura Stanton, who will take over as acting assistant commissioner of IT Category at FAS on Monday, during an AFFIRM webinar Thursday. “Agencies were in different places and were affected differently by COVID-19.”

Of the 19 agencies spending the most on telecom modernization, all plan to move to the EIS contract before legacy contracts expire in May 2023, according to the Government Accountability Office. While most task orders remain in agencies’ projected timeframes, a few have been delayed due to COVID-19, according to GSA.

Typical EIS adjustments

The most common changes agencies are making to solicitations include increasing bandwidth for voice and data networks to support telework, telemedicine, and distance learning; mobility services to support community response; security services to protect against evolving cyberthreats; cloud-based collaboration tools for workforce productivity; and contact center solutions for remote customer service agents, Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of federal public sector sales at Verizon, told FedScoop.

Some agencies continue to meet their needs with legacy Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3 and Schedule 70 contracts, Maiorana said.

“We have seen certain agencies delay EIS deadlines and/or decisions to focus more on the urgent matters at hand,” he said. “We have seen other agencies accelerate solicitations to use EIS as an enabler of technologies to assist their COVID-19 responses.”

The coronavirus has delayed the Small Business Administration‘s EIS transition because the agency was in the process of a site audit when mandatory telework began. SBA wants to completely replace its wide area network and move to zero-trust networking, but site visits are now on hold, said Guy Cavallo, deputy chief information officer.

That doesn’t mean SBA ceased IT and cybersecurity upgrades with the pandemic though.

“In the middle of this, I think it’s a mistake for any agency to stop modernizing because we don’t know how long it’s going to be like this,” Cavallo said. “And the world is going to keep changing; the hackers are going to get better.”

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AFFIRM, coronavirus, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), General Services Administration (GSA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Guy Cavallo, Laura Stanton, Small Business Administration (SBA), Verizon
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