Merging Telecom and Technology

t he Federal Technology Service is a fee-for-service agency that buys information technology and telecommunications goods and services on behalf of federal agencies. FTS writes contracts and uses those of other agencies. But unlike its fellow acquisition shops that run governmentwide acquisition contracts, FTS oversees the entire acquisition and implementation process. Customers pay fees to FTS for this platinum-level service.

Today's FTS is the hybrid of two organizations. The government began an integrated approach to managing agencies' telecommunications needs in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which President Kennedy reportedly couldn't get a dial tone on his direct telephone line to Moscow.

Skipping ahead about 30 years, GSA was running an operation to meet the government's telecommunications needs and another to provide its information technology services under two separate organizations. On the telecom side, the Office of FTS 2000 had replaced the Federal Telecommunications System, which had been established in the early 1960s to provide the government with long-distance telephone service. In 1995, the Office of FTS 2000 merged with the Local Telecommunications Service to form the Federal Telecommunications Service.

The Office of Information Technology Integration handled the IT business, taking care of the government's data processing needs. When the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act required each agency to appoint a chief information officer, the policy function was taken away from the Office of Information Technology Integration. The agency was merged with the Federal Telecommunications Service, forming the Federal Technology Service.

Today, it's difficult to match the Federal Technology Service's professional experience. Senior leaders have an average of about 20 years' experience in contracting or information technology management. The agency's workforce has averaged more than 1,400 employees since 1995 and is stocked with seasoned technologists and acquisition and customer service specialists.

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