Industry plan for new telecom sales squashed

A plan by an association of telecommunications companies to open a new sales avenue to the government appears to have been halted in its tracks. On Sept. 27, the telecommunications "shared interest group" of the Industry Advisory Council (IAC), an association of information technology firms that do business with the government, agreed to draft a letter to General Services Administration head Stephen Perry indicating the group's support for placing telecom services on GSA's schedules program. The schedules are a set of pre-negotiated contracts that any agency is free to use to buy goods and services. The move would be a boon for many telecom companies that currently do little or no business in the federal market. In a memo obtained by GovExec.com, sent Tuesday to IAC Executive Director Alan Balutis, telecom shared interest group chair Dennis Smith said the companies' actions could have damaged the business of other council members "While the telecom [shared interest group] members in attendance did not intend to harm the business prospects of their industry brethren, this is what could have resulted," Smith wrote. "Sending such a letter without unanimous agreement of the membership would be wrong." Telecom group members told GovExec.com that a draft letter had been circulated. In his memo to Balutis, Smith indicated that he had submitted the draft to the IAC board. Smith disavowed the group's support of any further action on the Sept. 27 letter, but didn't specifically reject the idea of placing telecom sales on the GSA schedule. "If copies of the draft(s) ever appear in public through someone's misguided attempt to stir the pot, it should be publicly refuted by IAC as a working paper that did not ever meet the test of our charter and policies; it did not have the support of IAC, nor a consensus among the telecom industry member firms," Smith said in his memo to Balutis. No member of the telecom group present at the Sept. 27 meeting objected to the proposal to draft a letter and send it to GSA. However, in the days following the meeting IAC members questioned whether the proposal needed full support of the membership, not just the telecom group, and the proposal's future was jeopardized. Additionally, members of the IAC board raised concerns that the letter could constitute a lobbying effort, prohibited by the organization's charter. Smith promised "to be more circumspect in the future in terms of how we address some of the tougher issues in our market and how our meetings are conducted." "We have worked hard for many years to establish trust and credibility in this market," Smith continued, "and they are worth protecting by how we conduct ourselves while addressing the tough issues." Smith and Balutis were unavailable for further comment on Tuesday.
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