Defense plans to be big user of GSA’s Networx contract

Top officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency have good news for the General Services Administration: The Defense Department will end up as the largest federal customer under the new Networx telecommunications contract that GSA manages.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, DISA's director, told Government Executive that his agency "was a big supporter of the GSA" and intended to use the new system when vendors on GSA's two Networx contracts can meet Defense requirements cost-effectively.

In March, GSA awarded its first Networx contract to Qwest, AT&T Government Solutions and Verizon Business Services. Under this contract, known as Networx Universal, vendors will provide voice, IP, wireless, satellite and other services to 135 federal agencies at locations in 191 countries. The contract, which is valued at $48.1 billion, is expected to transform the federal telecommunications system.

GSA is scheduled to award the second Networx contract, called Enterprise, on Thursday. That contract is worth an estimated $20.1 billion and will provide high-capacity fiber optics and other services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol and Internet Protocol television.

Evelyn DePalma, director for procurement and logistics for DISA and chief of the agency's Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization, also said Defense would become "the largest user of Networx." DePalma added that DISA is working closely with GSA on Networx with a full-time transition team working to move Defense circuits from the current FTS 2001 system to Networx.

Diana Gowen, senior vice president for the government services division at Qwest, said GSA probably had some concerns that Defense would choose to run all of its voice traffic over the agency's existing Global Information Grid instead of Networx. Defense is the biggest voice customer on GSA's FTS 2001 contract.

But DISA needed to use Networx to handle voice traffic to other federal agencies not on its Global Information Grid, said Marlin Forbes, regional vice president of Verizon's Federal Defense and International Services division. Forbes said he expected to see Defense voice traffic on Networx to remain about the same as on FTS 2001.

The Networx Enterprise contract has attracted interest from the three winners of the Universal contact as well as from Sprint and Level Three Communications, industry sources said. Sprint lost out in the bidding for the Universal contract. The Enterprise contract does not include international service and mandates service to only 300 federal buildings, compared to the 24,000 buildings covered by Networx Universal, according to GSA.

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