Towns, Issa bill would set hard Networx deadline

Tuesday - 10/12/2010, 5:19pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Congressmen Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) want agencies to fully transition to the Networx telecommunications contract by May 31, 2011.

The chairman and ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee co-authored legislation, the Complete the Networx Telecommunications Transition Act (H.R. 6267), to require all agencies to acquire telecommunications services from the General Services Administration's Networx contract by next May, when the current FTS2001 bridge contracts are set to expire.

The bill does let GSA extend the bridge contract, but only at the prices vendors are offering under the Networx contracts. GSA says agencies will pay a lot less for similar or more services under Networx. But GSA also has said that the government is losing more than $20 million a month until the transition is complete, meaning agencies could lose as much as $500 million by next May.

"The estimated $22 million in lost savings for every month we are delayed is unacceptable," Towns said in a release. "I insist that the federal government become better stewards of taxpayer dollars and this legislation represents my commitment to doing so."

Towns said only about 25 percent of the dollar value of Networx has been transitioned, meaning there are several large agencies that have not yet completed transition.

So far, almost 67 percent of the transition to Networx is complete, GSA says on its website.

"I intend to reach out to those underperforming agencies to better understand the causes of continued delay and work with them to expedite their transition to Networx," Towns said. "In this tough economic climate, there is simply no excuse for the continued foot dragging by some federal agencies on transitioning to Networx."

The legislation comes as GSA in September extended the ability for agencies to have their Networx transition costs paid for by GSA. Only about 10 percent of the $111 million available for transition has been distributed to agencies and another 13 percent is in the process of going out to departments.

"This bill serves bipartisan notice that the federal government cannot continue punting on its transition to Networx, a delay that has already cost taxpayers billions," said Seamus Kraft, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans.

Towns plans to work through the recess and thereafter on the appropriate next steps, legislative or otherwise, to ensure that the Networx transition is a priority and that as much cost savings as possible are realized.

Towns also held a hearing in May asking why the transition is taking so long and what can be done to increase its pace. Since that hearing, GSA says transition increased by 14 percent, and could be at 75 percent by the end of this month.

Networx also has attracted attention from the Senate. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, wrote letters to both the Office of Management and Budget and many of the largest agencies asking for more information on the transition delay.

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