Networx: Benefits will be evident when agencies move

Friday - 6/4/2010, 5:03pm EDT

Susan Zeleniak, Group President, Verizon Federal

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

A few weeks ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing regarding Networx, a program designed to merge telecommunications, network and information services for federal agencies.

Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) called the hearing to examine whether or not the transition to Networx is wasting the federal government's time and money.

Susan Zeleniak is Group President of Verizon Federal. She testified at the hearing, and now tells In Depth host Francis Rose why she thinks Networx, well, works.

She says GSA has put together a program that takes into account many of the new services agencies want and need, in addition to getting good rates.

"I think one of the pressures from Congress is that the rates on Networx should save the government money so agencies should get with it. I think that may be where Congressman Towns was coming [from]. He talked a lot about the money that they could be saving, and he wants to see that happen. I thought the hearing, personally, as a contractor, appreciated that he gave us an opportunity to speak and let him know what we thought and we do believe it is the right contract for the right time."

She says, however, that in order to make Networx happen, agencies are going to have to commit more resources to the transition.

Part of the challenge, though, is that agency CIOs are facing a lot of initiatives and many already have networks that work. This might be stopping them from devoting limited resources towards the transition, she says.

"The fact is that there's a lot of capability on Networx which will help them drive a lot of those initiatives. We're anxious to move ahead. One of the agencies that I mentioned in my testimony was Homeland Security. They got out early. They got started. They're almost done. They were highly motivated because, when DHS was formed from a variety of other agencies, they didn't have a single network. They had many separate networks. So this was their opportunity to bring it all together, get savings, get efficiencies, get redundancy, get diversity -- all the things that Networx can provide. . . . I think that's a good example of [where] it was a priority [and] got done."

And other agencies are starting to accelerate. Zeleniak says she's seeing more agencies put out statements of work, and more awards are being made. She says it's also encumbent upon the vendors, though, to demonstrate how Networx can be advantageous.

"Not just price, but the tools and the systems and the reporting we all put behind Networx that GSA required and we've all built to -- give the agencies more visibility, allow them to manage their contract better, allow them to manage their usage, allow them to implement [COOP] with more ease. So, I think it is incumbent upon us to point those things out to agencies, and I think the GSA is constantly in touch with the agencies and needs to continue to do [that]."

Zeleniak also says it's a people issue in addition to being a dollar issue.

"You have to have people who can issue the orders, set up your billing, be available when a contractor has to come in and install service at your site. One of the things that GSA made available was money for agencies to use some contractors to help with that. So, hopefully agencies will take advantage of that opportunity and bring in some third party resources to, not run the program, but at least be able to bolster it."

During the hearing, Rep. Towns did raise the concern that Networx -- or future contracts like it -- might be too big to be advantageous. Cost savings aside, Networx is now three years old and, in some instances, has barely gotten off the ground.

Zeleniak says she thinks that, overall, Networx is good for the federal government.

"I do think it provides tremendous versatility, technology refresh. It's forward-thinking. I think it's just getting past transition. I think once agencies make that decision on who their vendor is and they get it moving, they will start to then be more open to the other things Networx provides. For example, FTS had, I think, nine mandatory services. Networx Universal had 39 mandatory services. So there are an array of things that an agency can take advantage of, including security, including putting the pieces together to create a cloud solution, managed network services, custom designs on engineering [for] forward-thinking networks -- all of that's there. But [agencies] are still seeing Networx as a replacement for FTS. Once they get to Networx, they'll start to see all the other things they can do."