US congressman fights government plans for telecom contract

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s torturous effort to award a telecommunications contract valued at up to US$1 billion could face another challenge: an attempt by an influential congressman to eliminate funding for the pact.

After arguing unsuccessfully for months that the Treasury Department is wrong to pursue a contract that’s separate from an umbrella procurement program for federal agencies, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee is threatening to take action in Congress.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) claims that piggybacking on the larger Networx contract, which is out for bid now, would save money, streamline the number of telecommunications vendors being used within the government and avoid a duplication of efforts.

Davis “is always against agencies stovepiping their own solutions when the whole point of IT is to make things smoother,” said Robert White, a spokesman for the congressman. Mounting an effort to cut the Treasury Department’s funding “is an option he would pursue” if the agency won’t give up on the plan to go its own way, White added.

A spokesman for the Treasury Department declined to comment on the dispute. However, he said the agency expects to award the Treasury Communications Enterprise (TCE) contract in the spring.

The agency initially picked AT&T Corp. as its TCE vendor in December 2004, structuring the contract as a three-year deal with seven optional one-year extensions. But the contract was canceled six months later after the Government Accountability Office upheld protests from losing bidders.

At that point, the Treasury Department said it would choose a vendor through the General Services Administration’s framework of telecommunications contracts. But last September, the agency again put the TCE contract out for bid after deciding that the GSA’s procurement programs wouldn’t meet its needs.

Networx, the program that Davis wants the Treasury Department to use, will replace the government’s existing FTS2001 telecommunications contract, which will expire next year.

The GSA is expected to award the main portion of the Networx contract next summer, choosing from among four teams of vendors that submitted bids in October.

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