Telecommunications:

Agencies Should Fully Implement Established Transition Planning Practices to Help Reduce Risk of Costly Delays

GAO-20-155: Published: Apr 7, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 2020.

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Federal agencies must transition their telecommunications services to new contracts before their current contracts expire in May 2023.

However, most agencies we looked at did not meet key dates for completing contract transition activities (such as soliciting vendor proposals or issuing work orders to selected vendors).

These agencies also do not plan to complete the transition by the September 2022 deadline set by the General Services Administration. Delays in transitioning will cause agencies to miss out on cost savings and may cause disruptions in service.

We made 25 recommendations to help agencies effectively plan for the transition.

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Additional Materials:

Contact:

Carol C. Harris
(202) 512-4456
HarrisCC@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

As of October 2019, the 19 selected agencies were in different stages of transitioning from their soon-to-be-expiring telecommunications contracts to the new Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program. All of these agencies reported that they plan to fully transition to EIS before current contracts expire in May 2023. However, 11 agencies did not plan to fully transition by the General Services Administration's (GSA) September 30, 2022, milestone. The majority of the selected agencies also did not meet GSA's milestones for completing critical contracting actions in 2019 (see table). While transitioning to EIS is a complex undertaking, delaying this transition will cause agencies to miss potential cost savings that would result from the generally lower rates for services on EIS.

Nineteen Selected Agencies' Status In, and Plans for, Completing Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Transition Activities by the General Services Administration's (GSA) Milestone Dates



EIS transition
activity



GSA's milestone
date to complete activity

Number of agencies
that completed or plan
to complete
activity by
GSA's milestone date

Number of agencies that
did not or do not plan to
complete
activity by
GSA's milestone date

Finish releasing all
fair opportunity
solicitationsa

March 31, 2019

5

14

Finish issuing all
task ordersb

September 30, 2019

1

18

Fully transition
services to EIS

September 30, 2022

8

11

Source: GAO analysis of data provided by agency officials. | GAO-20-155.

aA solicitation is a request to submit offers or quotations to the government. Fair opportunity is a process in which each of the awardees under a multiple-award task order or delivery order (i.e., order for services or supplies, respectively) contract must be provided with a fair opportunity to be considered for each order exceeding $3,500 issued under the contract, unless exceptions apply.

bA task order is an order for services placed against an established task order contract.

Five selected agencies—the Departments of Commerce (Commerce), Health and Human Services (HHS), State (State), and Veterans Affairs (VA); and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—had partially implemented established planning practices that can help agencies successfully transition their telecommunications services to new contracts. These practices are to: (1) develop an accurate inventory of telecommunications services, (2) perform a strategic analysis of telecommunications requirements, (3) develop a structured transition management approach, (4) identify the resources needed for the transition, and (5) develop a transition plan. The agencies provided several reasons for partially implementing the practices. For example, transition officials at Commerce, NASA, and VA said that they were not responsible for tracking all of the telecommunications services in use at their agencies; as such, they were unable to provide complete telecommunications inventories. The agencies also planned to implement certain practices after they issue their EIS task orders. However, the limited time remaining to complete the transition makes it critical that agencies conduct early planning with the information available and fully implement these transition planning practices to reduce the risk that the agencies experience the types of delays that occurred in previous transitions.

Why GAO Did This Study

GSA is responsible for contracts that provide telecommunications services for federal agencies. In preparation for the expiration of current telecommunications programs, including one called Networx, GSA has developed a successor program, known as EIS. GSA and agencies now must carry out the task of successfully transitioning to EIS contracts. Previous contract transitions experienced significant delays. Those delays during the transition to Networx resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in missed savings.

GAO was asked to review agencies' EIS transition preparations. This report discusses (1) selected agencies' plans for, and status in, transitioning to EIS; and (2) the extent to which selected agencies were implementing established transition planning practices.

GAO administered a survey to 19 selected agencies that spent at least $10 million on telecommunications in fiscal year 2018 regarding their plans for and status in transitioning to EIS. GAO also selected five of these agencies for further review—Commerce, HHS, NASA, State, and VA—based on, among other things, agency size and structure. For these agencies, GAO evaluated documentation to determine the extent to which they had implemented five planning practices identified in a previous GAO report.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making a total of 25 recommendations to Commerce, HHS, NASA, State, and VA, to fully implement the established transition planning practices. These agencies concurred with all of the recommendations.

For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or HarrisCC@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: Commerce concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer updates the telecommunications inventory to include all telecommunications assets and services in use at the agency, and updates Commerce's process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory to include the complete inventory. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Office of the Secretary

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: Commerce concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs using a complete inventory of existing telecommunications services; conducts and documents a comprehensive strategic analysis at all bureaus to identify areas for optimization and sharing of telecommunications resources; evaluates the costs and benefits of implementing new telecommunications technology and alternative options at all bureaus; and fully aligns Commerce's telecommunications needs with its long-term IT plans and enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Office of the Secretary

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: Commerce concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer finalizes the responsibilities related to the information security management role during the telecommunications transition, and assigns the roles for providing legal expertise during the transition, as well as for managing human capital, telecommunications assets, and information security during the transition, to staff members; describes how changes and disruptions related to the transition will be communicated to end users at all bureaus and identifies the key local and regional agency transition officials responsible for disseminating information about the transition to employees and working with the vendor to facilitate transition activities in Commerce's transition communications plan; and establishes and implements configuration and change management processes for its transition. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Office of the Secretary

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: Commerce concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies all of the funding needed to support the telecommunications transition; justifies requests for resources related to transition program management staff; conducts an analysis to identify staff resources needed for the entire transition effort; and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Office of the Secretary

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: Commerce concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer takes into account the agency's telecommunications transition risks, mission critical systems, and contingency plans in Commerce's transition time line. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Office of the Secretary

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer develops a policy that requires the agency's components to maintain an inventory of the telecommunications assets and services that they acquire independently from headquarters; updates the telecommunications inventory to include all telecommunications assets and services in use at HHS, and updates the agency's process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory to include the complete inventory. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Secretary

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs using a complete inventory of existing telecommunications services; and aligns HHS's telecommunications needs with its long-term IT plans. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Secretary

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies and documents telecommunications transition roles and responsibilities related to (1) managing assets and human capital during the planning and execution phases of the transition and (2) providing legal expertise during the execution phase of the transition, and assigns the transition information security management role to a staff member; and establishes and implements configuration and change management processes for HHS's transition. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Secretary

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies all of the funding needed to support the telecommunications transition at each of the agency's components, justifies requests for transition resources related to hardware and software upgrades, conducts an analysis to identify staff resources needed for the entire transition effort, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Secretary

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify telecommunications transition measures of success that can be used to assess transition progress; and takes into account all of the agency's components, as well as its mission critical systems, contingency plans,and telecommunications transition risks, in HHS's transition time line. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Secretary

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer updates the telecommunications inventory to include all telecommunications assets and services in use at the agency, and updates State's process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory to include the complete inventory. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Office of the Secretary

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: he Secretary of State should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify the agency's future telecommunications needs using a complete inventory of existing telecommunications services; conducts and documents a strategic analysis to justify the sharing of telecommunications resources; and aligns State's telecommunications needs with its long-term IT plans and enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 12)

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Office of the Secretary

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies telecommunications transition roles and responsibilities related to (1) managing assets during the planning and execution phases of the transition and (2) providing legal expertise during the execution phase of the transition, and finalizes the responsibilities related to the information security management role for the transition; includes in State's transition communications plan the frequency with which transition status updates and meetings will occur throughout the transition, a description of how changes and disruptions related to the transition will be communicated to end-users, and the key local and regional agency transition officials responsible for disseminating information about the transition to employees and working with the vendor to facilitate transition activities; and establishes configuration management processes for the agency's transition. (Recommendation 13)

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Office of the Secretary

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies all of the funding needed to support the telecommunications transition, justifies requests for resources related to transition program management staff, conducts an analysis to identify staff resources needed for the entire transition effort, and finalizes its analysis of training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 14)

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Office of the Secretary

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer takes into account the agency's telecommunications transition risks, mission critical systems, and contingency plans in State's transition time line. (Recommendation 15)

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Office of the Secretary

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer updates the telecommunications inventory to include all telecommunications assets and services in use at the agency, and updates and finalizes VA's process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory to include the complete inventory. (Recommendation 16)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Secretary

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs using a complete inventory of existing telecommunications services, and determines and documents that VA's telecommunications needs are aligned with its long-term IT plans. (Recommendation 17)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Secretary

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer includes in its telecommunications transition communications plan the key local and regional agency officials responsible for disseminating information about the transition to employees and working with the vendor to facilitate transition activities; and establishes and uses cost and schedule management processes in the agency's transition. (Recommendation 18)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Secretary

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies and documents all of the funding needed to support the telecommunications transition, including costs for all years of transition planning support; justifies requests for transition resources related to program management staff; conducts an analysis to identify staff resources needed for the entire transition effort; and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 19)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Secretary

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the department's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify telecommunications transition measures of success that can be used to assess transition progress; and takes into account the agency's telecommunications transition risks, mission critical systems, and contingency plans in VA's transition time line. (Recommendation 20)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Secretary

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the agency's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer updates the telecommunications inventory to include all telecommunications assets and services in use at the agency, and updates NASA's process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory to include the complete inventory. (Recommendation 21)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the agency's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify the agency's future telecommunications needs using a complete inventory of existing telecommunications services. (Recommendation 22)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the agency's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer identifies telecommunications transition roles and responsibilities related to (1) managing human capital during the planning and execution phases of the transition and (2) providing legal expertise during the execution phase of the transition. (Recommendation 23)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the agency's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer conducts an analysis to support the anticipated cost savings identified as part of the agency's justification for its resource requests related to hardware and software upgrades for the telecommunications transition, and justifies its resource requests for transition program management staff; conducts an analysis to identify staff resources needed for the entire transition effort; and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 24)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to follow-up on the agency's efforts to address it.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure that the agency's Chief Information Officer takes into account the agency's mission critical systems and contingency plans in NASA's telecommunications transition time line. (Recommendation 25)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 

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