Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., reacted Tuesday to a Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) report on the government-wide transition to Networx, a new telecommunications program. GAO reported that federal agencies are generally following proper transition planning practices but singled out a few departments, such as the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Commerce, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that are behind in their efforts.

Over the course of its 10-year lifetime, the new program is estimated to be worth $68 billion. The General Services Administration (GSA) established Networx and provides tools to help agencies make the transition.

“I am pleased that GSA has learned from past mistakes and appears to be on the right track to make the transition to Networx,” Lieberman said. “While real progress has been made, I am dismayed that some agencies still have not developed reasonable standards for this massive transition. Inability to do so may result in the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars. Agencies should take advantage of the services that GSA offers to help make the transition as orderly and effective as possible.”

Collins said: “It is good news that most federal agencies are making progress in the transition to Networx, which when fully implemented will provide for a much more efficient government. It is, however, disappointing that some agencies are behind in this important transition. Networx is a state-of-the-art telecommunications system which all agencies should be working aggressively toward implementing.”

GSA has developed the new telecommunication program to replace the existing system called FTS2001. The program covers telephones, computers, and other telecommunications devices. In the end, the transition to Networx will include more than 135 federal agencies.

In 2001, during the last transition, cost overruns and delays occurred.

Senators Lieberman and Collins requested the GAO audit in May 2007 to ensure best practices were in place as contracts are awarded under Networx. The GAO report examined six agencies’ attempts to transition from FTS2001 to Networx. The report found that DHS had no plans to establish measures of success, stating “without documenting objectives for the transition, Homeland Security may find it difficult to provide those involved in the transition with clear expectations….will lack information that could be used to track progress towards transition objectives and inform management decisions.”

Telecommunications contracts represent a substantial amount of federal money. In 2007, agencies spent nearly $960 million on telecommunication services.