WASHINGTON—Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday expressed concern that several major departments are not modernizing their telecommunications systems as quickly as they should be. In letters sent to the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, Commerce, and Agriculture, the Senators asked the Secretaries what actions their departments are taking to speed up the transition to the Networx program, which will modernize their technology systems, saving taxpayer dollars.
The letter to the Department of Justice follows in full; identical letters were sent to each of the Departments listed above:
March 24, 2010
Dear Attorney General Holder
We are writing to express concern that the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) is not moving quickly enough to transition to new telecommunications contracts before existing ones expire, putting the Department at risk of losing key services while also reducing the benefits of potential cost savings that exist under the new contracts.
The General Services Administration (GSA) telecommunications contracts provide basic network, telephone and information technology services to DOJ. We recognize that these contracts are important for ensuring that your agency has the telecommunications abilities to perform its mission and efficiently manage taxpayer dollars. GSA’s existing telecommunications program, known as FTS2001, is scheduled to expire in June 2011. To prepare for the transition, in 2007 GSA awarded contracts for a successor program, known as Networx.
As potentially the largest telecommunications services transition ever undertaken by the federal government, this transition has experienced significant challenges. We understand that GSA has been working with agencies to address those challenges; however, the cost savings projected by this transition have not been realized as some agencies have been slow to take appropriate steps to ensure a smooth transition. During the previous transition to FTS2001, delays were encountered that resulted in increased telecommunications costs and an estimated loss to the government of $74 million in savings. We are concerned that a slow transition to Networx will be a repeat of the past. Specifically, every month that agencies delay transitioning to the new program, an estimated $18 million of savings are lost.
Earlier this year, we expressed our concerns in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and received a briefing on what OMB is doing to assist with the transition. We understand that OMB worked with GSA to brief agency Chief Information Officers and Chief Acquisition Officers multiple times over the past six months regarding progress and actions needed for the transition. OMB also informed us of challenges agencies have faced and the factors that have caused Networx transition delays to date. While we are encouraged that progress has been made, we know that many agencies continue to be significantly behind in completing the necessary steps to complete transition orders in time to achieve cost savings.
To better understand where large agencies, such as DOJ, are in the transition we are interested in knowing what specific actions you have taken to prioritize this very important transition of telecommunication services. We believe that agencies should be taking advantage of the newest technologies provided by Networx instead of solely using the same or similar services from their existing contracts. As we noted in our letter to OMB, this is of particular concern given the security of federal networks and the opportunities to use new technologies to assist agencies in strengthening their cyber defenses. To this end, we ask that you report DOJ’s plans to the committee, as well as a description of any challenges that have slowed the transition, by April 9, 2010.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter and working to ensure the effective and efficient use of telecommunication services to perform DOJ’s missions.
Joe Lieberman Susan Collins
Chairman Ranking Member