Delays in telecom switch costing government millions

"From GSA's perspective, agencies that are behind in their transition progress simply waited too long to get started," Kempf said, adding that some large data networks still in the competition process may not be transitioned for more than two years.

Witnesses cited other reasons for the delays, including the complexity of the offerings on Networx, the lack of telecom and technical expertise within agencies and the high number of other initiatives competing for time and resources. Towns also expressed disappointment that the Office of Management and Budget, which has taken a leadership role in the Networx transition, did not participate in the hearing.

Representatives from the Networx carriers said many agencies have chosen to divide individual services such as voice and data and hold separate competitions for each. This approach has increased the workload for both procurement officers and vendors significantly as they attempt to respond to each individual request for information.

Department of Interior Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia suggested that agencies first focus on transitioning existing services to Networx rather than attempting to take advantage of the new offerings. He said this "like for like" approach would reduce the scope and complexity of the task and that agencies can revisit newer data offerings later if they wish to make more transformational changes to their telecom infrastructure.

Representatives for the vendors agreed with Bhagowalia's suggestion, though they pointed out this would leave agencies relying on 10-year-old technologies.