Modernizing Enterprise Network Services at the USDA

Published: May 08, 2019

Federal Market AnalysisUSDAForecasts and SpendingInformation TechnologyNetwork Services

Agriculture will leverage GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions GWAC to establish a modern enterprise network called USDAnet.

This week’s post completes our look at IT investment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Working Capital Fund (WCF). As the first federal agency to implement a WCF-centered investment structure similar to the authorization provided in the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act it is instructive to analyze what the USDA is doing and how it has arranged its finances to accomplish its IT mission goals. This week’s post dives into Enterprise Network Services, which form the foundation of the new USDAnet.

In addition to making Digital Infrastructure Center Services and Client Experience Center (CEC) Services available to USDA offices and components under the department’s Working Capital fund, USDA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer is also offering Enterprise Network Services. ENS provides “department-wide telecommunications management support, enterprise services, and an integrated information system for inventory management, billing, reporting, and validation.” The table below details WCF funding requests for Enterprise Network Services made by the offices and components of the USDA from fiscal 2018 to 2020.

At +182%, paying for Enterprise Network Services via the USDA’s Working Capital Fund has grown the most of the three service areas examined in this blog series. Most components and offices have grown their ENS WCF spending by triple digits with a few, notably the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Foreign Agriculture Service, and the Office of the Secretary all showing growth of around 400%.

This spending aligns directly with the USDA’s enterprise network modernization plan, called USDAnet. Begun as the department transitioned to the network services provided under the General Services Administration’s NETWORX contract, USDAnet will take the next step forward, according to the USDA OCIO, using GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), the follow-on vehicle to NETWORX.

The key development here is that EIS allows federal customers to procure network equipment and services as a utility, which they can pay for using working capital funds. Put another way, the USDA is pioneering a flexible new network services acquisition strategy that aligns a new utility IT services contract with the authority granted by Congress in the MGT Act for agencies to pay for utility IT services via their WCFs. This represents a potentially game-changing paradigm shift for federal agencies that have not been able to modernize their IT ecosystems due to both a lack of flexibility in their annual budgets and the previous unavailability of innovative contract vehicles like EIS. The USDA OCIO has said it intends to release a Statement of Objectives to EIS vendors by March 2019 pending an award in November 2019. I have not seen any procurement activity on this timeline, however, so it looks like USDA has yet to move forward with the procurement. USDA requested an additional $31.5M in its FY 2020 budget for network modernization activities, indicating the extent of the work they anticipate an EIS vendor or vendors will need to perform.