CenturyLink lands $1.6B U.S. Department of Interior contract

CenturyLink has landed a $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. Department of Interior (DoI) through the General Services Administration's Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program.

Under the terms of the task order, CenturyLink will modernize the DoI's wide-ranging network services for subsidiaries such as the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. The DoI, which was founded in 1849, has more than 65,000 employees and 280,000 volunteers that are spread across 2,400 locations.

"The Department of Interior is a very far flung organization," said CenturyLink's David Young, senior vice president, public sector. "The Department of Interior has been around for a while. It's probably one of the first ones the country put in place, and so they've got a lot of different technologies. It's not like it's a uniform network. They use every generation of technology that's ever been developed inside their domain.

"So really, it's about the discovery around those technologies and how they're being used. One of the biggest challenges is the inventory."

David Young, CenturyLink

CenturyLink will sift through the various frame relay, SONET, and ATM gear to modernize the DoI's network. The contract covers two areas. The first (task one) is for managed core network services to design, engineer, build, secure, operate and maintain the DoI's end-to-end enterprise network. At some point, that will include an SD-WAN service, virtual private networks (VPNs), and Ethernet transport services.

As a legacy telco provider, CenturyLink has already been through the technology evolution that it's now undertaking for the DoI.

"What we're looking at is moving to that VPN world, and then how that VPN world transforms into a software-defined network or a hybrid network," Young said. " So we have that expertise all inside of our company. I think we were rewarded (the contract) because of our expertise. They were looking for a partner that could understand what happened, the importance of maintaining a network, and being able to modernize with today's technology.

Task one also includes managed security services, such as CenturyLink's managed trusted internet protocol services (MTIPS) and, eventually, the implementation of zero trust solutions that comply with the government's arduous security requirements. MTIPS helps protect IP connections between the agencies, networks and the public cloud.

Task two includes managed access services, such as secure cloud connectivity through CenturyLink's Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections and WiFi. CenturyLink has on ramp partnerships in place with the top cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Azure Government, Google and Oracle.

Cloud providers such as AWS and Azure have gained their FedRAMP certifications from the U.S. government in order to win their own procurement contracts. FedRAMP provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services used by the US government. 

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"We're one of the most densely connected networks to all of the public clouds," Young said. "Some of those cloud providers have taken the step to FedRAMP their environments, and we're interconnected with all of them."

CenturyLink will also use its internally developed orchestration tool for load balancing in both public and private clouds to help manage bandwidth and understand how the clouds are being used.

RELATED: CenturyLink garners authority to operate under GSA's EIS program

CenturyLink first to operate under GSA's EIS program

CenturyLink was the first supplier last year to garner the authority to operate under the GSA's 15-year, $50 billion EIS program. EIS was designed to award various contracts to vendors that help federal agencies to buy and update their IT and telecommunications infrastructure services. It's an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) program that serves as the follow-on to GSA's Networks, WITS3 and regional telecommunications services contracts.

Late last year, CenturyLink waded through some additional steps in the DoI procurement process before the task order was finalized last week. With the task order in-hand, CenturyLink has started on the procurement evaluation stage. From there, it will go through a validation process prior to starting deployments.

"We operate one of the world's largest networks, and it goes to a lot of different places so there are a lot of assets that we're using," Young said. "I've also worked to see how we can extend our network into more government facilities. I have capex business cases and I also have opex business cases because the work that we're talking about is across thousands of locations.

"There's also a human element. I'm not going to hire green employees. It's really about dedicating employees that we have with expertise and knowledge about how the company works and how public procurement works and focusing them on this operational model for the agency."

While security is top of mind for businesses of all sizes, it's particularly important for a government agency, according to Young.

"It's one thing to build a network. It's another thing to protect it," Young said. "We think it's so important to start with the network as the foundation, understanding where your assets are how to deploy those assets that best suits the customer needs.

"In today's environment, it's a constant exercise of thinking about the security of your environments, and so that's also included in this task order."

RELATED: CenturyLink lands NASA connectivity contract

The task order was written up with 11 one-year options that run through 2032. The DoI wasn't the first bite of the EIS program for CenturyLink. Last year it was awarded a contract to provide connectivity to NASA.