NRC VoIP Transition Raises Concerns on IT Modernization Efforts

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) struggled during the agency’s move to a Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecom solution, raising concerns for future IT modernization efforts, according to an NRC inspector general’s report released September 5.

The report highlights challenges that NRC has faced in replacing its existing phone system with a VoIP solution, including multiple contractors having unclear and undefined roles, and a lack of coordination within NRC. The agency used the WITS 3 telecommunications contract to acquire its VoIP solution, but had to create its own Telecommunications Operations and Support Services (TOSS) contract when it ran into confusion on what services the WITS 3 contractor would provide.

“This occurred because the VoIP CLIN [contract line item] and the TOSS contract are not clearly written, and there was a lack of coordination among the [contracting officer’s representatives] in issuing requests for quotation. As a result, there was confusion regarding responsibility for deployment of the VoIP phones which resulted in NRC having to pay an additional contractor to install the phones by the identified deadlines,” the report states.

With multiple contractors on the transition due to unclear language, NRC had some duplicative services performed and had to move quickly to spin up new contracts, leading to additional cost.

Additionally, the report touches on poor implementation of the system, noting that the staff described the process as “mayhem.” The agency faced multiple network outages in the early months of implementation, an inaccurate inventory of equipment and phone numbers, and inadequate accommodations for those with hearing loss. While NRC completed an audit and launched a pilot prior to deployment, the agency did not implement recommendations from the audit, and selected most of its pilot participants from the agency CIO’s office.

With the transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract on the horizon, the inspector general raised concerns about future IT transitions as well.

“Subject matter expertise continues to be inadequate to ensure a successful transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract,” the report states.

The report makes six specific recommendations to improve the transition process. NRC staff offered their general agreement, but did not provide formal comments in response.

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