AT&T is one of the biggest suppliers of goods and services to the US government. The leading position occupied by AT&T in government contracting services is noted by Weissman (1999) who puts the company in a premier club of suppliers. According to a study carried out in 1995 by the General Accounting Office about government contracts in 1993, Weissman (1999) advises that about 90% of the money spent on government contracts, $23 billion was shared by six companies. The other five were McDonnell Douglas, Westinghouse, Raytheon, United Technologies and Fluor (Weissman, 1999).
The history of AT&T is actually the history of telecommunication as the company traces its roots to one of the pioneers of telecommunications, Alexander Graham Bell (AT&T Corp, 2009). Graham Bell is the person who is credited with the creation of the first telephone exchange in the world. This exchange, which he created in 1877, was followed by the world’s first telephone directory in 1878 (AT&T Corp, 2009). The company at inception was known as the Bell Telephone Company and this is the name it traded in for the initial years.
The company started using the name AT&T – American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1885. By the time it was converting to the new name, the Bell Telephone Company had recorded a reasonable amount of success and was already building the network that would enable it to serve the entire nation (AT&T Corp, 2009). Competition for control of the telecommunication industry was stiff in these pioneering years and AT&T had to contend with many competitors amid growing public relation and debt issues among other problems (AT&T Corp, 2009).
Some of the earliest battles that the company had to fight were legal charges brought against it for trying to monopolize the long-distance telephone services market in the US as a result of which it was forced to allow competitors to use its long-distance lines in 1913 (AT&T Corp, 2009). After weathering many storms, the company seemed to get its big break during the First World War. During WW1, the company was contracted to supply telephone services to the US military and this seems to have begun a long and uninterrupted chapter of co-operation between the federal government and AT&T.
Beginning with supplying the armed forces with phone services, AT&T was soon contracted to supply telecommunication equipment for use by the US Armed Forces in France during WWI. The company grew immensely and even attracted government attention which felt AT&T was breaking antitrust laws. As was the case during WWI, AT&T again benefited immensely during WWII (AT&T Corp, 2009). By the time the US was joining WWII, AT&T was being investigated by the government over its almost monopolistic control of the US telecommunications industry and it was WWII that offered the company a reprieve.
While the growth of AT&T seemed to cause jitters amongst the competition and to attract government attention for the wrong reasons, the company made massive strides in technological advancement and for this reason kept winning government contracts. By the 1950s, AT&T was a leading manufacturer of telecommunication equipment that the military needed. After it had partnered with the Canadian Telecommunications Corporation and the British Post Office to develop the first transatlantic telephone cable, AT&T soon won the tender to develop a radar system for the US military in 1957 (AT&T Corp, 2009).
In addition, a subsidiary of the company was contracted to develop communication equipment for the US space program (AT&T Corp, 2009). The relationship between AT&T and the government has blossomed over the years based mainly due to the company’s ability to anticipate federal telecommunication and defense needs. As a result, AT&T has continued to win government contracts. The growth in the range of products that the company has been supplying the government has grown so enormous over the years that AT&T established an arm called the AT&T Government Solutions (AT&T Government Solutions, 2008).
AT&T Government Solutions was established as a dedicated provider of various services and goods to the government. Amongst the many services that this department of AT&T offers include “Education and Training, Enterprise Application Solutions, Enterprise Resource Planning and Management, Information Assurance, Knowledge Management, Modeling and Simulation, Network Transformation and Management, and Program Management (AT&T Government Solutions, 2008). AT&T is contracted to serve both the military and other federal agencies.
AT&T is involved in the army, navy, air force, the National Guard, the joint commands and Marine Corps among other government forces (AT&T Government Solutions, 2008) and to each branch of these armed forces the company provides a myriad of services. Mainly concentrating on information and communication technological solutions for the forces, AT&T is contracted to develop ICT systems as well as to manage the ICT networks in addition to providing professional services related to ICT.
That cooperation between AT&T and the government is a continuing process is evidenced by reports in the “Your Defense News” newsletter of January 7th, 2009 which reports the award to AT&T Government Solutions of a $23 million global network infrastructure upgrade for the US army (US Army Selects, 2009). For this project, AT&T Government solutions will build a data network that will enable the extension of the “Global Information Grid (GIG) and service army operations in Germany (US Army Selects, 2009).
Apart from the military, AT&T also serves civilian agencies. To this end, AT&T provides services which include e-government, improvement in security services and other areas where advanced ICT solutions are required. AT&T serves many government agencies including the Department of State, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Justice, Patent and Trade Office, Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, World Bank and Office of Management and Budget (AT&T Government solutions, 2008).
A major contract that has recently been awarded by the government to AT&T and one which touches both the military and civilian federal agencies is the July, 2007 contract that was awarded AT&T by the General Services Administration (GSA) to help both the military and civilian agencies maximize IT potential (AT&T Government Solutions, 2008). In the contract known as Alliant, AT&T joins 28 other companies to supply services with an estimated value of $50 billion (AT&T Government services, 2008).
While AT&T has been very successful at winning government contracts, it has also had a very uneasy relationship with both the government and the competition. While through its long history the company seems to have weathered many storms, some recent complaints against the company have come from its subscribers who felt the company was not doing enough to protect the secrecy of the data it collects courtesy of the services it provides.
As it is a major supplier to the government, fears have been expressed that AT&T could be providing individual information to government agencies, especially in the period after 9/11 (AT&T Declares consumers, 2006). While declaring that the data it holds on its clients is its corporate property, the fears expressed about AT&T passing on information to federal agencies have been based on the company’s statements that it does not share customer information with third party marketers but have been known to share that data with federal agencies (AT&T Declares, 2006).
What this means is that subscribers with AT&T have for the period after 9/11 been expecting that their records could be made available for scrutiny in the search for terrorist links. This knowledge by AT&T subscribers, which is seen as being directly related to AT&T’s desire to retain good working relationships with the government for the sake of improving its ability to continue government contracts, has caused jitters amongst the company’s subscribers.
The issue for the company is rather complicated as it involves two groups of people who are of immense significance to the company. On the one hand, there are the subscribers on whose goodwill the company depends and who require to be certain that data concerning them is held in utmost confidentiality. On the other hand, there are federal agencies whose duty is to guarantee national security and who could be aided in their investigations by the data that AT&T has.
The agony that AT&T has to go through in trying to fulfill these conflicting demands was best captured by the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in her address to the American Constitution Society in 2006 when she expressed the desire that measures be put in place which would protect privacy while at the same time protecting national security (AT&T Declares, 2006). As a result of the perceived cooperation with government law enforcement agencies, AT&T has found itself facing litigation.
In 2006, the company, together with Verizon Delaware, AT&T was sued by members of the DE Chapter of ACLU who wanted clarification that the two companies were not working with federal agencies, most specifically the National Security Agency (NSA) to provide client information in the attempts to disrupt terrorist activities (Keffer, 2006). AT&T has enjoyed a leading role in supply of goods and services to the government for a period close to two hundred years.
The relationship between the government and the company has been frosty at times because of perceived monopolistic tendencies by AT&T but the company has been able to survive and grow to newer strengths even if sometimes it has had to fight very seriously determined competition. As the company has a variety of goods and especially services to offer the government, the future for AT&T in the area of contracts from the government seems quite bright. References AT&T Corp – Early History(2009).
Retrieved February 26, 2009, from http://ecommerce. hostip. info/pages/59/AT-T-Corp-EARLY-HISTORY. html AT&T Declares consumers’ personal data “corporate property”. (2006). Consumeraffairs. com. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from http://www. consumeraffairs. com/news04/2006/06/att_privacy. html AT&T Government solutions wins alliant contract from general services administration. (2007). AT&T. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from http://www. att. com/gen/press-room? pid=4800&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=24174
Keffer, M. Personal communication. (May 31, 2006). Retrieved February 26, 2009 from https://secure. aclu. org/puc/de_att_response. pdf US army selects at&t government solutions for $23 million global network infrastructure upgrade. (2009). Your defence news. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from http://www. yourdefencenews. com/u. s. +army+selects+at&t+government+solutions+for+$23+million+global+network+infrastructure+upgrade_20322. html Weissman, R. (1999). Scofflaw blacklist. The nation, 269(15), 6