Cybersecurity

Industry stresses flexibility on cyber acquisition rules

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An association of communications and network services providers told GSA that any rules aimed at establishing contractor cybersecurity baselines to protect government acquisitions should tread carefully to avoid stifling innovation.

The Telecommunications Industry Association, whose members include Dell, Intel, Lockheed Martin, McAfee and Microsoft, filed comments on the General Services Administration's inquiry into how cyber protections might be built into the federal acquisition process. GSA is looking for public input and stakeholder engagement on how to incorporate the protections as part of the White House's cybersecurity order.

TIA told GSA that any rules would have to ensure flexibility for innovation in IT and communications technology used in federal systems; recognize international cybersecurity approaches and standards; and emphasize federal workforce training in addition to industry education efforts in bolstering cybersecurity in the acquisition process.

TIA said the final report of the Joint Working Group on Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience Through Acquisition, released in January, did not provide enough detail on whether the effort will affect all federal acquisitions, or if some types of acquisitions would be exempt. It added that there was also a "tendency to overgeneralize" on technical capabilities and capacities that can wind up squelching industry innovation. Respecting the need for specific sectors to innovate and to address specific threats should be a guiding tenet in the report, TIA said.

The group added that an increasingly globalized supply chain means the U.S. should work alongside other countries to determine international supply chain security standards. "We remain concerned about the impact on both our nation’s global competiveness as well as technology innovation and development of having the United States government set specific technical standards," TIA said.

In President Barack Obama's February 2013 Executive Order for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, GSA and the Department of Defense submitted recommendations on the feasibility and security benefits of integrating and harmonizing security standards in federal acquisition planning and contract administration.

GSA's and DodD's final report recommended focusing on the need for baseline cybersecurity for federal contractors; comprehensive workforce training; consistent cybersecurity terminology for contracts; incorporation of cyber risk management into federal enterprise risk management; development of more specific and standardized security controls for particular types of acquisitions; limiting purchases to certain sources for higher-risk acquisitions; and increasing government accountability for cybersecurity throughout acquisition lifecycles.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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