GSA outlines Networx FISMA requirements

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. Sept. 8, 2006. Check Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

Contractors hoping to provide telecommunications services to federal agencies under the upcoming Networx contracts will have to get a clean bill of health for the security of their Operational Support Systems (OSS), General Services Administration officials said today.

Speaking at GSA's Networx Transition Summit, two officials said security is of paramount importance to the Networx procurement.

After GSA awards the contracts next year, the agency will begin certifying and accrediting the OSS software, which companies use to monitor, control and manage their networks. The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 established the responsibilities of agencies to assess their security risks and designated the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop standards and guidelines for agency systems.

Although agencies are not going to be barred from placing orders before that process is complete, they will have other post-award duties to perform, said Debbie Hren, lead for operations planning at GSA.

"A lot of these things go on in parallel," she said.

"We're going to begin [the certifying and accrediting process] as soon as we can, post-award," said Perryn Ashmore, deputy chief information officer at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service.

Networx contract holders will have every reason to cooperate with the process, said Karl Krumbholz, GSA's acting assistant commissioner for service development and delivery. Many agencies may choose to successfully complete the certification, a requirement for doing business.

"This is a case where industry is going to want to shine," said Jack Braun, contracting officer for Networx Universal.

Krumbholz said GSA is awaiting official Office of Management and Budget approval on its understanding of the requirements. The agency has also determined, based on discussions with OMB, that the providers' Internet backbone -- the public network shared by but not dedicated to government customers -- won't be subject to the certifying and accrediting process, Hren said.

GSA plans to award Networx Universal, a sweeping contract with global coverage, in March 2007. Networx Enterprise, a more narrowly focused companion contract, will be awarded in May 2007.

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