Encryption BPAs are open to all

Contracts awarded under GSA’s SmartBuy signal better intergovernmental relations

A newly opened door for state and local governments to buy from federal contracts signifies improving intergovernmental relations, according to procurement officials who announced 10 precedent-setting blanket purchase agreements last week. The BPAs offer encryption products and services to protect sensitive, unclassified information stored on laptop PCs and mobile computing and removable storage devices. 

The Office of Management and Budget joined the Defense Department and the General Services Administration to announce the contracts are open to state and local governments. The BPAs represent the largest federal procurement opportunity to date for state and local agencies, and they create a path for future licensing agreements, said David Wennergren, DOD’s deputy chief information officer.

Wennergren said the collaboration of several agencies to quickly establish the agreements is a major accomplishment. “It will raise the bar for security for everybody,” he said during a teleconference to announce the awards. State and local governments are authorized to use the BPAs under GSA’s Cooperative Purchasing program. That program allows them to buy information technology products and services from GSA’s  Schedule 70 and Consolidated Schedules, which have IT special-item numbers.  GSA has been working for some time on proposals to expand the Cooperative Purchasing program.

The SmartBuy BPAs are significant and the importance of allowing state and local governments to be part of the bulk encryption buy cannot be overstated, said William Pelgrin, director of cybersecurity and critical infrastructure for New York state. The opportunity, he said, is “one of the most important projects to improve our collective security.”

Companies that signed the BPAs will offer three categories of software and hardware encryption products: full disk encryption, file encryption and integrated encryption products. All products use cryptographic modules validated under the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Federal Information Processing 140-2 standard, and they meet stringent technical and interoperability requirements for protecting sensitive, unclassified data on laptop PCs, mobile computing devices and removable storage media, DOD and GSA officials said.

The companies will provide these products: Mobile Armor’s Data Armor, Safeboot’s Safeboot Device Encryption, Information Security’s Secret Agent, SafeNet’s SafeNet ProtectDrive, Encryption Solutions’ SkyLOCK At-Rest, Spyrus’ Talisman/DS Data Security Suite, WinMagic’s SecureDoc, Credant Technologies’ CredantMobile Guardian and GuardianEdge Technologies’ GuardianEdge.

The BPAs are an example of how better communication is improving the inter-agency procurement process, said Tom Kireilis, senior program manager at GSA’s SmartBuy program. “SmartBuy got agencies talking to one another.”
The SmartBuy program and other federal strategic-sourcing initiatives enforce a team approach to buying commodity goods and services, Kireilis said. The encryption BPAs offer agencies as much as 85 percent in discounts, when based on volume pricing.

The BPA prices for encryption products are as low as or lower than prices each company offers on GSA schedules, officials added, In cost-avoidance terms, the government could save as much as $73 million by using the BPAs, which have five option years.

Kireilis, who described SmartBuy as GSA’s first strategic-sourcing initiative, said strategic sourcing has become a unifying trend. Initially, wary agencies brought representatives together to discuss their software requirements, but they did not fully embrace the strategy, he said. However,  procurement officials eventually came to view strategic sourcing as a way of satisfying common needs.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of  assisted acquisition services at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said agencies now want to share their procurement knowledge and experience.

The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, is offering its expertise at buying environmentally friendly, or “green,” products.

Officials said a primary catalyst for the bulk encryption buy was a June 2006 memo from Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for information technology and
e-government, that asked federal agencies to encrypt data on mobile devices. n

Mary Mosquera contributed to this article.
Online shop to open for bulk encryption buysCompanies that signed blanket-purchase agreements for encryption products will be open for business July 15 at the General Services Administration’s SmartBuy Web site, www.gsa.gov/smartbuy.  SmartBuy contracts are open to all federal, state and local agencies and NATO.

The 10 companies that signed BPAs are:
  • MTM Technologies.
  • Rocky Mountain Ram.
  • Carahsoft Technology.
  • Spectrum Systems.
  • SafeNet.
  • Hi-Tech Services.
  •  Autonomic Resources.
  • GovBuys.
  • Intelligent Decisions.
  • Merlin International.
The contracts offer:
  • Products whose cryptographic modules are validated under the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2.
  • Discounts of as much as 85 percent on high-volume purchases.

 – Matthew Weigelt

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