China-sourcing restrictions spelled out in SEWP

china flag

NASA's new five-year IT acquisitions vehicle interprets and effectively extends legislative restrictions on sourcing computer gear manufactured in China that were included in the continuing resolution that is funding the government through the end of the current fiscal year.

Under the terms of Section 516 of the continuing resolution, NASA, along with the National Science Foundation and the Commerce and Justice departments, must conduct a risk assessment of IT hardware or software manufactured or assembled by "entities that are owned, directed or subsidized by the People's Republic of China." Before acquiring Chinese-made gear, the affected agencies must make a determination that such a procurement is in the national interest.

The inclusion of the language in the fifth iteration of Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP V), valued at up to $20 billion, pushes the lifespan of the provision beyond the current continuing resolution, which is set to expire Sept. 30.

"Seeing it extended into a five-year time frame makes it more permanent," said Erica McCann, manager of procurement policy at the trade group TechAmerica, which opposes the China sourcing rules. "This is the first time we're seeing it in a longer term platform that companies are going to have to pay attention to and protect against."

The SEWP request for proposals reiterates guidance published in June that puts the onus on NASA's CIO to assess the cyber-espionage risk of Chinese-made IT. Vendors must include details of any gear produced in China or from Chinese-owned firms to facilitate checking. In that June 6 circular, NASA said it would assess the security of new IT systems using the National Institution for Standards and Technology standards spelled out in the NIST 800-53, Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations. It advised its own procurement staff to follow the security check procedure before obligating fiscal 2013 funds for IT.

NASA indicates that the Section 516 language applies to NASA orders only, not to procurements made by other agencies using the SEWP vehicle.

"Since these are NASA contracts, first and foremost, we can include specific NASA requirements at the contract level," SEWP Program Manager Joanne Woytek told FCW.  "We assume that other agencies, such as Justice Department, are handling SEWP and non-SEWP orders within their own agency through their own agency processes.  Each agency's CIO office should be making determinations for their own agency – NASA's CIO cannot make purchasing decisions or determination for non-NASA agencies."

The House version of the bill to fund NASA would extend the restrictions into fiscal 2014. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee that writes the legislation for the affected agencies, is a stanch advocate of restrictions on IT built by Chinese state-owned companies in federal procurement. In July, Wolf told FCW the Obama administration was "slow-walking" implementation of the sourcing provision.

The Senate version of the bill would require agencies to evaluate supply-chain risk of all "high impact information systems," using NIST security standards, but does not single out China.

Both versions have been approved by their respective Appropriations panels, but  there is a long legislative road ahead before the restrictions on Chinese IT are re-upped or altered for 2014.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Tue, Aug 20, 2013

This is just calling for tit or tat protectionism all the way around. Let's hope Beijing is not as petty

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group