GAO rejects SRA FedRAMP protest

FedRAMP logo -- GSA image

The Government Accountability Office rejected claims by SRA International that its bid to provide secure cloud services to the Department of Health and Human Services had been evaluated unfairly under Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program requirements.

GAO General Counsel Susan Poling told SRA officials in a Sept. 2 letter that the company's protest of InfoReliance's blanket purchase agreement for HHS' transition to cloud-based email services had been denied.

SRA had argued in the protest documents, filed in June, that HHS had unreasonably concluded that the company's bid did not comply with two of the solicitation's qualification criteria: meeting FedRAMP authority-to-operate (ATO) requirements and complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make IT accessible to people with disabilities.

In its protest, SRA said the solicitation's guidelines for FedRAMP compliance did not clearly address requirements for vendors that had not received a "pass" rating from FedRAMP's Joint Authorization Board. Specifically, SRA argued that the HHS solicitation listed two options: documented FedRAMP initiation through the FedRAMP Program Management Office or through a current ATO issued by another federal agency. But because the solicitation did not include the words "and" or "or" between the two options, company officials said it was unclear whether HHS intended vendors to comply with both.

Poling said HHS "reasonably excluded" SRA's quote from consideration because it did not include documentation supporting the company's qualification for a FedRAMP ATO.

"Here, the only reasonable interpretation of the solicitation language pertaining to the FedRAMP evaluation criteria...is that if a vendor had not achieved an ATO meeting FedRAMP requirements by the time of quotation submission, it was required to provide both [proof of FedRAMP initiation and approval under an agency-issued ATO]," she wrote.

Poling said that because HHS properly rejected the protester's bid, GAO did not need to address the issue of its compliance with Section 508 requirements.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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