Cybersecurity

Pentagon delays cyber contracting requirements

Shutterstock image: cyber eye.

In the face of industry resistance, the Department of Defense has delayed until the end of 2017 a key set of requirements for contractors to show they can protect sensitive but unclassified information from hackers.

The Pentagon in August issued an interim acquisition rule ordering contractors to adopt a National Institute of Standards and Technology standard with a slew of security requirements around access control and configuration management. Contractors said they needed more time to switch from one NIST standard to another, and the Pentagon yielded after a mid-December meeting with industry representatives. The department on Dec. 30 issued an updated interim rule announcing the delay.  

Defense firms successfully made the case that adopting the new NIST standard was not a matter of "flipping a switch," said Trey Hodgkins, a senior vice president at the Information Technology Alliance for the Public Sector.

The Pentagon "created some breathing room around certification and flexibility so that the [prime contractors] can work with their lower-tier…suppliers to make sure that everyone is compliant," Hodgkins added.

Bloomberg News was the first to report the delay in the contracting requirements. Claire Grady, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, told Bloomberg News, "We got feedback from industry that they did not think they could fully comply day one."

The requirements delay will give contractors time to adapt to a shifting landscape in cybersecurity requirements that has been characterized as a maze of piecemeal regulations.

"One of the things DOD recognized was the need to actually give companies time to become compliant with the newly established requirements -- hence the follow-on notice to allow time to comply," said David Wennergren, the Professional Services Council's executive vice president for operations and technology.

While welcoming of the new interim rule, Hodgkins said ITAPS wants the Pentagon to clarify that contracts issued between the August and December rules are subject only to the latter rule. Comments on the new rule are open until Feb. 29.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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