SEWP tool helps federal IT supply chain

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One of the government's biggest technology shopping bazaars is learning from a year-old tool that was introduced to help federal contracting officers get a better handle on supply chain issues, according to its program manager.

NASA's SEWP governmentwide acquisition contract introduced its Established Authorized Reseller Program, or EARP, 11 months ago to help contractors limit IT bids from vendors who are not authorized resellers of products.

When it introduced EARP last July, SEWP hoped the tool would cut down on noncompliant bids and provide more assurance to buyers about product reliability, which becomes more important as systems and products get more complex.

SEWP Program Manager Joanne Woytek told FCW the EARP tool has met its two goals of bolstering authorized resellers in the contract and protecting federal buyers from counterfeit products.

The risks of federal agencies buying from unauthorized resellers, she said, can be "significant," because those offerings can be a doorway to problems.

"Since we introduced the program we have had no reports of the government unknowingly obtaining products through unauthorized resellers of those key manufacturers," Woytek told FCW in an email.

Woytek said supply chain security is critical not only in blocking counterfeit or corrupted IT products, but also can insure that they can be properly maintained once in customers' use.

The EARP program, she said, has also helped federal customers and commercial suppliers better understand SEWP's product verification and documentation processes.

EARP also helped SEWP and federal customers sort out industry's various meanings of "authorized." Woytek said SEWP has updated its processes to handle and document the many variations, including "authorized," "always authorized," "authorized for this product," and other permutations.

When it comes to overall supply chain security, however, Woytek stressed that SEWP "cannot and does not pretend to be able to track products from their origins."

However, she said, SEWP has implemented tight product verification processes and requires documentation of the relationship between resellers and original equipment makers.

To that end, Woytek said SEWP is also involved in the new International Standards Organization 20243 standard.

That standard, which is known as the Open Trusted Technology Provider Standard, addresses supply chain issues through best practices for the entire product life cycle from design stage to end-of-service and disposal. ISO published the standard in January. O-TTPS is backed by the Open Group, an international vendor- and technology-neutral consortium.

"We have five contract holders currently certified against that standard and recently added the Open Group certification logo to the SEWP web pages associated with those certified companies," said Woytek. "Our goal is to begin recommending customers include this certification as part of a best value decision later this year."

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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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