As Huawei ban looms, waivers are an option

china technology 

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Federal agencies can seek a waiver from rules prohibiting gear and services sourced from a list of Chinese companies from government systems, but the process isn't permanent or easy, according to a contracting expert.

Federal contractors have until Aug. 13 to comply a provision prohibiting government contractors from using technology and services tied to Chinese equipment manufacturers that have been deemed cybersecurity threats by the U.S. government. Those companies include telecommunications gear-makers Huawei and ZTE, as well as video surveillance manufacturer Hikvision. It also includes surveillance camera-maker Dahua, and two-way radio-maker Hytera Communications.

The Trump administration has worked to push Huawei and ZTE out of U.S. federal and commercial telecommunications networks, both domestically and internationally, deeming the companies' close relationships to the Chinese government as a cybersecurity threat.

During a July 13 Professional Services Council (PSC) webcast, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Michael Wooten said agencies can seek a temporary waiver to the section 889 ban process, but they have to back up their need with evidence and receive a security briefing from the Office of the Director National Intelligence.

That waiver process, said Alan Chvotkin, PSC executive vice president and counsel, will most likely begin with issues identified by the telecommunications provider to its federal agency customer. The federal agency, he explained in a July 22 interview with FCW, then asks for an ODNI review, which will conduct a risk assessment.

Wooten said that review will require agencies to back their needs with hard evidence and receive a security briefing.

The waiver, said Chvotkin, if one is granted, lasts only two years. "A waiver is not a 'get out of jail free' card," he said.

Chvotkin advised agencies and companies that might be considering asking for a waiver to get started early. There is no formal timeframe for submitting a request, he said. "You can submit before the August 13 deadline."

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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