The Department of Defense (DoD) released key documentation relating to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) 2.0 over the past several weeks, including (1) a CMMC 2.0 Model Overview document, (2) CMMC Self-Assessment Scopes for Level 1 and 2 assessments/certifications, (3) CMMC Assessment Guides for Level 1 and 2 attestations/certifications, and (4) the CMMC Artifact Hashing Tool User Guide.

DoD has stated that CMMC 2.0 will not be a contractual requirement until the Department completes the rulemaking needed to implement the program.  Although that rulemaking process is estimated by DoD at 9 to 24 months, these documents are highly relevant to any contractors selling to DoD.  Once CMMC 2.0 is implemented, it will be mandatory where sensitive DoD information is provided to a contractor or generated, processed, stored, or transmitted in support of performance of a DoD contract.  Moreover, those contractors who can implement CMMC practices more quickly likely will have a competitive advantage over contractors who wait to address CMMC until right before the clauses appear in individual procurements.  Key aspects of each of these documents are discussed below.

CMMC 2.0 Overview Document

As we discussed in more detail in prior posts, CMMC 2.0 is markedly different than CMMC 1.0 in certain ways.  Principal differences include the fact that CMMC 2.0 has only three maturity levels — Foundational (Level 1), Advanced (Level 2), and Expert (Level 3) — relative to CMMC 1.0, which had five levels.  Under CMMC 2.0, a Level 1 self-assessment is required where Federal Contract Information (FCI) is involved, a Level 2 self-assessment/attestation or third-party certification is required where Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is involved, and a Level 3 certification is required where DoD determines that a contractor must implement additional practices to reduce the risk associated with Advanced Persistent Threats.

The newly released overview document outlines the general requirements that contractors must implement to achieve each CMMC level.  As set forth in the document, Level 1 of CMMC 2.0 is equivalent to all of the safeguarding requirements from FAR Clause 52.204-21 and Level 2 is equivalent to all of the security requirements in NIST SP 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations” (Rev. 2).  The overview document indicates that Level 3 certification requirements will be a subset of the requirements in NIST SP 800-172, “Enhanced Security Requirements for Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information: A Supplement to NIST Special Publication 800-171”, but it does not specify which requirements will apply, and only notes that details for Level 3 certifications will be released at a later date.  In each case, the levels build on one another, i.e., a contractor must implement all of the practices at Levels 1 and 2 plus additional Level 3 requirements in order to achieve a Level 3 certification.

As Level 2 tracks with the requirements set forth under NIST SP 800-171 Rev. 2, the document references the “[d]evelop[ment] and implement[ion of] plans of action designed to correct deficiencies and reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities in organizational systems,” but provide no further specifics.  Nonetheless, DoD has indicated elsewhere, including in a recent Federal Register Notice (previously rescinded but now republished with certain changes), that a Plan of Action and Milestone (POA&M) may be used in certain contexts.

CMMC Self-Assessment Scopes for Levels 1 and 2

The CMMC Self-Assessment Scope for Level 1 and Level 2 is used to define those assets within the contractor’s environment that will be in scope of the assessment and self-attestation/third-party certification.  Specifically, this document relates to the description of the environment that will store, process, or transmit FCI (Level 1) or CUI (Level 2), which are considered to be “in-scope assets.”

Each of these documents makes clear that there are no documentation requirements for out of scope assets and that such assets should not be part of the assessment.  Notably, each document addresses “Specialized Assets,” which includes Government Property, Internet of Things or Industrial Internet of Things, Operational Technology, Restricted Information Systems, and Test Equipment.  Specialized Assets are not part of the assessment scope under Level 1 and are therefore not assessed against CMMC practices.  Specialized Assets are part of the CMMC assessment scope under Level 2, however, and contractors are required to document these assets in the System Security Plan (SSP) and detail how they are managed using the contractor’s risk-based information security policy, procedures, and practices.

CMMC Assessment Guides for Levels 1 and 2

The Level 1 Assessment Guide and Level 2 Assessment Guide are intended to provide certified assessors, contractors, and IT and cybersecurity professionals with guidance to help prepare for a CMMC assessment (including self-assessments).  The two guides are similarly organized, and each provides: (1) an overview of the CMMC assessment and certification process, (2) information about assessment criteria and methodology, (3) clarification of the intent and scope of various terms of the CMMC, and (4) assessment requirements and specifics for each CMMC practice.  Specific information in the guides includes the type of documentation to be assessed, documentation of assessment findings, and examples of implemented technical practices, among other things.  The Level 2 Assessment Guide also indicates that it leverages information included in NIST SP 800-171A, “Assessing Security Requirements for Controlled Unclassified Information,” that NIST published in 2018.

CMMC Artifact Hashing Tool User Guide

This hashing guide is used for the very specific purpose of overviewing the CMMC’s Artifact Hashing Tool, which is used to create a unique digital fingerprint (i.e. SHA-256 hash) for each document, file, or other artifact used as proof of compliance with CMMC.  The document explains that assessors do not take copies of artifacts of evidence with them after an assessment because these articles are proprietary to the contractor.  Instead, the assessor generates unique fingerprints of each file using the tool and follows the instructions set forth in the guide so that the assessor can document the exact artifacts, and the contractor could produce those artifacts in the future, if needed.

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Photo of Robert Huffman Robert Huffman

Bob Huffman counsels government contractors on emerging technology issues, including artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and software supply chain security, that are currently affecting federal and state procurement. His areas of expertise include the Department of Defense (DOD) and other agency acquisition regulations governing…

Bob Huffman counsels government contractors on emerging technology issues, including artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and software supply chain security, that are currently affecting federal and state procurement. His areas of expertise include the Department of Defense (DOD) and other agency acquisition regulations governing information security and the reporting of cyber incidents, the proposed Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program, the requirements for secure software development self-attestations and bills of materials (SBOMs) emanating from the May 2021 Executive Order on Cybersecurity, and the various requirements for responsible AI procurement, safety, and testing currently being implemented under the October 2023 AI Executive Order. 

Bob also represents contractors in False Claims Act (FCA) litigation and investigations involving cybersecurity and other technology compliance issues, as well more traditional government contracting costs, quality, and regulatory compliance issues. These investigations include significant parallel civil/criminal proceedings growing out of the Department of Justice’s Cyber Fraud Initiative. They also include investigations resulting from False Claims Act qui tam lawsuits and other enforcement proceedings. Bob has represented clients in over a dozen FCA qui tam suits.

Bob also regularly counsels clients on government contracting supply chain compliance issues, including those arising under the Buy American Act/Trade Agreements Act and Section 889 of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act. In addition, Bob advises government contractors on rules relating to IP, including government patent rights, technical data rights, rights in computer software, and the rules applicable to IP in the acquisition of commercial products, services, and software. He focuses this aspect of his practice on the overlap of these traditional government contracts IP rules with the IP issues associated with the acquisition of AI services and the data needed to train the large learning models on which those services are based. 

Bob writes extensively in the areas of procurement-related AI, cybersecurity, software security, and supply chain regulation. He also teaches a course at Georgetown Law School that focuses on the technology, supply chain, and national security issues associated with energy and climate change.

Photo of Susan B. Cassidy Susan B. Cassidy

Ms. Cassidy represents clients in the defense, intelligence, and information technologies sectors.  She works with clients to navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern federal procurement and her practice includes both counseling and litigation components.  Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for government…

Ms. Cassidy represents clients in the defense, intelligence, and information technologies sectors.  She works with clients to navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern federal procurement and her practice includes both counseling and litigation components.  Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for government contractors and represents her clients before the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), Inspectors General (IG), and the Department of Justice with regard to those investigations.  From 2008 to 2012, Ms. Cassidy served as in-house counsel at Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, supporting both defense and intelligence programs. Previously, Ms. Cassidy held an in-house position with Motorola Inc., leading a team of lawyers supporting sales of commercial communications products and services to US government defense and civilian agencies. Prior to going in-house, Ms. Cassidy was a litigation and government contracts partner in an international law firm headquartered in Washington, DC.

Photo of Ashden Fein Ashden Fein

Ashden Fein advises clients on cybersecurity and national security matters, including crisis management and incident response, risk management and governance, government and internal investigations, and regulatory compliance.

For cybersecurity matters, Mr. Fein counsels clients on preparing for and responding to cyber-based attacks, assessing…

Ashden Fein advises clients on cybersecurity and national security matters, including crisis management and incident response, risk management and governance, government and internal investigations, and regulatory compliance.

For cybersecurity matters, Mr. Fein counsels clients on preparing for and responding to cyber-based attacks, assessing security controls and practices for the protection of data and systems, developing and implementing cybersecurity risk management and governance programs, and complying with federal and state regulatory requirements. Mr. Fein frequently supports clients as the lead investigator and crisis manager for global cyber and data security incidents, including data breaches involving personal data, advanced persistent threats targeting intellectual property across industries, state-sponsored theft of sensitive U.S. government information, and destructive attacks.

Additionally, Mr. Fein assists clients from across industries with leading internal investigations and responding to government inquiries related to the U.S. national security. He also advises aerospace, defense, and intelligence contractors on security compliance under U.S. national security laws and regulations including, among others, the National Industrial Security Program (NISPOM), U.S. government cybersecurity regulations, and requirements related to supply chain security.

Before joining Covington, Mr. Fein served on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Military Intelligence officer and prosecutor specializing in cybercrime and national security investigations and prosecutions — to include serving as the lead trial lawyer in the prosecution of Private Chelsea (Bradley) Manning for the unlawful disclosure of classified information to Wikileaks.

Mr. Fein currently serves as a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Photo of Ryan Burnette Ryan Burnette

Ryan Burnette advises defense and civilian contractors on federal contracting compliance and on civil and internal investigations that stem from these obligations. Ryan has particular experience with clients that hold defense and intelligence community contracts and subcontracts, and has recognized expertise in national…

Ryan Burnette advises defense and civilian contractors on federal contracting compliance and on civil and internal investigations that stem from these obligations. Ryan has particular experience with clients that hold defense and intelligence community contracts and subcontracts, and has recognized expertise in national security related matters, including those matters that relate to federal cybersecurity and federal supply chain security. Ryan also advises on government cost accounting, FAR and DFARS compliance, public policy matters, and agency disputes. He speaks and writes regularly on government contracts and cybersecurity topics, drawing significantly on his prior experience in government to provide insight on the practical implications of regulations.