Information Technology Contracting

Last Friday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) took a major step in furtherance of the Biden Administration’s goal of connecting all Americans to broadband by releasing its widely anticipated Notice of Funding Opportunity (“NOFO”) for the landmark $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (“BEAD”) Program, along with NOFOs for two smaller programs. 

This is the eleventh in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second through tenth blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the EO from June 2021 through February 2022, respectively.  This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during March 2022.  As with steps taken during prior months, the actions described below reflect the implementation of the EO within the Government.  However, these activities portend further actions, potentially in or before June 2022, that are likely to impact government contractors, particularly those who provide software products or services to the Government.
Continue Reading March 2022 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

This is the tenth in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the secondthirdfourthfifthsixthseventheighth, and ninth blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the EO from June 2021 through January 2022, respectively.

This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during February 2022.  As with steps taken during prior months, the actions described below reflect the implementation of the EO within the Government.  However, these activities portend further actions in March 2022 that are likely to impact government contractors, particularly those who provide software products or services to government agencies.

Continue Reading February 2022 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

This is the sixth in the series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second, third, fourth, and fifth blogs described the actions taken by various federal agencies to implement the EO during June, July, August, and September 2021, respectively.  This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during October 2021.

Although the recent developments this month are directly applicable to the U.S. Government, the standards being established for U.S. Government agencies could be adopted as industry standards for all organizations that develop or acquire software similar to various industries adopting the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as a security controls baseline.

Continue Reading October 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

This is the fifth in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity”, issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second, third, and fourth blogs described the actions taken by various federal government agencies to implement the EO during June, July, and August 2021, respectively.  This blog summarizes  key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during September 2021.

I.   Actions Taken During September 2021 to Modernize Federal Government Cybersecurity

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) publically released a draft zero trust architecture strategy for federal agencies on September 9, 2021.  On that same day, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) issued two draft documents designed to further OMB’s zero trust strategy: the Zero Trust Maturity Model and the Cloud Security Technical Reference Architecture.  Each of these documents was required by Section 3 of the Cyber EO to modernize and standardize federal government agency approaches to cybersecurity.

Continue Reading September 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

This blog continues Covington’s review of important deadlines and milestones in implementing the Executive Order on Improving the Nations’ Cybersecurity (E.O. 14028, or the “Cyber EO”) issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021.  Previous blogs have discussed developments under the Cyber EO in June 2021 and July 2021.  This blog focuses on developments affecting the EO that occurred during August 2021.

The Cyber EO requires federal agencies to meet several important deadlines in August 2021.  These deadlines are in the areas of enhancing critical software supply chain security, improving the federal government’s investigative and remediation capabilities, and modernizing federal agency approaches to cybersecurity.  In addition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) took several significant actions related to supply chain security in August 2021, not all of which were driven by deadlines in the Cyber EO.  This blog examines the actions taken by federal agencies to meet the EO’s August deadlines as well as the NIST actions referred to above.

Continue Reading August 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

On May 12, 2021, the Biden Administration issued an Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity (the “EO”).  The EO sets out a list of deliverables due from a number of governmental entities in June 2021 and successive months.  Our overall summary of the EO and its deliverables can be found here, and our discussion of the EO deliverables that were due in June 2021 can be found here.  This blog addresses the EO deliverables in July 2021.
Continue Reading July 2021 Developments Under the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity

On May 12, 2021 the Biden Administration issued an “Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” (EO).  Among other things, the EO sets out a list of deliverables from a variety of government entities.  A number of these deliverables were due in June, including a definition of “critical software,” the minimum requirements for a software bill of materials, and certain internal actions imposed on various federal agencies.
Continue Reading June 2021 Developments Under the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a decision on Friday finding that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) followed the wrong order of succession after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019.  As a result, the Acting Secretaries who have served since then were invalidly selected.  In particular, GAO has questioned the appointments of Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, former Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli.

GAO’s decision tees up a thorny question for DHS contractors:  If these officials were invalidly selected, what does it mean for the agency’s policies and procurement decisions made during their tenure?

Continue Reading [Updated] If the Acting DHS Secretary Was Unlawfully Selected, What Does that Mean for DHS Procurements?

(This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for this blog.)

Companies in a range of industries that contract with the U.S. Government—including aerospace, defense, healthcare, technology, and energy—are actively working to assess whether or not their information technology systems comply with significant new restrictions that will take effect on August 13, 2020.  These new restrictions prohibit the use of certain Chinese telecommunications equipment and services, and a failure to comply can have dramatic consequences for these companies.  The new restrictions also will have an immediate impact on mergers and acquisitions involving a company that does—or hopes to do—business with the Federal government.  In this article, we highlight some key considerations for M&A practitioners relating to these restrictions.

Background

On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Government’s Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (“FAR Council”) published an interim rule to implement Section 889(a)(1)(B) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (“FY19 NDAA”).[1]  When the new rule takes effect on August 13, it will prohibit the Department of Defense and all other executive branch agencies from contracting—or extending or renewing a contract—with an “entity” that “uses” “covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential part of any system.”  The restrictions cover broad categories of equipment and services produced and provided by certain Chinese companies—namely Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hangzhou Hikvision, Dahua, and their affiliates.[2]

The new rule will be applicable to all contracts with the U.S. Government, including those for commercial item services and commercially available-off-the-shelf products.[3]  Companies with a single one of these contracts will soon have an ongoing obligation to report any new discovery of its internal “use” of certain covered telecommunications equipment and services to the Government within one business day with a report of how the use will be mitigated ten business days later.[4]  Further, although companies can seek to obtain a waiver on a contract-by-contract basis from agencies, these waivers must be granted by the head of the agency, and may only extend until August 13, 2022 at the latest.[5]

The new rule is the second part of a two-stage implementation of Section 889’s restrictions on covered telecommunications equipment and services in Government contracting.  It builds on an earlier rule that implemented Section 889(a)(1)(A) of the FY19 NDAA on August 13, 2019 by prohibiting an executive branch agency from acquiring certain covered telecommunications equipment or services that is a substantial or essential part of any system.[6]

The new rule is expansive in scope, and its effects will be felt far beyond the traditional defense industrial base.  Thus, mergers and acquisitions practitioners are well advised to become familiar with the rule and consider how it might impact any future transaction where an acquisition target does at least some business with the Government or has aspirations to do so in the future.

Continue Reading M&A and Section 889: Due Diligence and Integration Considerations