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The U.S. Department of Defense has issued a reminder to defense contractors that they have until Oct. 23 to certify they are not using the technologies of five Chinese providers suspected of hacking into sensitive government files.
The 10-day reminder, issued Oct. 13 by DOD’s Surface Transportation Command, warned contractors that they must certify they are not using the technologies or risk being “disapproved” by DOD — meaning they could immediately be dropped as a government contractor as soon as Oct. 24.
Failing to purge their systems of “critical technologies” or seek a waiver also could lead to civil or criminal charges, according to the agency’s interim rule outlined in a July 14 Federal Register post.
The original date to certify was Aug. 13, but that was extended by DOD.
The five companies believed to be potential hackers into U.S. intelligence and defense agencies’ information systems are Huawei Technologies Co., ZTE Corp., Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua Technology. The provision, a requirement in Sec. 889 of the 2019 fiscal Defense Authorization bill, also covers any subsidiary or affiliate of the Chinese entities.
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In public comments, trucking and technology trade organizations have said they support an interim rule requiring federal government contractors to locate and replace the Chinese telecommunications equipment. However, they find some of the provisions confusing, and the rule fails to give them enough time to complete searching their operations.
The technologies in question range from cameras, cellphones and computers to GPS products, onboard truck technologies and computer routers.
Bill Wanamaker, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Government Freight Conference, said the provision is sending truckers to their legal counsels for advice, and in some cases they replaced their Chinese technology systems with costly new ones.
“This 889 thing is the most complex, far reaching, rippling public topic that I have ever dealt with,” said Wanamaker, who has been busy in recent months researching and getting the word out to motor carriers. “It means that if you do not make the representation that says you are 889-compliant by Oct. 23, you’re out of business.”
“We cannot emphasize enough the necessity to use your corporate counsel in making your decisions about representation,” Wanamaker added.
ATA has estimated that it could take many months, if not well more than a year, for highly interconnected industries such as supply chain transporters to discover all covered components in their electronic inventory.
While the provision is applicable to all government contractors, DOD has been the most vocal about ensuring compliance.
“Enforcement is taking place on different timetables by different agencies,” Wanamaker said.
While government transportation officers in many agencies have been seemingly less vocal and rushed to discuss the requirement, all government contractors ultimately will be required to certify compliance when they fill out their annual System for Award Management registration forms, he said.
A System for Award Management registration, or SAM, is required to be updated annually for businesses to do federal contracting and for nonprofits to receive grants.
“With 10 years of experience and over 100,000 SAM registrations completed, U.S. Federal Contractor Registration helps streamline federal sector onboarding and win contracts,” according to the U.S. Federal Contractor Registration Website.
“Transportation service providers who indicate noncompliance with Section 889 will be placed in disapproved status until they indicate compliance or are granted a waiver by the secretary of defense,” the 10-day reminder said. “TSPs who do not meet the [Oct. 23] suspense for self-certification will be placed in disapproved status on [Oct. 24].”
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