More contractors are asking GSA for contract modifications as they work to comply with acquisition rules banning certain communications equipment from China.
NOTE: This story first appeared on FCW.com.
The General Services Administration is making headway on contractor compliance in implementing bans on certain proscribed Chinese telecommunications gear manufacturers, according to several of the agency's contract managers.
The rate of acceptance of contract supply chain protection modifications by over 10,000 of GSA's Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contract holders was 81% as of the end of August, according to Jack Tekus, an analyst in the agency's MAS Program Management Office. GSA sent the thousands of contractors compliance modifications that had to be incorporated into their contracts for them to remain eligible for federal opportunities.
The modifications are a key part of GSA's effort to get contractors to comply with Part B of Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
During a Sept. 10 GSA-sponsored webinar, Tekus and other GSA contracting officials from the agency's IT, public building and leasing operations, explained some of the new requirements. The rules ban 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 manufacturers Hikvision, Hytera Communications Corporation, Dahua Technology Company, as well as their subsidiaries and affiliates.
The provision goes beyond the use of the five companies' gear in federal contracts and extend to their use in any day-to-day operations, including domestic and overseas operations.
The Sept. 10 webinar put a finer point on some of the provisions in compliance, but also set others aside for further comment.
Maria Swaby, GSA's procurement ombudsman, told attendees that guidance on some important definitions of terms including "use," "subsidiaries," or "affiliates" is still not settled. Those terms are important pivot points for compliance with telecommunications services, since data and traffic can crisscross different carrier networks and facilities who might not be subject to the ban. Swaby said questions about those terms' definitions could be submitted to Regulations.gov by Sept. 14.