The Department of Defense recently provided some clarity on the timeline for implementation of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program. The DoD now expects to complete documentation to submit to the Office of Management and Budget for its rulemaking process by July 2022. And, it plans to issue interim final rules by March 2023. If DoD sticks to this new timeline, the CMMC requirements could begin appearing in solicitations for government contracts as early as May 2023 (60 days after the rules are published). 

DoD plans to roll out the CMMC requirements in solicitations under a “phased approach.” During phase one, when the CMMC requirement first starts appearing in solicitations, all offerors will be required to conduct a self-assessment and provide a positive affirmation of compliance. This stands in contrast to having a third-party certification, which will eventually be required for some contractors under CMMC. In phase two, solicitations will require either self-assessments or third-party certifications. Which approach is required depends on the type of information involved, and the required certification level. The timing of phase two is still to be determined.

DoD also has confirmed that the third-party CMMC certification will be good for three years once the certification is issued (while not required until phase 2, contractors may choose to secure certification early), but contractors will be required to provide an annual affirmation confirming compliance. The third-party certification is for those associated with critical programs and contracts involving information critical to national security. Self-assessments required for contractors not handling information critical to national security will need to be performed on an annual basis. The assessment will need to be accompanied by an associated affirmation by a senior company official.

Putting it Into Practice: It seems the time finally has come for DoD contractors and suppliers to prepare their information systems for a CMMC assessment, if they have not already. Now is time for DoD contractors to consider (1) comprehensive self-assessments, (2) appropriate remediation, and (3) updating any reported cybersecurity scores to ensure they reflect the current posture of the system.