The spread of coronavirus and the consequent pandemic resulting from millions of cases of COVID-19 around the world has left many businesses, industries, and even government departments facing predicaments. But what does COVID-19 mean for the Department of Defense?
The DoD is currently working with the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the State Department, in order to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Right now, around 14,000 Defense Department employees from the Northern Command are currently battling COVID-19 in the United States, with nearly 2,600 serving in hospitals, alternative healthcare facilities and hospital ships.
As Dr. Mark T. Esper, the current Defense Secretary has noted, “They’ve done an outstanding job. They’ve implemented my three policies—priorities flawlessly [sic]. . . . First of all, protect our service members, our DoD civilians and their families. Secondly, ensure we maintain our mission capabilities. And then, thirdly, make sure we provide full support to the president’s whole-of-government, whole-of-nation response.”
While the DoD has team members focusing on the pandemic, it’s not all too surprising that acquisitions have consequently become affected and delayed. In fact, the Department is currently estimating a delay of up to three months on contracts as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis. While the Department has been making conscious efforts to keep its supply chain moving, delays are expected across all of the Defense Department’s Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs).
Ellen Lord, the DoD undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, has noted that “right now, there isn’t any specific Covid [sic] penalty that we see for a specific program, however, we do anticipate a three-month slowdown at slower rates in terms of execution than we saw before. . . . We are just now looking at key milestones that might be impacted.”
These delays are largely due to contractors having to adjust their operations to account for both facility access and to limit the potential spread of the virus. Government advice that people need to be six feet apart at the moment is causing trouble in various sectors around the world that rely on close contact between workers.
Luckily, like most companies, the DOD is beginning to adjust to new ways of working. They are tracking both the number of cases and their relation to the location of suppliers in the defense industrial bases and subsequently working with companies to adjust their operations.
Despite these delays, it’s also critical to note that the DoD is still planning on running to schedule when it comes to CMMC auditing in the fall of this year. Third-party assessors are currently being trained while practicing social distancing guidelines and using online resources, and CMMC audits are planned to go ahead as planned.
As Katie Arrington, the DoD’s CISO for acquisition, has said to reporters, “We are continuing to roll out CMMC, we are not slowing down. COVID-19 is a horrible event for the globe. But the sun will rise, and we have to continue to march forward.” She also stated that the DoD is “doing [their] absolute best to stay on track because even though we are in horrible times, [they] have to have continuity of care and the mission is important,” and the current world situation has actually exemplified “how imperative those [CMMC] practices are.”
In order to ensure that CMMC can go ahead as planned, the DoD has enlisted a non-profit organization to train and certify auditors for the CMMC accreditation body and much training has shifted online.
This means that it is still absolutely essential for DoD contractors to continue preparing for CMMC audits, just as they would have if COVID-19 had never surfaced. Failing to do so could result in them not being able to bid or work on government contracts past fall when official audits start taking place. In order to best prepare, it’s paramount that any DoD contractors looking to pass the audit prepare with CMMC assessment services.
Even if the audits do somehow experience delay in the same way that acquisitions have, preparing with CMMC assessment services will ensure that your business is operating with the best levels of cyber hygiene possible, preventing hackers and other cyber criminals from accessing sensitive data or causing any other trouble for you.
As COVID-19 changes the way businesses and government organizations operate, DoD contractors can and should still remain prepared for CMMC implementation not only to remain eligible for contracts but also to protect their systems and data.