FAR 52.204-21 Compliance - Policies & Procedures

NIST SP 800-171 CMMC DFARS FAR compliance solution

If you are new to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.204-21, it is a contract clause (52.204-21) to the FAR “for the basic safeguarding of contractor information systems that process, store, or transmit Federal contract information."

FAR 52.204-21 imposes a set of fifteen (15)  basic cybersecurity controls for contractor information systems upon which “Federal contract information” is stored, processed or transmitted. Federal contract information is defined as information provided by or generated for the Government under a contract to develop or deliver a product or service for the US Government. These FAR cybersecurity controls also form the basis for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Level 1 that is focused on protecting Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Covered Contractor Information Systems (CCIS).

NIST 800-171 & CMMC Compliance Implications for FAR 52.204-21

There are changes coming that will affect FAR 52.204-21 that are disclosed in NIST 800-171 (page v) that indicate FAR is going to adopt NIST 800-171 cybersecurity requirements to protect government data (e.g., Controlled Unclassified Information or Controlled Technical Information). In the end, this means that complying with the US Government's cybersecurity requirements will be considerably more than just the 15 basic controls currently listed in FAR 52.204-21. 

The Department of Defense (DoD) states in the CMMC Model Main document that Level 1 organizations "may only be able to perform these practices in an ad-hoc manner and may or may not rely on documentation, process maturity is not assessed for Level 1." This makes it appear that Level 1 organizations have no documentation requirements. However, that is actually incorrect when you look at how Level 1 organizations are focused on protecting Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Covered Contractor Information Systems (CCIS).

​FAR 52.204-21 specifically calls out in section (b)(1) that contractors “shall apply the following basic safeguarding requirements and procedures to protect CCIS” in regards to the fifteen FAR cybersecurity requirements that form the basis for CMMC Level 1 practices. Given the underlying FAR requirements for Level 1 CMMC organizations, FAR 52.204-21(b)(1) calls out the need for:

In practical terms, this means in order to comply with FAR 52.204-21, any organization going through a Level 1 CMMC assessment is reasonably-expected to have documented policies, standards and procedures that document how the FAR requirements are implemented. Without documented evidence of due care and due diligence, the contractor could be considered negligent and could be within scope for a False Claims Act (FCA) violation.

CMMC level 1 FAR cybersecurity requirements 

FAR vs DFARS - ISO 27002, NIST Cybersecurity Framework or NIST 800-53 Frameworks - What Is The Best Approach?

The bottom line is that utilizing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework or ISO 27001/27002 as a security framework does not directly meet the requirements of NIST 800-171. In fact, NIST 800-171 (Appendix D) maps out how the CUI security requirements of NIST 800-171 relate to NIST 800-53 and ISO 27001/27002 security controls. This includes callouts where the ISO 27001/27002 framework does not fully satisfy the requirements of NIST 800-171.

Essentially, this means that only the NIST 800-53 framework is going to meet FAR requirements of NIST 800171 - ISO 27002 and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework are going to be insufficient in coverage.

NIST SP 800-171 CMMC nist csf vs nist 800-171 vs cmmc

Cost of Non-Compliance With FAR 52.204-21

What can possibly go wrong with non-compliance in a contract with the U.S. Government?

As you can see from those examples, the cost of non-compliance is quite significant. As always, seek competent legal counsel for any pertinent questions on your specific compliance obligations.

Affordable, Editable FAR 52.204-21 Compliance Documentation

ComplianceForge is a niche cybersecurity company that specializes in compliance-related documentation. We are a leading provider for FAR 52.204-21 compliance documentation, where we serve clients from small businesses through the Fortune 500 with our FAR 52.204-21 compliance products.

What Problem Does ComplianceForge Solve?

How Does ComplianceForge Solve It?

CMMC compliance level 1-3 documentation

Comprehensive FAR 52.204-21 Compliance Documentation

ComplianceForge has FAR 52.204-21 compliance documentation that applies if you are a prime or sub-contractor. These current, fifteen (15) basic cybersecurity requirements for FAR include:

Is Your Organization "Audit Ready" for FAR 52.204-21?

When you "peel back the onion" and prepare for a FAR 52.204-21 audit, there is a need to address "the how" for certain topics. While policies and standards are designed to describe WHY something is required and WHAT needs to be done, many companies fail to create documentation to address HOW it gets done. We did the heavy lifting and created several program-level documents to address this need and they integrate with either the Cybersecurity & Data Protection Program (CDPP) or Digital Security Program (DSP) to provide your organization with a set of robust documentation to prepare for your audit.

One thing to keep in mind is that while the current requirements are quite basic, there is a a pending change with FAR to compel all US government contractors, not just DoD contractors, to comply with NIST 800-171

Address FAR 52.204-21 Compliance With The NIST-based Cybersecurity & Data Protection Program (CDPP)

 The NIST version of the Cybersecurity & Data Protection Program (CDPP) is a comprehensive set of IT security policies and standards that is based on the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) 800-53 rev4 framework and it can help your organization become compliant with FAR 52.204-21 requirements

This NIST-based CDPP is a comprehensive, customizable, easily-implemented Microsoft Word document that contains the NIST 800-53 rev4-based policies, control objectives, standards and guidelines that your company needs to establish a robust cybersecurity program. Being a Microsoft Word document, you have the ability to make edits to suit your company's specific needs.

NIST 800-53 is the de facto standard for cybersecurity requirements that is issued by the US government. Therefore, government agencies, defense contractors, telecom service providers, health care providers, financial companies or any organizations that contract with the government tend to adopt NIST-based best practices over all other frameworks, based on regulatory requirements.  

You can see an example of the NIST 800-53 CDPP here.

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