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Everything Government Contractors Need to Know About DFARS and CMMC Compliance

March 25, 2021


The United States government has a wide variety of compliance requirements for contractors who wish to earn contracts with it. These compliance requirements are put into place to protect sensitive material from falling into the wrong hands and to minimize other security issues. Among the most important government cybersecurity regulations for government contractors are CMMC and DFARS. Here is everything that government contractors need to know about these regulations.


What is CMMC?

CMMC stands for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. This certification was created by the Department of Defense in order to create a standard for implementing cybersecurity across the Defense Industrial Base. It was launched on January 31rst, 2020. The goal of CMMC is to limit the risk for information to be stolen from defense contractors. The CMMC requires government contractors to have their computer systems to be audited by third-party auditors to verify that their systems meet compliance requirements in order to prevent hacks and data thefts.


What is DFARS?

DFARS stands for Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. DFARS is a cybersecurity compliance legislation that is designed toward protecting CUI, or controlled unclassified information. Like CMMC, DFARS is designed to make sure that government contractors have adequate cybersecurity practices in place to prevent hacks and data breaches. This regulation was published by the Department of Defense in December 2015. It was a response to the increasing cybersecurity threats that were emerging around that time.

All DoD contractors are now obligated to meet the minimum requirements of DFARS. The minimum requirements of DFARS are 1. To provide adequate cybersecurity and 2. To rapidly report cybersecurity incidents. Although these requirements seem relatively straightforward and simple, providing adequate cybersecurity to comply with DFARS is actually somewhat complex. This is because DFARS has 14 different groups of cybersecurity requirements. These 14 groups are:

  • Media Protection
  • Maintenance
  • Configuration Management
  • Risk Assessment
  • Security Assessment
  • System and Information Integrity
  • Physical Protection
  • Incident Response
  • Awareness and Training
  • Access Control
  • Audit and Accountability
  • Identification and Authentication
  • Security Assessment
  • System and Communications Protection

All DoD contractors who fail to meet DFARS requirements can have their contracts terminated by the DoD.


What is NIST 800-171?

NIST 800-171 is the set of cybersecurity standards that was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This set of standards is what DFARS was built around. The National Institute of Technology created these standards after carefully studying cybersecurity threats and evaluating how they can be prevented. Now, the standards must be met for any contractor that wants to work with the Department of Defense.


Complying with CMMC and DFARS

For many government contractors, complying with CMMC and DFARS can be a significant challenge. This is especially true if the contractor only has a few IT professionals working on its staff. The increased use of cloud technology, mobile phones, and apps has made it extremely difficult for small IT departments to keep up with all of IT challenges of the business, let alone comply with CMMC and DFARS. However, a failure to comply with these regulations can mean a loss of the ability to contract with the DoD.

As a result, many government contractors are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) to help them comply with CMMC and DFARS. For a lot of these companies, outsourcing CMMC and DFARS compliance to an MSP can be a great decision.


The Advantages of Outsourcing CMMC and DFARS Compliance to an MSP

MSPs specialize in hardware, software, cloud computing, and all other key aspects of IT. Working with an MSP for CMMC and DFARS compliance can take all of the burden of dealing with these regulations off of the shoulders of the government contractor. This means that the government contractor’s own IT professionals will not have to have all of their time and energy used up on these tasks and can focus on their normal responsibilities.

Also, when an MSP is handling CMMC and DFARS compliance it allows the entire contracting business at large to go back to focusing on its primary business processes in order to keep generating the highest possible levels of revenue.

Additionally, because many MSPs specialize in cybersecurity and CMMC and DFARS compliance, they can actually help to keep the contracting business much safer and protected from cyber threats. Ultimately, this can help the government contractor to prevent costly hacks and data breaches, and the potential loss of government contracts due to CMMC and DFARS violations.


Choosing the Right MSP

For government contractors who wish to outsource CMMC and DFARS compliance, it is key to choose the right MSP to work with. If you are in the position where you have to find an MSP to do your CMMC and DFARS compliance, then you should look for an MSP that specializes in this area and that has experience with it. These regulations are only a few years old, so it won’t be possible to find a company that has decades of experience with it. However, you should still be able to find an MSP that has a proven track record of success in dealing with these regulations.


What Will the MSP Do Once Hired?

Initially, the MSP will perform a gap analysis. In this analysis, the MSP will evaluate your existing cybersecurity defenses and all of your other computer systems. During the analysis, the MSP will be able to tell exactly what your company is missing in order to be in compliance with the CMMC and DFARS regulations.

After this analysis is complete, the MSP will create a plan to fix any gaps that you might have in your network in order to be fully compliant with the regulations. Once the MSP has brought your company up to speed for CMMC and DFARS regulations, you will be able to bid on government contracts that require CMMC and DFARS compliance. Or, if you already have the contracts in place, you will be able to rest assured, knowing you won’t lose the contracts due to a failure to comply with the regulations.

A good MSP will continue to monitor your security status on a daily basis, making any changes that are necessary and reporting any incidents as they arise. According to CMMC and DFARS regulations, contractors have 72 hours maximum to report any significant cyberattacks or data breaches. So, it is the responsibility of your MSP to make sure that any incidents are reported on the appropriate channels within the 72-hour deadline.


Continued Compliance and Cybersecurity Protection

Cybercriminals are always creating new ways to steal data and to execute cyberattacks. As a result, it is necessary for government contractors to continue to continuously be on the alert for attacks. Simply hiring an MSP to get your company into CMMC and DFARS compliance once will not be enough. It is very likely that additions to the CMMC and DFARS guidelines will be made in the future.

In order to give your government contracting business the best chances of staying in compliance with CMMC and DFARS and protecting your business from cyberattacks, it is best to outsource cybersecurity and CMMC and DFARS compliance to an MSP on an ongoing basis.


CMMC and DFARS Compliance for MSPs

Although MSPs frequently help government contractors to get into compliance for CMMC and DFARS regulations, it is also important that they, themselves are in compliance. So, all MSPs that want to assist other companies with compliance for these regulations must first develop a thorough understanding of the regulations. Getting into full CMMC compliance can take several months. So, it is best to get started as soon as possible.


A New Standard

Despite the fact that CMMC regulations are only about a year old, they are quickly becoming the new standard for cybersecurity requirements. This doesn’t mean that DFARS is obsolete. In fact, you will be required to comply with both of them. However, because CMMC is the new bar for cybersecurity compliance for government contractors, it is extremely important for all contractors who wish to obtain DoD contracts to be fully CMMC compliant. Any company that fails to do this risks falling behind their competitors and losing revenue.



If your business is struggling to keep up with DFARS and CMMC regulations, then you should strongly consider outsourcing this area of your business to a qualified MSP that can handle this task for you. In the long run, outsourcing DFARS and CMMC compliance to a high-quality MSP can save you a significant amount of time, money, and stress while also enabling your business to keep functioning at optimal levels. The sooner you make the decision to start outsourcing CMMC and DFARS compliance, the better.

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