Prospective cloud service providers now have until May 21 to show demand for their offering among federal agencies in hopes an interagency board at the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, will put them at the front of the line for approval.
“Leading up to the business case due date, it is typical for [cloud service providers] to request coaching calls with FedRAMP on their case,” a spokesperson from the General Services Administration told Nextgov. “Based on the number of coaching calls being provided, FedRAMP decided to push back the due date for Business Cases from May 7th to May 21st to provide CSPs with a bit of extra time to complete their submission.”
The extra time will benefit both the government and vendors following recent cybersecurity incidents that broadly impacted the government and new resources flowing to the General Services Administration, one advocate for IT modernization who represents a number of prominent vendors told Nextgov.
Officials have noted the pandemic is forcing greater use of cloud services to enable remote work but also increasing entities’ vulnerability to attack.
“With so much activity in the cybersecurity space over the past few months, extending the deadline will provide GSA with some additional time to work with agency [chief information officers] and [chief information security officers], as well as [cloud service providers], to gain more valuable insights on which cloud services are most in demand throughout the government,” said Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation.
Coming on the scene in a 2011 memo, FedRAMP lays out security requirements cloud service providers must meet, as certified by an independent third party, before contracting with federal agencies. The approval process can move either through the agencies themselves, or through FedRAMP’s Joint Authorization Board, which includes representation from GSA, as well as the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has led a push, supported by industry, for giving the JAB more authority. Legislation the congressman authored would require federal agencies to treat the board’s authorizations as a “presumption of adequacy.” It also calls for increased funding for the program.
As it currently stands, the board’s capacity to authorize cloud service providers is limited, so every year it selects 12 vendors to prioritize, based primarily on the demand for their offerings, but on other factors as well. This initial part of the process is referred to as FedRAMP Connect. The GSA spokesperson said the board has already chosen five providers to prioritize and is looking for at least seven more for this year.
Cornellius, who formerly served as a senior advisor on cybersecurity at both GSA and the Office of Management and Budget and helped develop the idea behind FedRAMP Connect, said GSA may also want to use the extra time to consider whether it could use some of the money the agency got through a recent COVID relief package to expand the program.
“Additionally, with the increased funding they received in the American Rescue Plan ($150M for the Federal Citizen Services Fund), GSA may want to take a bit more time to analyze resourcing needs for the FedRAMP PMO and the JAB,” he said, “in case they really need to scale up to support a possible surge of CSPs moving through the JAB to help address crucial cloud security opportunities across the .gov space.”