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Get Ahead, Stay Ahead: How to Achieve and Maintain DoD Compliance

Billy Hollister
May 28, 2021

While every Defense contractor understands the importance of a highly secure network, the Federal compliance landscape is constantly changing. As a result, the solutions you implemented a year or two ago may no longer be sufficient; you may need to significantly improve your cybersecurity posture, and the DoD now requires that you perform compliance assessments against your systems.

This reality leaves many contractors in a rush to meet new Federal controls as they look to protect sensitive data, meet critical deadlines, and win contract renewals. While this ad-hoc or firefighting approach to compliance is common across the industry, it is typically a more expensive, stressful, and less efficient strategy that will not prepare your business for the future.

Rather than patching together multiple solutions or waiting until you fall out of compliance to make a change, adopt a “get ahead, stay ahead” approach to your cybersecurity compliance efforts.

In this post, we'll outline the importance of a proactive compliance strategy, then walk through the high-level steps that DoD and other Government contractors should take to maintain compliance today and in the future.

Build a Strong Foundation

Before you start working towards specific controls or championing new contracts, you need to establish a baseline for your current system and use the results to prioritize future initiatives. This first step ensures you have a clear view of how your organization stacks up against existing Federal controls. With that data in mind, start establishing short and long-term goals, then identifying your next steps towards compliance.

At a high level, this stage in your compliance journey should produce:

  • A System Security Plan (SSP) to capture how compliance is currently met
  • A Plan of Actions and Milestones (POA&M) to inform future improvements
  • Recommendations for how to meet each remaining security control objective

Regardless of contract deadlines or internal pressure, proactive goal setting and planning are critical to your organization's long-term success. Informed decision-making ahead of time ensures you get the highest ROI for each new project and implementation.

Achieve Key Compliance Milestones

With a detailed list of goals and priorities in hand, you can initiate various compliance projects to bring your systems up to speed. Depending on the results of your assessment, you'll likely be looking to achieve one of the following:

  • Cloud platform migration
  • Enablement of your IT team to achieve compliance
  • System-wide restructuring in adherence with required security controls
  • Protection of sensitive data, such as Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), Federal Contact Information (FCI), and ITAR / Export Control
  • Adherence to Federal / DoD compliance requirements like CMMC, DFARS 252.204-7012, NIST SP 800-171, and FedRAMP

As you look to meet your compliance milestones, be sure your selected provider can adapt their solutions to your unique business goals. Steer clear of churn-and-burn vendors that promise full compliance in days or weeks using canned solutions. These claims are false and misleading, as compliance requirements touch almost every aspect of your operations beyond just technology. Rapid, “turnkey” solutions cannot meet them. Instead, look for a dedicated partner that will walk through your specific environment in detail and provide compliant solutions that are designed and configured to fit your unique IT environment and business needs.

Prioritize Ongoing Maintenance

Once you've implemented compliant solutions and adjusted your IT operations to meet compliance requirements, you need to keep your systems ahead of control changes, upcoming requirements, and relevant industry developments to maintain compliance before they impact your bottom line or compromise security.

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) or Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) can support your ongoing compliance strategy with adaptable monitoring and maintenance solutions, such as:

  • 24/7 Monitoring
  • System Maintenance
  • Routine Backups
  • End-User Support
  • Cybersecurity and Compliance Support / Consulting
  • Compliance Maintenance (SSP and POA&M)
  • Audit Preparation

In short, you should approach compliance as an ongoing effort, not a one-time project. Rather than waiting for the next audit or contractual requirements to catch your IT teams off-guard, adopt solutions that keep your organization a step ahead of threats and on the path of full compliance.

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At Peerless, we maintain a deep knowledge of DoD and Federal compliance requirements, but we also know that no two organizations are the same. That's why we created a do-it-yourself compliance guide for DoD contractors, designed to identify the best-fit cybersecurity and compliance solutions for your organization.

Find out where you land on the road to compliance and get detailed recommendations to help you follow up on your results.

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