Digital certification could affect thousands of Defense contractors

A new Defense Department mandate for digital certification taking effect Thursday could prevent thousands of defense contractors from working with the department until they comply.

The program requires the provision of digital certificates to improve the security of transactions between Defense and its contractors. But according to one provider of the certificates, most contractors had not joined the program as the mandate took effect.

There are about 350,000 defense contractors, and an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent have obtained certificates, said Barry Leffew, vice president for the public sector at VeriSign. "I think people are still being made aware of this," he said.

Defense increasingly is conducting activities online, including ordering and procurement, logistics such as transporting troops, correspondence and requests for proposals to bid on contracts. As of now, contractors need certificates to participate in any of the online activities.

The certificates use public-key infrastructure technology to encrypt transaction information and verify contractor identities. A large contractor may have as many as 20,000 employees, each of whom would have his or her own certificate, he said.

Use of the certificates was optional before April 1, and several thousand contractors had them. Leffew said his company has seen "exponential increase" in inquiries, and he expects a rise in demand after April 1. VeriSign can fill certificate requests within 48 hours, he said. An individual certificate from VeriSign costs $110, with discounts for companies ordering large numbers.

Three companies are authorized to give certificates: VeriSign, Digital Signature Trust and Operational Research Consulting (ORC).

VeriSign offers different options for companies, depending on their size and needs. For instance, a larger company might need tools for managing the thousands of certificates it receives. Companies can track who has been issued certificates and when and be able to reclaim the certificates when people leave the company.

Leffew said the technology could be transferred to civilian agencies as well. "This is part of what we see as a governmental move to really secure and authenticate transactions," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.