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Defense Information and Electronics Report
August 10, 2001
reposted with permission

Sen. Bunning Pushes Electronic Locks
to the Dismay of Industry, DoD

In an attempt to bring about a policy change he has advocated for years, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to include language in the fiscal year 2002 Defense Authorization Act that would require defense contractors to install new electronic locks on containers used to store classified information, according to Defense Department sources.

Bunning's language would require that all classified documents at DOD and defense industry locations be stored in Government Services Administration-approved containers fitted with locks that meet federal specification FF-L-2740 by 2004, according to documents obtained by Secrecy News, a newsletter written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

MAS-Hamilton, a company based in Bunning's home state of Kentucky, is the only manufacturer of locks that meet the FF-L-2740 specification.

Current DOD lock requirements differ according to the degree of security that is present in a given location, but existing combination locks on all containers for sensitive information are being replaced gradually by the FF-L-2740-compliant MAS-Hamilton locks, and storage containers for top secret information are already required to be fitted with the locks. According to a directive issued by the Clinton administration, non-GSA approved containers must be replaced by 2012.

Bunning's language would significantly speed up that timetable.

The defense industry is vehemently opposed to extending the heightened security requirements to contractors. Industry representatives say security risks are not great enough to justify the cost.

“Our opposition is based upon the absence of an adequate justification for the significant expenditures involved in conversion and retrofit when little if any credible physical security threat exists within the United States,” the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) said in a statement provided to Defense Information and Electronics Report. The group claims that current security threats are concentrated in the area of computer security, and that physical security breaches are most often perpetrated by individuals with sufficient clearance to know lock combinations.

A 1998 AIA survey of five major defense contractors -- Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, TRW and Boeing -- estimated that the cost to retrofit locks and replace containers would total about $117 million for just those five companies.

Defense Department officials are also critical of plans to accelerate container replacement and lock retrofitting. After receiving word of Bunning's plan last week, Secrecy News reported, Pentagon officials privately accused Bunning of advocating the replacement of locks in the interest of pork and lamented the fact that Douglas Feith, the administration's under secretary of defense for policy, once lobbied for MAS-Hamilton. The concern of many DOD officials, according to sources, is the same as contractors': existing security risks do not justify the immense costs of the plan.

Bunning and other proponents of the plan have contended the contractors and DOD overstate the costs of retrofitting and container replacement. In a September 1999 information paper, Bunning and other Senate advocates pointed out that the DOD originally estimated the cost of lock retrofitting at $500 million. The cost as of 1999, the paper said, had been just $59 million (Defense Information and Electronics Report, Sept. 17, 1999, p15).

Even opponents of the plan concede the locks made by MAS-Hamilton are more robust than other commonly used combination locks.

MAS-Hamilton created its “X-07” lock to meet the FF-L-2740 specification. The latest MAS-Hamilton model is called the “X-08.” Both locks have been purchased by DOD and other government agencies to replace older mechanical combination locks as the need arises. The MAS-Hamilton locks are manipulation and radiation proof. They also employ an audit, or logging, feature that records when a lock is breached. To prevent the manipulation of their power source, the MAS-Hamilton models generate their own power when the face of the lock is spun back and forth.

“People that aren't in the security side of the business don't really understand the need for security,” said Carl Sideranko, general manager of MAS-Hamilton. “We just refer to Los Alamos and the FBI with the three stolen laptops . . . until we have a loss, we don't realize the need.”

Sideranko acknowledged that Bunning was pushing hardest for a new requirement -- and that Feith worked as a MAS-Hamilton lobbyist until his appointment as under secretary for policy -- but dismissed the notion that politics was driving the lock issue. He said his company was not dependent on the largesse of government contracts.

“The last two years our government contracts have been lower than ever,” Sideranko said. “Since '92 we have created more and more jobs in Eastern Kentucky, with or without government contracts. I think it's important this doesn't get positioned as a pork issue.”

Bunning's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Whether driven by pork or not, the issue is politically charged. In 1999, citing the same issue, Bunning held up the nomination of Arthur Money to be assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (DI&ER, Aug. 20, 1999, p1).

Steve Garfinkel, director of the federal Information Security Oversight Office, cited politics in declining to comment on the issue. His office is administratively part of the National Archives, but takes policy guidance from the National Security Council. Whether his office will assume greater responsibility for information security policy under the new administration has not yet been determined.

“I have a very strong position that I'm not going to tell you,” Garfinkel said. “I have learned that this is one issue that I need to steer clear of. It would be a disservice to the other members of this office to comment.” -- Hampton Stephens

Copyright 2001 Inside Washington Publishers

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