Post-Quantum Cryptography — What is it and where to start?

We all know cybersecurity is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving to protect people from the malicious use of technology. As we’ll explore in this post, cybersecurity professionals may soon be called to defend against technologies that blur the limits of classical physics.

What we know

Think back to high school physics, old episodes of the TV show “Nova,” or even the latest superhero movies, and you’ll recall the term “quantum” or “quantum mechanics.” Quantum, simply speaking, refers to what goes on at the subatomic level.

For decades, our friends at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) marshaled the resources of the federal government in applying the principles of quantum mechanics to information processing. They helped shape the field of quantum information science and birth an entirely new class of devices: quantum computers.

Right now, when a computer tries to solve a complex problem it has to check every possible solution one by one. That takes an enormous amount of time and computational power. Here’s where quantum computers shine. Because they operate at the subatomic level, they can actually explore and check multiple solutions simultaneously, drastically reducing the time needed to find the right answer. This means that tasks that would take classical computers years or even centuries to complete could be done by quantum computers in a matter of minutes or hours. It’s mind-boggling!

The problem

Here’s the catch: quantum computers could also break many of the encryption algorithms we currently rely on to protect sensitive data. We rely on encryption to keep information and data transfers safe both in our government work and everyday life – everything from logging into networks and websites to paying with credit cards. Quantum computers put all of that encryption at risk.

In 2022, the National Security Council issued a warning that certain quantum computers could “jeopardize civilian and military communications, undermine supervisory and control systems for critical infrastructure, and defeat security protocols for most Internet-based financial transactions.”

The Office of Management Budget then issued M-23-02 advising agencies how to take the threat seriously. Importantly, OMB said agencies should prepare to protect their data from quantum computers trying to break their encryption. Such stronger data protections became known as Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC).

So what technologies and services will agencies need to transition to PQC?

Where to start

The first step, per M-23-02, is for agencies to inventory their active cryptographic systems and re-inventory them annually through 2035. That includes looking at all deployed cryptographic systems used for creating and exchanging encryption keys, providing encrypted connections, or creating and validating digital signatures. GSA has multiple acquisition vehicles ready to help you find the right resources to do that.

  • The Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) Special Item Number (SIN) also offers quick access to vendors who have been technically evaluated to do such inventories.
  • If an agency has Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Managed Services awarded, it can tap into those suppliers to conduct these assessments.

The way forward

The experts at NIST are leading the effort to develop algorithms designed to withstand quantum computer attacks. NIST has begun the process of standardizing these algorithms — named CRYSTALS-Kyber, CRYSTALS-Dilithium, SPHINCS+, and FALCON. This is the final step before making these mathematical tools available so that organizations can integrate them into their encryption infrastructure. NIST also notes that there will be more post-quantum encryption standards to follow.

Some agencies may wish to start testing the PQC algorithms before they are standardized by NIST. Hardware, web browsers, content delivery networks, cloud service providers, devices and endpoints, and enterprise devices that initiate or terminate encrypted traffic all rely on encryption and might be areas to test pre-standardized PQC algorithms.

If your agency is ready to test or explore quantum computing further, GSA has contracts for that too:

Together, we’re on it

Quantum computers are advancing quickly, increasing the need for reliable PQC solutions. GSA works in close collaboration with NIST and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to keep our contracts aligned with the latest technical and security requirements including emerging PQC standards.

Agencies will need to protect their information systems and data from growing threats. The right suppliers can complement an agencies’ IT and information security staff and resources with relevant products, services and solutions to assess cryptographic risks, test safeguards and identify needed investments.

We look forward to working with more agencies to help them prepare for this imminent post-quantum future. We’re planning to host an in-person Quantum Summit at GSA headquarters on April 16, 2024 from 9-12 EST where you can learn more about quantum resilience from Federal practitioners, so save the date! And while we probably won’t be able to help you traverse time and multiverses like a movie superhero, we are ready to help you get your systems prepared for what comes next. Contact us with your needs and we will help guide you to a solution.

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Acknowledging our Veterans, their contributions to the IT Category

In celebration of Veterans Day, I want to thank our Veterans for their service and dedication. I’m grateful for the sacrifices they have made for us. Our Veterans exemplify the qualities that enable our country to overcome the greatest obstacles.

GSA partnering with Veterans

GSA is dedicated to supporting Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) in the federal IT market. ITC currently has hundreds of highly skilled SDVOSBs between our Multiple Award Schedule – IT (MAS-IT) and the Veterans Technology Services 2 (VETS 2) and 8(a) STARS III IT services Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC).

While SDVOSBs have many opportunities to participate in the IT marketplace, VETS 2 is currently the government’s only GWAC set aside exclusively for SDVOSBs.

I’m happy to say that the VETS 2 option was exercised earlier this year in February 2023. In total, 45 industry partners received their option. This will provide federal agencies with continued use of this best-in-class solution for their long-term IT service project needs, with the performance of task orders extending out through 2033. As of August 2023, VETS 2 has had more than 200 task order awards with over $1.4 billion in Obligated Sales and a Total Estimated Sales of over $3B.

The VETS 2 team has been hard at work training government agencies on the use of VETS 2, with more than 3,000 customers trained so far. If you’re interested, visit for a list of upcoming training opportunities.

SDVOSBs bringing real mission impact

Last year at this time, I shared several examples of the great work of our Veteran partners and I’m happy to bring fresh ones this year:

  • One of the DoD agencies recently awarded a $404 million order through VETS 2 to provide Enterprise IT Support Service for their Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC). Through these IT support services, the SDVOSB will fill the agency’s need to provide the personnel, services, and supplies necessary to enable the full lifecycle of IT support requirements across AvMC.
  • Another DoD agency also awarded a $24M task order award for extensive cybersecurity services. Our VETS 2 industry partners provided the defense agency with a service that is essential to protecting our nation’s security. Cybersecurity has become a fundamental IT service needed to keep our country safe and secure and VETS 2 can deliver these mission-critical national security services.

Veterans, looking to the future

Our commitment doesn’t stop with our existing contracts. Our next small business GWAC, Polaris, will have an SDVOSB pool as well. Polaris is being designed to assist agencies in acquiring customized IT services and IT services-based solutions while expanding opportunities for SDVOSB firms. Stay tuned to our Small Business Community of Practice Interact page for updates.

I’m grateful for the meaningful partnership we have with our SDVOSBs and for their continued hard work and dedication to helping agencies achieve their missions every day. I’m really excited for what the future holds.

Visit our website to learn more about VETS 2, MAS-IT, and Polaris or use our IT Solutions Navigator to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

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Drive success in the modern workplace with GSA’s Training Courses SIN

In today’s fast-paced world, continuous learning and development are essential for individuals and organizations to stay competitive. With this in mind, we developed the comprehensive Training Courses Special Item Number (SIN) on the GSA Multiple Award Schedule, which provides government agencies with access to a broad range of training courses to enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their employees.

This blog post is part of a series where we’re discussing each of GSA’s key IT Services SINs on the GSA Multiple Award Schedule. Each blog will discuss the benefits for agencies in using the solution, take a look at who is using it, and share an example of how an agency successfully used the SIN to achieve its mission.

Benefits of using the Training Courses SIN:

  1. Improved employee performance: Provides access to courses designed to improve employee performance, enhance skills, and build knowledge in a variety of IT areas.
  2. Staying ahead of the curve: Provides agencies with training on hardware, software, cloud, and other IT systems.
  3. Flexible learning: Offers flexible learning options, including in-person, online, and blended learning formats. 
  4. Cost-effective: Helps agencies save time and money by providing access to pre-negotiated pricing with qualified vendors. 
  5. Compliance: Offers compliance-related courses that help agencies meet regulatory requirements, such as cybersecurity training, ethics, and anti-harassment training.

Top agencies

Agencies invested more than $46 million through the Training SIN last year. Here are some of our biggest users:

  • Social Security Administration
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of the Navy
  • Department of the Air Force
  • Department of the Army
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Defense

Use Case: How the IT Training SIN helped agencies quickly and easily install learning options during the COVID-19 pandemic

An agency needed to quickly install distance learning options for their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the IT Training SIN, they were able to contract with multiple vendors to provide virtual training, both customized training as well as commercial off-the-shelf solutions for employees.

The solution also facilitated the award of completion certificates for employees, and the agency was able to easily track which courses were most popular to then increase the availability of training in those subjects.

In another example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, a military base had to quickly deploy virtual courses for officers and enlisted personnel. They used the IT Training SIN for detailed leadership training by leveraging commercial off-the-shelf courses in leadership and program management.

This meant that even during an almost two-year pandemic, more than 75 critical employees received training through one thousand hours of CLP-accredited courses. It also allowed the base to track certificates of completion in real-time.

Additionally, they used small businesses for training. As a result, over 300 employees were trained virtually.

Driving government workforce success

Agencies are modernizing their operations to better accomplish their missions. These changes impact the IT implemented at agencies, and employees need training on how to effectively use those IT products. The Training Courses SIN provides access to IT training courses to support any IT training need by allowing centralized access to pre-approved training courses, thereby saving federal, state, local, and tribal agencies time and resources.

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Unlocking the power of E-Commerce for government agencies

​IT modernization is mission-critical for many federal agencies and quick, easy access to the latest technologies is key to their success. However, finding the right IT services to supply those solutions isn’t always easy. That’s why we developed the Electronic Commerce and Subscription services (E-Commerce) Special Item Number (SIN) on the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). This solution enables agencies to access a wide range of e-commerce solutions: from networking to email, internet, data, and more, the SIN provides a broad range of leading-edge technologies and resources.

This blog post is part of a series where we’re discussing each of GSA’s key IT Services SINs on the Multiple Award Schedule. Each blog will discuss the benefits for agencies in using the solution, take a look at who is using it, and share an example of how an agency successfully used the SIN to achieve its mission.

Benefits of the E-Commerce SIN:

  1. Cutting-edge solutions: Provides access to a range of e-commerce solutions, including online marketplaces, e-procurement tools, and supply chain management systems. These solutions can help agencies stay ahead of the curve and adapt to new technological advancements.
  2. Faster procurements: Offers a streamlined procurement process that allows government agencies to manage their needs quickly and efficiently. This solution simplifies the procurement process by doing much of the heavy lifting through the master contract and providing access to pre-vetted, qualified contractors who can fulfill the agency’s requirements.
  3. Cost savings: Helps agencies save money by eliminating the need for extensive research and evaluation of potential contractors. Additionally, the solution’s pre-negotiated pricing ensures that agencies receive the best value for their purchases.

Top agencies

Agencies invested more than $430 million through the E-Commerce SIN last year. Here are some of our biggest users:

  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of the Navy
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of the Air Force
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Treasury
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • United States Tax Court

Use Case: E-Commerce SIN helps military base provide email and internet access to deployed soldiers

A military base in Kansas had an immediate need to add email services and internet access to over 3,500 soldiers that were temporarily deployed to train soldiers for overseas activities.

The base was quickly able to use the e-commerce SIN to locate several local small businesses, as well as women-owned small businesses, to add additional email services and internet access services for these soldiers that were placed in forward warehouses during the 120-day exercise.

The contracting staff on base also used this same SIN to provide private phone lines for the mobile headquarters staff, as well as mobile smartphones and hosted PBX services for secured communication between the headquarters staff and forward operating units during the joint exercises. This enabled the home-based and visiting unit soldiers to use real-world scenarios in their training.

Using the MAS e-commerce SIN allowed the agency to quickly implement new electronic commerce services while also allowing them to deliver on a mission-critical need while getting their agency closer to meeting their women-owned and small business goals.

Acquire leading-edge technology and services for your modernization efforts

GSA’s e-commerce SIN provides eligible users with easy access to technologies and services that can support their modernization efforts. As demonstrated by the top ten agencies using this technology, it’s a proven solution that can be implemented successfully in a wide range of government settings.

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Revolutionize citizen communication with Automated Contact Center Solutions

The demand on government agencies is fast-paced, complex, and constantly evolving. It’s no surprise that citizens often face difficulties in connecting with agencies when looking for help, which can cause frustration, impede their ability to get the assistance they need, and ultimately they have a bad experience.

With this in mind, we established an innovative solution to this problem — the Automated Contact Center Solutions (ACCS) Special Item Number (SIN) on the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS-IT). This contract vehicle can help agencies streamline their communications, improve citizen satisfaction, and increase overall efficiency in the execution of their mission.

This blog post is part of a series where we’re discussing each of GSA’s key IT Services SINs on MAS. Each blog will discuss the benefits for agencies in using the solution, take a look at who is using it, and share an example of how an agency successfully used the SIN to achieve its mission.

There are a number of benefits to using the ACCS SIN; here are five of the most important:

  1. Enhanced citizen experience: ACCS provides a range of interactive voice response options that allow citizens to access information quickly and easily, without having to wait on hold or navigate complex menus. This significantly improves citizen satisfaction and reduces the number and workload of call center agents.
  2. Increased efficiency: ACCS automates routine tasks such as call routing, call recording, and call back, freeing up agents to focus on more complex inquiries and tasks. This can help agencies handle a higher volume of calls and reduce wait times for citizens.
  3. Improved analytics: ACCS provides detailed analytics that can help agencies to identify patterns, track performance, and optimize their call center operations. This data can also be used to identify areas where additional resources may be needed, such as staffing or training.
  4. Scalability: ACCS is designed to be scalable and flexible, allowing agencies to easily adjust their capacity based on demand. This can help agencies handle spikes in call volume without sacrificing service quality.
  5. Cost savings: By automating routine tasks and improving efficiency, ACCS can help agencies to reduce their operational costs and allocate resources more effectively.

Use Case: Quick deployment of additional support for hurricane response efforts with the help of small businesses

An agency had an urgent need for additional contact call center support out of their main office. They already had a contact call center with approximately 80 personnel in a 24/7 operation but wanted additional capability added in support of Hurricane Ida and other potential hurricanes that were predicted to hit the Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama coastlines in 2021.

Their contracting staff used the ACCS SIN to quickly add vendors that could support their existing customer service representatives with technologies such as artificial intelligence monitoring, chat-bot technology, web callback services, hosted email web forms, text-to-speech communications, and hosted FAQ services for citizens calling in for information about various hurricanes.

Their staff also utilized this same SIN to take advantage of small businesses offering various services under this SIN and identified both women-owned small businesses as well as service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses that were able to assist in some of the new capability development.

This resulted in the agency not only improving its contact center capabilities but also enabling them to take advantage of using small businesses to help succeed in its overall mission.

GSA’s ACCS SIN help you communicate

Agencies invested more than $385 million through the ACCS SIN last year — with the Department of Homeland Security leading the way. ACCS supports providing the public with ready access to government information and services and helping agencies ensure timely, consistent, and accurate responses to citizen inquiries. ACCS provides federal agencies with easy access to a broad range of contact center services that will make that vision a reality.

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Empowering government operations with cutting-edge IT solutions through IT Professional Services SIN

In today’s digital age, technology plays an essential role in every aspect of our lives, including government operations. But agencies don’t always have the resources or expertise in-house to take advantage of the benefits technology can bring. To help agencies that may be stretching resources and budgets in addition to the workload of their acquisition workforce, GSA provides a wide range of IT services through the IT Professional Services Special Item Number (SIN) on the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS-IT). This SIN enables federal, state, local, and tribal agencies to access a broad range of IT solutions from experienced contractors at competitive rates.

This blog post is part of a series where we’re discussing each of GSA’s key IT Services SINs. Each blog will discuss the benefits for agencies in using the solution, take a look at who is using it, and share an example of how an agency successfully used the SIN to achieve its mission.

A few key benefits to using GSA’s IT Professional Services SIN are listed below:

  1. Experienced industry partners: Access a pool of experienced IT professionals who have worked on government projects. These contractors have the knowledge and expertise required to design and implement complex IT solutions that meet the specific needs of your agency.
  2. Faster procurements: Quickly and easily access IT solutions through the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). This saves time and resources and enables you to focus on your core mission.
  3. Cost savings: Leverage competitive rates, lower administrative burden, and reduced use of agency resources. Buying IT solutions through SIN is faster and easier, driving costs down when compared to the costs of the open market.

Top agencies

Agencies invested almost $10 billion through the IT Professional Services SIN last year. Here are some of our biggest users:

  • US Customs and Border Protection
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of Defense (Various Offices)
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of the Navy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of the Air Force
  • Department of the Interior

Use Case: Small businesses provide low-cost, secure application for agency’s foreign aid program

A federal agency administering aid to foreign countries needed to create an application that could run efficiently and effectively on low-cost tablets. This application also needed to operate in areas where only low-speed internet access was available.

In addition, the application had to be secure and protect personally identifiable information and health data.

The agency released a request for information (RFI) under the IT Professional Services SIN using GSA eBuy. The RFI allowed the agency to survey existing capabilities among the vendors on the SIN to determine what requirements to include in a request for proposal (RFP). The agency used the RFI market research to draft and issue a performance work statement (or PWS) under the IT Professional Services SIN for the Field Employee Support Tablet Initiative project. They received six proposals.

Ultimately, a group of three small businesses using a contractor teaming arrangement (or CTA) received the contract award.

GSA’s IT Professional Services SIN, serving you

GSA’s IT Professional Services SIN provides agencies — at all levels — with access to experienced IT professionals, a faster procurement process, and cost savings. By leveraging the expertise of contractors through the IT Professional Services SIN, agencies can implement IT solutions that meet their specific needs, improve efficiency, and better fulfill their missions.

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