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Dear Dr. RMF

By January 18, 2022Dr. RMF

RMF “In Search of Perfection” writes:
One of my customers was told by their Security Control Assessor (SCA) that they could not get Authorization To Operate (ATO) unless their POA&M had zero open items; in other words, they are expected to be 100% compliant with all the controls in their baseline. What makes this even more ridiculous is that the system in question has no connection to any other system or network – it is literally a standalone system! Does this make any sense to you, Dr. RMF?

Dr. RMF Responds:
The short answer is “No”. The decision to issue an ATO … which, by the way, belongs to the Authorizing Official (AO) and not the SCA … should be based on a judgment that the overall system risk is acceptable. Virtually every system will have some non-compliant controls – perfection is a laudable goal but rarely achievable in the real world. So long as the POA&M presents a realistic
plan to address the non-compliant controls, the AO should at least be willing to consider an ATO or ATO with Conditions. That way, the system can be put into operation while the remaining non-compliant items are addressed.

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