Navigating the Path to Cybersecurity Compliance: An Interview with Montrose Environmental Experts 

Posted by: Jenna Brankin September 25, 2023 CMMC, Compliance, Cybersecurity

The array of terms, clauses, and guidelines can be daunting in the intricate world of defense industry compliance. However, understanding the relationship between DFARS, NIST 800-171, and assessments is crucial for any organization looking to navigate the maze confidently.

Understanding CUI and Its Importance in DoD Contracting 

At the heart of the compliance matrix lies Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). This category of sensitive data, though not classified, is of utmost importance due to its critical nature. Given its significance, under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), organizations must handle CUI with care and adherence to the NIST SP 800-171 framework. This bolsters the protection of CUI across the supply chain. Non-compliance jeopardizes national security and can result in contractual and financial repercussions.

Understanding DFARS: The Compliance ‘Why’  

Where NIST SP 800-171 represents the “how,” DFARS underlines the “why.” Central clauses, such as DFARS 7012, mandate safeguarding measures for CUI to how organizations store, process, and transmit this sensitive data. DFARS 7019 requires companies to complete their basic self-assessments for compliance with NIST SP 800-171 controls, calculate their DoD Assessment Methodology score using the scoring guidelines, and report that score to the Supplier Performance Risk System (SPRS).  

Assessments: Not Just a Metric, but a Mirror  

Enter the SPRS score. More than a mere number, it reflects an organization’s cybersecurity maturity. For entities within the Defense Industrial Base (DIB), a high SPRS score can be the difference between securing a DoD contract and being left out in the cold. However, achieving this coveted score requires more than just understanding guidelines – it demands a commitment to robust cybersecurity practices and investing in tools like Certification Assistant. 

Montrose Environmental: Navigating Real-World Compliance Challenges 

Drawing from their firsthand experiences, Montrose Environmental offers a unique perspective on the compliance journey. In their enlightening discussion with Exostar, they shed light on the tangible outcomes of their efforts, emphasizing the positive ripple effects of streamlining NIST 800-171 compliance within their existing processes. Moreover, Montrose Environmental underscores how these compliance initiatives have fortified other business aspects, laying a foundation for heightened security. 

From this engaging dialogue, attendees can anticipate insights on: 

  • Preparatory steps for an internal assessment 
  • Key organizational stakeholders for successful compliance 
  • The time investment required for comprehensive assessments 
  • Valuable lessons from their NIST 800-171/CMMC preparation journey 

Such real-world accounts provide actionable strategies for businesses at various stages of their compliance journey. 

Elevate Your Compliance Journey with Exostar’s Certification Assistant  

Start a 15-day free trial of Exostar’s Certification Assistant, a tool to simplify your NIST SP 800-171 and CMMC compliance journey. With Certification Assistant, you can: 

  • Streamline your CMMC/NIST Basic Assessment  
  • Calculate your SPRS score  
  • Generate your System Security Plan (SSP) with a click  
  • Develop efficient Plans of Action and Milestones (POAMs)  

Start my free 15-day trial

An exemplary score is indispensable in a world where SPRS scores hold immense weight in DoD evaluations. Let the Certification Assistant guide you, offering tools and insights to complete your self-assessment.


The interconnected world of DFARS, NIST 800-171, and assessments is not just a maze but a structured path leading organizations toward cybersecurity excellence. With expert guidance and practical insights, businesses can confidently tread this path, ensuring compliance and a competitive edge in the defense industry.