Complete Guide to NDAA Compliance: Which Security Cameras Can You Install on U.S. Government Properties?

As with any job taking place on government property, security professionals must approach government surveillance system installations with great sensitivity. In the United States, there are steps that must be followed to ensure compliance with U.S. law. Not every security camera can be installed on government property. So which cameras are approved for federal government scenarios?

In order for video surveillance equipment to be installed on U.S. government properties, it must comply with section 889 of the 2019 NDAA. In short, none of its components can be constructed by any of these companies:

  • Huawei Technologies Company
  • ZTE Corporation
  • Hytera Communications Corporation
  • Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company
  • Dahua Technology Company

So what does that mean for you? What do you need to know before installing security equipment on U.S. government properties? Which brands can you use and which brands can’t you use? We’re going to talk about all of that and more throughout the rest of this blog post.

If you’re in a hurry and you just need to know which products you can install on government properties, click here to view all of our NDAA-compliant products.

What is the NDAA and What Does It Mean For Security Installers?

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is simply a set of federal laws passed every year by Congress to lay out the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Wait a minute. I’m just a security installer. What does Congress’s financial ramblings have anything to do with me?

The answer is found in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. If you’re so inclined, you can give the whole thing a read here. It’s a great cure for insomnia. But just in case you don’t have a few hours to spend poring over that document, here it is in a nutshell.

Under the section labeled “Other Matters,” you’ll find Section 889: Prohibition on certain telecommunications and video surveillance services or equipment.

Do you provide video surveillance services? Do you sell video surveillance equipment? Do you currently or could you potentially supply your services to a U.S. government agency? If so, the 2019 NDAA very much applies to you and your business.

Here’s the specific paragraph that we’re concerned with in this blog post.

The head of an executive agency may not— (A) procure or obtain or extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substan-tial or essential component of any system, or as critical tech-nology as part of any system; or (B) enter into a contract (or extend or renew a contract) with an entity that uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system. (2) Nothing in paragraph (1) shall be construed to— (A) prohibit the head of an executive agency from procuring with an entity to provide a service that connects to the facilities of a third-party, such as backhaul, roaming, or interconnection arrangements; or (B) cover telecommunications equipment that cannot route or redirect user data traffic or permit visibility into any user data or packets that such equipment transmits or otherwise handles.

So… what does that mean?

What Is Covered By This Law?

In the context of this particular law, the covered foreign country in question refers specifically to the People’s Republic of China. The covered telecommunications equipment refers to…

  • Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company, ZTE Corporation, or any of its affiliate entities.
  • Video surveillance equipment produced by Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Dahua Technology Company, or any of their affiliate entities.
  • Telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by the companies listed above or anyone using equipment manufactured by the companies listed above.

That’s a lot of words. But here’s the bottom line. If you’re going to be installing security equipment on government properties or selling security equipment to government officials to be used on government properties, you need to pay careful attention to the manufacturer of your camera and your camera’s components.

It should also be noted that the NDAA section 889 not only applies strictly to government facilities, but it also applies to any federally funded job. What does this mean? Take a school for instance. If you're installing security cameras on a school building or municipality that has received federal grant funding, your security cameras have to be compliant with the NDAA. If the school or municipality has not received federal funding, you're free to use any security camera. If you're not sure, it's always best to play it safe. If you're doing a job for any type of city, state, or federal government facility, it's a good idea to quote NDAA-compliant products.

So Which Security Products Are Banned On US Government Properties?

You might notice in the definitions above that there are two types of bans here. First, the law bans telecommunications equipment in general produced by two companies: Huawei and ZTE. Second, it specifically bans video surveillance equipment produced by the remaining three companies: Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua. For our purposes, there isn’t much of a difference here, because video surveillance technology is telecommunication technology. That means any security camera or recorder with any major components manufactured by one of these five companies is a no go for federal government projects.

Five companies are banned by the NDAA

Hikvision, Dahua, and Hytera Security Equipment

Obviously, this means you can’t install Hikvision, Dahua, or Hytera cameras on government properties. But it’s not that easy. The law also bans any OEM use (original equipment manufacturer) use of these cameras. Since Hikvision and Dahua are two of the biggest manufacturers of security equipment, this opens up the ban list to… a lot of companies.

Click here to read IPVM’s incomplete list of companies that sell OEM Hikvision products. As they mention in the post, this is only the companies that are transparent about their manufacturer. There are likely many more companies using Hikvision products that don’t disclose that information.

If you’re an astute observer, you may notice that Nelly’s Security appears on this list. That’s because our H-Series line of products is manufactured by Hikvision. That’s not something that we’ve ever tried to hide. In fact, the reason it’s called H-Series is because it’s our Hikvision series of cameras.

And here is their incomplete list of companies that sell OEM Dahua products. Again, these are only the companies that disclose that information.

At this point you may be wondering how you could ever know which cameras are safe to install on government properties. Well, there is hope. But before we can share that hope with you, we do have to make it a bit more confusing.

Huwei Technologies and ZTE Telecommunications Equipment

The law is clear. It’s not just security equipment manufactured by the banned companies that are blacklisted. This law covers any security equipment containing major components constructed by those banned companies. What does this mean for you?

It means that Huwei’s HiSilicon SoC chipsets are also banned.

Hisilicon Chips are also banned by the NDAA

SoC stands for System on a Chip, and it’s essentially the brain of your security camera or recorder. Many security products use HiSilicon chips. Since HiSilicon is owned by Huwei and Huwei is on the 2019 NDAA ban list, any security equipment using these chips is also banned for use on government properties. This includes many security cameras and recorders outside of the specific video surveillance brands listed above.

So if not all companies disclose whether or not their products are manufactured by Hikvision or Dahua, how can you know which products are safe to install on government properties? Moreover, how can you be sure that your security equipment isn’t produced with chips manufactured by Huwei and HiSilicon? It’s a tricky subject, but we’re here to help you navigate the legal terrain and safely install trusted surveillance products for your federal clients.

Which Security Cameras Are Not Banned on US Government Properties?

Since most manufacturers do not release information about the chips running their equipment, and since some companies don’t even disclose their manufacturers, it can be difficult to tell with any level of confidence if a particular security camera is NDAA compliant. So if you’re looking for a security camera that can be installed on government properties, it’s crucial that your supplier is completely transparent with you. You need to know who manufactured your cameras and what kind of chip is inside.

Here at Nelly’s Security, we are fully transparent about our products. We’re not trying to hide anything. So let’s take a look at our products with an eye on NDAA compliance. We have three main lines of security equipment: H-Series, R-Series, and Uniview.

  • H-Series: We’ve already mentioned that our H-Series products are manufactured by Hikvision, rendering them unusable for any federal government project.
  • R-Series: All of our R-series 2MP and 5MP IP cameras are currently NDAA compliant. All of the remaining products contain Hisilicon, which makes them non-compliant. However, since R-series are designed for residential and small business, we would probably not recommend our 2MP or 5MP IP cameras for a government project. We would instead recommend our line of NDAA compliant Uniview products, which you can learn more about below.
  • Uniview: Similarly, our Uniview line of products are not banned by the NDAA. Uniview has two lines of cameras: Prime I and Prime II. Prime II cameras do use HiSilicon chips, so these cannot be installed on government properties. But Uniview’s Prime I cameras are fully compliant with the 2019 NDAA laws. These products are not constructed with any product that appears on a federal ban list.

So what does this mean? It means that there are a lot of products out in the market and even some in our catalog that are not NDAA compliant. But we do have a growing catalog of products that are fully compliant with the NDAA and can be freely installed on federal government properties. We’ve taken the guesswork out of the equation, so you can be confident that these products are NDAA compliant and ready to be used in all your federal projects. Click here to view all of our NDAA compliant products.

Does the NDAA Impact State Government Facilities?

The short answer here is no. The 2019 NDAA ban list on video surveillance equipment does not specifically affect state government properties. It only directly affects federal government facilities. Does this mean you can freely install Hikvision and Dahua on your state government buildings? Not necessarily. Just because the NDAA doesn’t ban these products for state government facilities doesn’t mean individual states and municipalities haven’t followed suit. For instance, Vermont has also banned Hikvision and Dahua on any state government campus. So just be careful. If you’re installing security equipment on a state, county, or city government building, check all the laws that apply to make sure your security cameras are approved. Once again, if you’re not sure, it’s always best to opt for NDAA-compliant cameras if possible. With Vermont setting the precedent, there’s a good chance that other states will sign similar bills into law the years to come. Choosing NDAA compliant surveillance equipment for your state government installations will future-proof your systems in the event that your state enact similar laws to the NDAA.

Are Nelly's Non-NDAA Compliant Surveillance Products Still Safe to Use?

We feel they are very safe to use. The fact of the matter is that if we thought our products were generally unsafe or unsecure for our customers, we would not sell them. We stand by our products. These cameras and recorders are still excellent for residential and business use.

Some believe that the reason for the NDAA ban was for cyber-security purposes. Others believe it had more to do with the trade war with China. It's probably a little bit of both. Nonetheless, any time their has been a security vulnerability found in these manufacturers products, the manufacturer has always been quick to release a firmware update to patch the vulnerabilities, and we have promptly provided that firmware to our customers. The bottom line is virtually any CCTV manufacturer has had cyber vulnerabilities in one way or another. This is an area that the video surveillance industry is still learning about and still growing in. We will continue to make an effort in providing you the information you need to know about our products. As the security industry continues to evolve and develop safer protocols, we will continually update our catalog to reflect up-to-date and top-of-the-line security technology.

Final Thoughts

We recognize that many of our customers are put in situations where they need to install video surveillance equipment on government properties. Due to the amount of security cameras on the market either fully manufactured by banned companies or built with components manufactured by banned companies, it can be tricky to know which products are safe for federal government use and which are not. The fact that many companies do not divulge this information can make it an even more confusing task than it needs to be. At Nelly’s Security, we want you to be confident in the products that you sell and install. We stand by our products and are fully transparent about any information that could impact your business. That’s why we are up front with you about which products we sell that are NDAA compliant and which products are not.

We recognize that trust isn’t built overnight or earned with one blog post. It takes a lot of time and a lot of business transactions to build up the kind of trust with our customers that we’re seeking to develop. But whether you’ve been a loyal customer for years or whether you just stumbled upon this post from a quick Google search, we hope you can see that we are a company that puts integrity first. It’s one of our core values here at Nelly’s. We are a security supplier that you can trust to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information, the most effective tools for growing your business, and the best security equipment on the market. Our goal is not just to sell security cameras. We want to partner with you to grow your business and create a better security industry. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can partner together to grow your business, click here to learn more about our excellent dealer program.

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