So it happened. Years in the making, the Department of Defense is officially on board with the cloud revolution — not just for the simplest of applications like email and storage, but for those that support the war fighter.
At least that’s the clear message coming out of the DoD. There’s the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud — a single contract that could be worth billions of dollars over the next decade — which stands to be the largest cloud vehicle for the Pentagon. Then consider statements from Brig. Gen. David Krumm, deputy director for requirements for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon:
“It’s not email, this is not cloud storage, it’s not data transfer. This is about how us and you together are going to change the way that this nation, its soldiers, its sailors, its Marines and airmen fight and win our nation’s wars.”
And then, earlier this month, we heard endorsement from the top, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis not only reaffirming the move, but calling it an attempt to enhance security — pointing to 400 different basic data centers “that we have to protect,” and to the CIA as the model of doing so by way of cloud. (Amazon was cleared to store classified data in the cloud as a result of its 2013 deal with the CIA.)
All encouraging, right? We’re over that annoying debate about whether the cloud can be secure (yes, it can be), and we have the examples in place to provide the hand-holding that the Pentagon needs to make the move.
Progress, yes, but the Pentagon is still on a bumpy road. Everyone is yelling about fair competition and whether Amazon will be a shoo-in for the award, given the experience with the CIA and the very real fact that it dominates in this space.
If Amazon gets a contract, we’ll see protests. Oracle has already been yelling loudly about the DoD strategy as picking a favorite. And that pesky claim about security risks has not actually gone away. Experts in the space are questioning what might happen if the chosen cloud infrastructure was to go down. Rely on the legacy system? An imperfect plan, they say.
So maybe we’re not as far along as it might appear. But no notable transition in government, especially in the Defense Department, happens without a whole lot of process and bureaucratic red tape. And it’s appropriate to punch holes in the plan, to make sure the proper standards are in place to create a rock-solid strategy going forward. Even if it feels exhausting for those of us that have been watching for years as the prospect moved from pie-in-the-sky to notional to — maybe — an actual approach forward.
We’ll just keep watching. And the DoD will get there. Eventually.
Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.