The $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by the House directs the Defense Department to offer a “framework” for how it will acquire cloud computing services.
Lawmakers charged with funding the Pentagon have asked the Defense Department to justify why the agency is planning to give a single company a multiyear contract for cloud computing services worth billions of dollars.
The $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress directs the Defense Department to offer a “framework” for how it will acquire cloud computing services for all of its entities within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.
“There are concerns about the proposed duration of a single contract, questions about the best value for the taxpayer, and how to ensure the highest security is maintained,” according to the directive, which is attached to the spending measure.
Asked about the rationale behind that language, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said, “the committee has concerns about any contract that limits commercial competition by locking the Department into 10-year contracts with no exit strategy.”
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Navy Commander Patrick Evans, a Pentagon spokesman, had no immediate comment on the language about the cloud award. The spending bill must still be passed by the Senate.
The Pentagon announced earlier this month that it would choose one vendor for the contract, prompting criticism from Microsoft, International Business Machines and industry groups representing rivals such as Oracle, which are worried that the move will favor Amazon’s dominant position in the market.
The directive is considered to be partially binding guidance for how the spending plan should be carried out. The Pentagon would receive $654.7 billion for fiscal year 2018 as part of the government spending bill. The guidance emerged the same day as bidders competing for the project were due to submit comments on the cloud proposal, which the Pentagon intends to award by Sept. 30.
Tech companies jockeying for a piece of the multibillion-dollar cloud contract are urging the Pentagon to choose multiple providers, arguing that a single-source approach will stifle innovation and increase security risks, according to Roger Waldron, the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, among other firms.
“There’s a reason why the government engages with multiple sources for acquiring fighter jets or launching satellites: national security,” Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal said in a statement. “It doesn’t make sense for DoD to opt for a less secure approach for purchasing cloud computing than it would for any other weapon system.”
Amazon Web Services, which is the market leader by revenue, is widely seen as the front-runner because it already won a $600 million cloud contract from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2013, showing the company can secure and manage sensitive government data. The company has a head start in obtaining higher levels of federal security accreditations than some of its competitors, enabling the company to handle sensitive and top-secret government data.
Industry experts are split about whether the Defense Department’s reliance on a single cloud vendor would make it more or less secure. Amazon’s competitors argue that having multiple providers isolates risk, ensuring that a problem in one company’s cloud services wouldn’t compromise the entire department.
Other cybersecurity experts said it’s safer to focus on ensuring the security of one cloud vendor, because having multiple firms handling sensitive military data could increase the risk of a breach.