News & Events

CIA Kickstarts Cloud Initiative with Amazon

By Jon Yim

Recent news the CIA agreed to a cloud computing contract with commercial tech giant, Amazon, has been making headlines in the government information technology (“IT”) community.  Amazon is charged with building a private cloud infrastructure to help the CIA adopt and leverage the latest and greatest Big Data technologies.  The contract is estimated to be worth up to $600 million over the next decade.

This cloud initiative has plenty of background, and was first mentioned at the annual GEOINT Symposium in October 2011 by Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper.  At the DoDIIS conference in 2012, General Clapper elaborated on the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (“IC ITE”), which aimed to establish a cloud infrastructure to loop together relevant intelligence networks and provide lower-cost access to tools and data across domains, irrespective of ownership and security level.  The plan was for the shared IT infrastructure to reach initial operating capability in March 2013.

As the IC ITE initiative continues to take shape, this contract has numerous implications, including:

1)     The deal marks the largest push towards fulfilling the objectives of the IC ITE, and also demonstrates the IC’s focus on Big Data.  The CIA has made cloud implementation a mission-critical priority, despite broader budgetary pressures.  The choice of building a private cloud (as opposed to a public one) is expected to eliminate concerns of sensitive and classified data being exposed through a public domain – a decision influenced by the active cyber threat environment.

2)     The CIA’s choice of Amazon demonstrates a focus toward leveraging commercial technologies to satisfy mission objectives.   The Amazon deal indicates the IC may continue to target commercial companies to provide holistic, high-tech solutions for critical cloud programs.  Additionally, Amazon Web Services may use this momentum to pursue additional secure cloud work across the Federal government.

While specific details of the contract and scope of work are not available, the consequences are sure to impact the cloud contracting environment.  The IC has demonstrated willingness and conviction to pursue cloud implementation to facilitate collaboration and information sharing across agencies.  With the IC leveraging commercial technology developers as well as traditional contractors, agencies look to achieve higher caliber cloud program results in the long run.