In a press conference that Ars attended today, Department of Defense officials discussed the benefits of partnering with Google, Oracle, Microsoft, and Amazon to build the Pentagon’s new cloud computing network. The multi-cloud strategy was described as a necessary move to keep military personnel current as technology has progressed and officials’ familiarity with cloud technology has matured.
Air Force Lieutenant General Robert Skinner said that this Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract—worth $9 billion—would help quickly expand cloud capabilities across all defense departments. He described new accelerator capabilities like preconfigured templates and infrastructure as code that will make it so that even “people who don’t understand cloud can leverage cloud” technologies. Such capabilities could help troops on the ground easily access data gathered by unmanned aircraft or space communications satellites.
“JWCC is a multiple-award contract vehicle that will provide the DOD the opportunity to acquire commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) at the speed of mission, at all classification levels, from headquarters to the tactical edge,” DOD’s press release said.
Until now, officials did not have direct access to cloud providers, and military personnel located around the world didn’t have cloud technology capable of providing access to files at all three classification levels: unclassified, secret, and top secret. With JWCC, that’s changed, and now the defense department expects to be able to pass on intelligence more quickly.
How tech companies will split the contract
The $9 billion contract is expected to be completed by June 2028 and will not be evenly split by Google, Oracle, Microsoft, and Amazon. Instead, each company was guaranteed $100,000 and will have to bid for their piece of the rest of the budget. This, Defense Department officials said, would create price competition, just as it does in industry, and each task order requiring cloud services will be carefully weighed to identify the best fit. There will be a government evaluation team selecting vendors based on the best price and the best technology based on mission requirements.
Microsoft—which initially had a $10 billion sole-source deal with the Pentagon to provide cloud services, which Reuters reported was scrapped last year so the Pentagon could pursue more advanced technologies—has backed DOD’s multi-cloud strategy. Microsoft Federal President Rick Wagner wrote in a blog today that “the multi-cloud approach for JWCC is the right one for the DOD’s enterprise infrastructure.”
“Multi-cloud is already an established best practice in the commercial industry because it enables organizations to maximize flexibility, enhance resiliency, and access the best technologies across providers,” Wagner wrote.
Wagner called the JWCC contract a “significant milestone” and promised that “Microsoft will help deliver mission-critical 21st century technology to our nation’s service members and strengthen US national security.”
Ars also reached out to other JWCC vendors. Each offered similar statements, while none seemed prepared yet to discuss bidding strategies. Karen Dahut, CEO of Google Public Sector, said Google was “proud to be selected.” Oracle Executive Vice President Ken Glueck told Ars, “Built to enable interoperability, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure will help drive the DOD’s multi-cloud innovation and ensure that our defense and intelligence communities have the best technology available to protect and preserve our national security.” An Amazon Web Services spokesperson told Ars, “From the enterprise to the tactical edge, we are ready to deliver industry-leading cloud services to enable the DOD to achieve its critical mission.”
Competition for the rest of the $9 billion will likely be fierce, and the Pentagon expects to cut costs because of it. Analysts told AP News that tech companies viewed the Pentagon contract as “a stamp of approval in a market where ensuring a client’s data security is important.”