AWS can resume CIA cloud project

eye in the sky

Amazon Web Services can immediately resume its work building a cloud computing infrastructure for the CIA based on the terms of its original contract agreement worth up to $600 million over four years, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler's ruling Oct. 7 essentially overturned a decision made in June by the Government Accountability Office to sustain a bid protest filed by IBM.

In response to the GAO decision, the CIA reopened negotiations and rebid the contract in August. But AWS's successful complaint against the government strikes down the CIA's corrective action and renders moot the rebids the CIA collected in the interim, according to Wheeler's order, filed Oct. 8.

"Ruling from the bench, and for the reasons stated on the record, the Court ordered that Plaintiff's (AWS') motion is granted, the commercial cloud services (C2S) contract awarded to AWS is restored, the corrective action stay is lifted, and the Central Intelligence Agency and AWS may immediately resume performance of the C2S contract," the order states.

The CIA "is pleased that it can now move forward with procuring critical cloud services for the Intelligence Community," said CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz.

A separate written opinion from Wheeler will follow. While it is unclear when that opinion will come, it will likely outline answers to six questions he posed for oral arguments to AWS, the Department of Justice attorneys representing the CIA, and IBM, which acted as an intervener in the case.

IBM plans to appeal the decision, according to a statement provided to FCW. AWS said it was pleased with the decision and looks forward to resuming work.

While the verdict is a big win for AWS, going back to its original contract might actually cost the CIA more money. That's because it almost certainly received better-priced bids the second time around from AWS and IBM.

The ability to restart the work right away, however, offsets that concern. The cloud contract has already been delayed past the CIA's liking. Microsoft and AT&T protested the CIA's request-for-proposal specifications in mid-2012, forcing the CIA to pull the procurement and rework it. AWS then won the contract in early 2013, only to have the process slowed again by protests and legal proceedings.

The CIA and NSA are charged with providing cloud computing services to the entire intelligence community through the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) strategy. The agencies have built out a fully functional internal cloud computing infrastructure based on the NSA's internal model, but the court proceedings and protests have slowed the IC's move to procure a private cloud through a commercial vendor.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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