Defense

Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

Defense Secretary Jim Matthis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee 

Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to quell rumors that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

"The movement to the cloud is to enhance the availability of the information among us right now. We have to also quickly advance our security," Mattis said at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. "We have over 400 different basic data centers that we have to protect, and we have watched very closely what CIA got in terms of security and service from their movement to the cloud."

The initial draft solicitation for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure acquisition was criticized by many vendors and technology trade groups for seeming to favor AWS, which was cleared to store classified information in the cloud as a result of its 2013 deal with the CIA.

With AWS' foothold in classified tech, speculation mounted that the Defense Department was looking to go the same route as CIA. But Mattis, who visited Amazon's headquarters in 2017, was adamant that wasn't case. Mattis also pushed back on press reports referring to a 10-year DOD cloud deal, pointing out that the initial contract is planned for two years.

"It is a fair and open competition for anyone who wants to bid," he said during the hearing.

"So it will be a full and open competition -- not sole source, by the way, to make sure we don't fall into just one" company that is capable of handling the data in the event the company fails, he said.

Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) said she was concerned about one company winning the contract in the event that the company becoming defunct or owning proprietary information. Mattis assuaged those concerns by reiterating that the contract would be full, open and not sole source.

"I'm very confident that we can get a two-year horizon on anyone bidding on it to know with certainty they will not be folding, and we'll just make certain that their performance tells us where we go in the future," he said. "We just know what we're doing right now has to change."

A Pentagon spokesperson told FCW that DOD still plans to issue a revised draft solicitation that takes into account comments from industry this week and will update if that timeline slips.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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