GAO Strikes Down Part of Cloud Email RFQ

The Government Accountability Office on Monday struck down part of a blanket bid solicitation for cloud computing services that protesters claimed would unfairly restrict them from storing government data including email and records management systems in cloud facilities abroad.

A May 9 General Services Administration request for quotation for government cloud services stated bidding agencies could store government information abroad but only in countries designated under the 1979 Trade Agreements Act.

That list includes war-riddled nations and failed or failing states such as Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the protesters pointed out, but restricts some major tech havens, such as India, Brazil and South Africa.

GSA had wanted to prohibit storing any government data outside the U.S. but was told by the United States Trade Representative that position would violate numerous trade agreements. The two agencies settled on the TAA list as a compromise that saved GSA from developing a country-by-country analysis of where data could be stored and where it couldn't be, according to Monday's decision. The result, though, was an arbitrary list of approved nations that couldn't stand up to reasonable scrutiny, GAO said.

The agency recommended that GSA amend its RFQ to include a more reasonable rule and re-open the bidding.

The government has embarked on a massive program to move roughly one-quarter of its $80 billion information technology budget to Internet-based cloud storage, a move officials say will save the government $5 billion annually.

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