NSA awarded the contract to Amazon Web Services in July.
The Government Accountability Office Friday sustained Microsoft’s protest of a secret National Security Agency cloud computing contract dubbed “WildandStormy,” recommending the agency reevaluate proposals submitted by both Microsoft and the winning bidder, Amazon Web Services.
NSA awarded the contract, worth up to $10 billion, to AWS in July to support the agency’s classified and unclassified cloud services. Microsoft protested the award of the contract on July 21 and added to its legal argument on Sept. 2 in a supplemental protest.
“GAO found certain aspects of the agency’s evaluation to be unreasonable and, in light thereof, recommended that NSA reevaluate the proposals consistent with the decision and make a new source selection determination,” Ralph O. White, Managing Associate General Counsel for the Procurement Law Division at GAO, said in a statement to Nextgov. “GAO’s decision expresses no view as to the relative merits of the AWS and Microsoft proposals. Judgments about which offeror will most successfully meet the government’s needs are reserved for the procuring agencies, subject only to statutory and regulatory procurement requirements.”
GAO’s decision was issued under a protective order because the protest record includes classified information. GAO intends to issue an unclassified decision to the public at a later date.
"NSA respects the oversight of the Government Accountability Office, and will work to ensure that these capabilities can be delivered to support the Agency's mission in a manner consistent with the GAO findings," an NSA spokesperson told Nextgov. "The Hybrid Compute Initiative remains a priority for NSA, and we will continue to work through the source selection process to acquire this critical capability for the national security."
In a statement, an AWS spokesperson said, "AWS is honored to have been selected as the cloud provider for the NSA's Hybrid Compute Initiative, and we remain committed to supporting the NSA's critical missions."
WildandStormy is the second multibillion-dollar cloud contract the U.S. intelligence community has awarded in the past year. Though it bears the same total ceiling value as the Pentagon’s now-canceled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, WildandStormy is a completely separate effort by the NSA to modernize its primary classified data repository, the Intelligence Community GovCloud. The contract is the means through which the NSA will migrate its signals intelligence, foreign surveillance and other information it ingests from multiple repositories around the globe into an internally operated data lake that IC analysts can run queries and perform analytics on.
In 2020, intelligence officials signaled an intent to bring in a commercial cloud provider to meet demands caused by exponential data growth and massive processing and analytics requirements that challenged the NSA’s ability to scale. The effort, called the Hybrid Compute Initiative, would effectively move the NSA’s crown jewel intelligence data from its own servers to servers operated by a commercial cloud provider.
WildandStormy is a separate effort from the intelligence community’s C2E contract. Last November, the CIA awarded the contract, potentially worth tens of billions of dollars, to five companies: AWS, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM. Those companies will compete for specific task orders based on the intelligence agency’s needs.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include comments from the NSA and AWS.