Service heads quiet on DOD cloud plan

At a D.C. defense policy event, the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force skirted the issue of the Pentagon's centralized cloud procurement strategy.

The Pentagon (Photo by Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock)

The Army, Air Force and Navy are each pursuing their respective cloud strategies as a part of the Defense Department's overall vision. When asked how DOD's newly announced commercial cloud plans could shape their migrations, however, the service secretaries skirted the issue of the Pentagon's centralized cloud procurement strategy.

Navy Department Secretary Richard Spencer said any massive technological change affects the culture of an organization, where there would be "crying, gnashing their teeth" before acceptance.

"I'm stunned in the building in the disparity of availability and consistency of systems to be used," Spencer said during the question and answer portion of a March 12 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

"As far as the Navy is concerned, we look forward to the inbound of a new CIO who can sit there and say here is the construct, migrate to the construct so we get the benefits of similar-lined systems -- both economic benefits and managerial benefits from it," Spencer said.

Kelly Fletcher has been the Navy's acting CIO since August 2017.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said her service is hoping to move fast with adopting enterprise as a service through edge computing, which can minimizes data travel. Wilson said moving to EaaS also could help free up cyber workers in IT for defense and offense posts -- something Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo has discussed as well.

"Beyond just moving some things to the cloud, we're trying to move to what they call 'computing to the edge' so that we don't use as much cloud and we move faster and you don't have to move as much data in or out," Wilson said.

"There are companies that are set up to do that," she said, and yet the Air Force is devoting scarce in-house talent to maintain IT systems. "We've got over 1,700 people … who are pretty well-trained on cyber and we're using them at the help desk to fix my email when it has a problem," Wilson said.

Army Secretary Mark Esper did not respond to the question on March 12, but the Army began constructing a $62 million on-premises cloud solution with IBM in 2017.

That effort is just one among many. DOD CIO Essye Miller said at the March 7 industry day for the department's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud acquisition that there are 500 different cloud initiatives underway across the various service branches and defense agencies.

Last year, the Air Force awarded a $1 billion contract to a contracting team that includes Dell EMC, General Dynamics and Microsoft to help move unified communications tools to a cloud infrastructure.

The Navy also began modernizing its systems, moving unclassified data such as websites, content management systems, mobile apps, and training systems for its Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Fleet and Family Readiness (N9) program to an Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure.