In a press conference Ars attended today, Defense Department officials discussed the benefits of partnering with Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon to build the Pentagon’s new cloud computing network. The multi-cloud strategy was described as a necessary step to keep military personnel up to date as technology progressed and officials’ familiarity with cloud technology matured.
Air Force Lieutenant General Robert Skinner said this $9 billion Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract would help rapidly expand cloud capabilities to all defense departments. He described new accelerator capabilities such as pre-configured templates and infrastructure as code that allows even “people who don’t understand cloud to use cloud technologies.” Such capabilities could help troops on the ground easily access data collected by unmanned aerial vehicles or space communications satellites.
“JWCC is a multi-award winning contract vehicle that provides the DOD with the ability to acquire commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) at the speed of the mission, at all levels of classification, from headquarters to the tactical fringe . ” said the DOD press release.
Until now, government officials have not had direct access to cloud providers, and militaries around the world have not had cloud technology that can provide access to files at all three levels of classification: unclassified, classified, and top secret. That has changed with JWCC, and the Ministry of Defense now expects to be able to pass on intelligence more quickly.
How tech companies will split the contract
The $9 billion contract is expected to close in June 2028 and will not be shared equally by Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon. Instead, each company was given a $100,000 guarantee and will have to bid for its share of the rest of the budget. Defense department officials said this would lead to price competition, just as it does in the industry, and any job assignment requiring cloud services will be carefully weighed to determine the best match. There will be a government evaluation team that selects suppliers based on best price and best technology based on mission requirements.
Microsoft — which initially had an exclusive $10 billion deal with the Pentagon to provide cloud services, which Reuters reported was scrapped last year to allow the Pentagon to pursue more advanced technologies — has backed DOD’s multi-cloud strategy. Microsoft Federal President Rick Wagner wrote in a blog today that “the multi-cloud approach for JWCC is right for DOD’s enterprise infrastructure.”
“Multi-cloud is already an established best practice in the commercial sector as it enables organizations to maximize agility, increase resiliency, and access best-in-class technologies from all providers,” Wagner wrote.
Wagner called the JWCC contract a “significant milestone” and pledged that “Microsoft will help deliver mission-critical 21st century technology to our nation’s militaries and strengthen U.S. national security.”
Ars also contacted other JWCC suppliers. Both offered similar explanations, while none seemed willing to discuss bidding strategies yet. Google Public Sector CEO Karen Dahut said Google was “proud to be selected”. Oracle Executive Vice President Ken Glueck told Ars, “Built to enable interoperability, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure will help drive DOD’s multi-cloud innovation and ensure our defense and intelligence communities have the best technology available to protect our national security and to keep.” An Amazon Web Services spokesperson told Ars, “From the enterprise to the tactical edge, we are poised to deliver industry-leading cloud services to enable the DOD to achieve its critical mission.”
Competition for the rest of the $9 billion is likely to be fierce, and the Pentagon expects to cut costs as a result. Analysts told AP News that tech companies viewed the Pentagon contract as “a stamp of approval in a market where ensuring a customer’s data security is important.”