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Pentagon is moving to Amazon’s ‘Secret Region’ to host classified data

March 15, 2018

The Defense Department announced its intent to begin moving classified data and applications to Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Secret Region, a cloud environment developed specifically for the CIA and intelligence community, according to Next Gov.

The move comes after Microsoft withdrew its bid protest on March 8, citing that “any issues [Microsoft] had with the deal were resolved” to the company’s satisfaction.

Amazon originally developed its $600 million computing cloud in the summer of 2014 with the goal of servicing all 17 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

The deal ushered in a new era of cooperation and coordination, Government Executive reported at the time, allowing agencies to share information and services easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks.

As the plan began to materialize, one former intelligence official with knowledge of deal said in 2014: “It took a lot of wrangling, but it was easy to see the vision if you laid it all out.”

The Defense Department will now have access to those same cloud services that have proved to be incredibly valuable to the intelligence community.

The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) originally hoped to implement AWS in December after the company expanded its capabilities and availability to non-intelligence agencies, but Microsoft’s protest had blocked the deal until last week.

TRANSCOM will likely be the first of many Defense agencies to begin incorporating AWS, serving as a model for other groups who might also want to migrate to a classified commercial cloud computing environment in the future.

If TRANSCOM’s efforts prove successful, AWS will likely earn billions in government contracts. The Defense Department alone currently spends about $40 billion annually on information technology.

Speaking about AWS specifically, TRANSCOM remarked that the service is “the only game in town for classified commercial cloud services.” While a few other commercial cloud companies have the ability to host the Defense Department’s sensitive unclassified data, it appears that only AWS can host classified data. The classified data travels through a system of computers managed by the Defense and State departments called the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet.

“Amazon is currently the only cloud provider with CS2S clearance,” TRANSCOM’s sole-source justification stated. “Without AWS, [TRANSCOM] cannot migrate its SIPR applications into a commercial cloud environment.”

While AWS has earned TRANSCOM’s business, both Amazon and Microsoft will continue to battle for future cloud contracts later this year, including the Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI).

JEDI would supply the entire Defense Department with cloud infrastructure around the world, and such a contract could be worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.