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DoD Officials Highlight Role of Cloud Infrastructure in Supporting Warfighters

The Defense Department is seeking an enterprisewide cloud infrastructure to ensure warfighters have access to real-time, mission-critical data, DoD officials said March 7 at an industry day for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud acquisition.

Having the departmentwide cloud infrastructure could mean the difference between mission success or mission failure for warfighters, the speakers stressed.

“This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department and providing the best resources to our men and women in uniform,” DoD Chief Management Officer John H. Gibson II said. “JEDI Cloud is just one contract and part of a much larger strategy for overall [information technology] efforts.”

Global challenges to the military remain, he said, adding that the department must consider significant reforms to best equip the military to meet mission requirements.

“Leveraging the commercial cloud is one IT area that we believe will achieve operational, financial and security benefits of which the JEDI Cloud contract is a great example,” Gibson said.

The Industry Day event, held at the Sheraton Pentagon City near the Pentagon, was open to the public. Hundreds of people, including representatives from industry, academia and government, attended.

Changing the Way DoD Does Business

“We must embrace change,” Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense acquisition and sustainment, said. “If we leverage commercially available cloud solutions, we will have the foundational technology in place that we need to deliver better software to our warfighters faster, with better security, and at a lower cost, and that software will be easier to maintain,” she said.

Lord said the initiative is the kind of innovation the defense acquisition world needs. 

“If we keep doing business the same old way, our software will be outdated, it will cost far more than it needs to, we won’t be able to attract the best software talent, and we’ll lose our technological edge,” she said. “Change is uncomfortable, but as I tell our team all the time, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Building a Better Now

The Defense Digital Service is leading the JEDI Cloud acquisition and has worked throughout the Defense Department to stand up the JEDI Program Office within the Office of the Chief Management Officer to transform the way DoD buys, builds and makes decisions about technology. Speaking at Industry Day, DDS Director Chris Lynch emphasized that JEDI Cloud is additive — it is a force multiplier rather than an end product solution, he explained, and is critical to DoD’s efforts to accelerate adoption of cloud infrastructure and platform services.

Embracing a commercial solution will allow DoD to innovate at the speed of relevancy, improve lethality, and both identify and meet the evolving requirements of the joint warfighter, Lynch noted.

“We get to take advantage of innovation that has not yet come to us,” Lynch said. “We get to take advantage of the innovation that we aspire to use.”

Lynch underscored the importance of operating at speed in warfighting environments, where troops depend on information for making life and death decisions.

Fighting and Winning the Nation’s Wars

Air Force Brig. Gen. David A. Krumm, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for requirements, reminded attendees that the JEDI Cloud event was held just across from Arlington National Cemetery. He encouraged them to walk the hills of the cemetery and go through the rows of graves, noting they will discover that some of those buried there are young service members. 

“If we do this right, if we do this together, you and your team will be responsible for making some of those end dates not as close [to the birthdates],” he said. “You’ll be responsible for a few fewer tombstones up there.”

More service members would make it home because they had the critical information when they needed it in the battlespace, Krumm said. He described the cloud undertaking as “not an IT contract,” but a way to change how the department does business. “We’re going to change the way that this nation, its soldiers, its sailors, its Marines and its airmen fight and win our nation’s wars,” he said.

For the past quarter century, the department has had a system in which data is secure, but also isolated and inaccessible to other systems, the general noted.

“We need to take your commercial solutions and we need to integrate them into the military,” he said. “We need to put them on a global scale in both the unclassified and classified environment. That information has to be available to the warfare on the tactical edge, not just the headquarters.”

Global Enterprise, Millions of Users

Essye B. Miller, DoD’s acting chief information officer, noted that the Defense Department now has 3.4 million users, about 4 million endpoint devices, more than 1,700 data centers, and some 500 different cloud initiatives. She stressed the security aspect of the commercial solution for the cloud infrastructure.

“It is less about protecting the boundary of the network and the physical limitations,” she said. “It’s more about protecting the data and exposing it to the individuals and functions who need it in a real-time basis.”

The project, she said, is about capturing best practices of industry that can help the department.

“Cloud computing enables the department to consolidate infrastructure, leverage IT commodity functions, eliminate functional redundancies, while improving continuity of operations,” she said.

In September, DoD established the Cloud Executive Steering Group to develop and execute a strategy to accelerate the adoption of cloud architectures and cloud services with a focus on commercial solutions.

The department is using a tailored acquisition process to acquire a modern enterprise cloud services solution that can support unclassified, secret and top secret requirements. The planned contracting action will be a full and open competition.

The draft DoD JEDI Cloud request for proposals went live after the forum on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)