Navy Plans to Complete Massive Cloud Migration by 2021

The service branch will use an upcoming contract vehicle to meet virtually all of its cloud computing needs moving forward.

The Navy's natural place is on the water. Soon, it will also be in the cloud.

In the past few weeks, the Department of the Navy has disclosed aggressive goals to host nearly all of the Navy and Marine Corps' IT applications and systems via cloud services within the next three years, reports Federal News Radio. The Navy also revealed that it will rely on a massive, upcoming enterprise contract to meet its cloud computing needs.

Taken together, the announcements indicate that the Navy is ramping up its cloud migrations, has significant ambitions for the switch and wants to make it as seamless as possible.

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Navy Sets Ambitious Timeline for Cloud Migration

The Navy launched a new "cloud first" policy last year in an effort to spark a shift away from the Navy's owned-and-operated data centers, where the majority of the service's applications still reside.

In March 2017, the Navy held its first enterprisewide cloud meeting with representatives from its acquisition, resource sponsor and operational communities. "The goal is to develop a way forward for all facets of cloud acceleration, including cloud brokering, architecture, service offerings and alignment and integration of existing data center consolidation and reduction efforts," CHIPS, the Navy's IT magazine, reports.

The Navy's top acquisition official said earlier this month that the Navy plans to move almost all of its apps to the cloud by 2021. That goal, laid out by James Geurts, the Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, would represent an acceleration of the five-year timetable Navy officials envisioned only last year, as Federal News Radio reports.

Geurts, who was sworn in in December as the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said the shift to the cloud is part of a larger effort to make the Navy's procurement process significantly more agile. The Navy plans to diffuse more authority to officials outside of Washington, "using alternative acquisition processes Congress has already authorized, and adopting innovative commercial technologies as they were designed instead of layering government-unique requirements atop them," as Federal News Radio reports.

Without changes to the Navy's costs and deployment timelines, it will not be able to meet the challenges of the nation's defense strategy, Geurts said in February at the annual WEST conference hosted by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute.

Victor Gavin, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and space, will be responsible for making sure the Navy meets the set timetable for cloud migration.

Gavin said at the same conference that the largest challenge the Navy faces is a cultural one, including how to get Navy personnel throughout the service to better understand what the cloud actually is, Federal News Radio reports.

"We tend to continue to talk to cloud as a thing," he said. "It's not simply a data center that is hosting our applications, it is a new way of doing business, and that new way of doing business requires us to have new skill sets ourselves to manage our applications in that environment, to manage our security in that environment."

The Navy will need to take on new roles as it shifts apps to the cloud and moves out of old ones, Gavin said. "Those become very hard conversations for us, but we're going to have to overcome them as we digitize the Navy," he added.

Navy Looks to New Cloud Contract

How will the Navy accomplish all of this? It won't be issuing scores of new cloud contract vehicles.

Instead, the Navy will rely on its new Enterprise Information Systems contract to be the conduit for basically all of its cloud services. The goal is to make the services' cloud offerings more standardized and to reduce duplication. The new contract is expected to be in place by June, Federal News Radio reports.

"I think people will find that the enterprise contract will have probably 95 percent of what they need," Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, director of the Navy's cybersecurity division, told Federal News Radio.

"Exceptions to that  not using the enterprise contract  would be very limited exceptions to the rule," she added. "If you are going to deviate off the enterprise contract, you have to come and tell us why, and we have to agree. You really have to show us why what's on the enterprise contract doesn't meet your requirements."

In December, the Navy decentralized its "cloud broker" functions and spread them to eight commands representing various functional communities, Federal News Radio reports. That decision came just two years after the Navy had decided to consolidate those responsibilities within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.

The new cloud brokers  each of the Navy's systems commands, as well as Navy Installations Command, Military Sealift Command and the office of Strategic Systems Programs  will be allowed to establish its own cloud contracts in instances in which it has demands specific to its mission that are not being met by the overall enterprise contract.

However, the brokers' primary role will be in managing the shift of apps to the cloud. "It's going to be things like making sure that their people are adhering to the configuration that their applications are supposed to have in the cloud, keeping metrics on how the information in that environment is behaving," Barrett said. "They're going to have to make sure that their baseline configuration is maintained and things like that."

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elijah G. Leinaar/U.S. Navy
Mar 02 2018