An aerial view of CIA headquarters in September 2018.

Dec 10 2020

Where Will the CIA Go with Its New Cloud Contracting Vehicle?

The intelligence agency’s C2E contract will serve as the foundation for future cloud growth and has been opened up to multiple leading cloud service providers.

The CIA can see its future — and it is cloudy. The agency late last month awarded its much-anticipated Commercial Cloud Enterprise, or C2E, and offered opportunities within it to five leading cloud providers.

The C2E contract will serve as the basis for expanded cloud capabilities at the intelligence agency in the years ahead, including evolutions in the use of artificial intelligence. The CIA was one of the government’s early pioneers in large-scale cloud deployment and has been working since 2013 with Amazon Web Services on its Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) contract. C2E is the follow-up contract to C2S.

“We are excited to work with the multiple industry partners awarded the Intelligence Community (IC) Commercial Cloud Enterprise (C2E) Cloud Service Provider (CSP) contract and look forward to utilizing, alongside our IC colleagues, the expanded cloud capabilities resulting from this diversified partnership,” CIA spokeswoman Nicole de Haay tells Nextgov.

As FedScoop reports, AWS, MicrosoftGoogleOracle and IBM were awarded spots for the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity C2E contract and will compete for task orders under the cloud service provider section of the contract. That includes Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service offerings as well as other professional services to the 17 intelligence community agencies.

It’s unclear what the total value of the 15-year contract is, but Bloomberg Government reports that it “could generate ‘tens of billions’ of dollars in spending over its lifespan, according to a 2019 CIA briefing to industry.”

The CIA also is expected to award a separate integrator/management contract “for multi-cloud management to support the foundational cloud services acquired in the CSP acquisition,” according to early contracting documents cited by FedScoop.

CIA Shifts Gears to a Multicloud World

AWS has been the sole cloud provider for the CIA as the world of cloud computing has evolved. As GCN reports:

The C2S contract runs to 2023, and AWS remains the only cloud infrastructure company to hold all needed security classifications for hosting data and workloads up to the top secret levels, while Microsoft is one step below but working toward that designation.

However, the intelligence community had been signaling for at least a year and a half that it wanted to move to a multicloud model.

Former Intelligence Community CIO John Sherman, now the principal deputy CIO at the Defense Department, told FedScoop earlier this year that the intelligence community was not only ready to shift to a multicloud model but that intelligence agencies’ missions were demanding such a change.

He said that the IC was “ready to move to an environment where we can use best-athlete capabilities, having potentially more than one vendor that brings different strengths on things like [artificial intelligence] and [machine learning] and different workloads and database management, all these kinds of different pieces going together to where, as an officer at one of the agencies, you can say my workload may run best in this cloud.”

Shortly after news of the award broke, Peter Ranks, the deputy CIO for information enterprise at the DOD, announced he would leave the Pentagon. According to Federal News Network, which cited unnamed sources, Ranks is heading back to the CIA, where he spent more than 20 years, to help implement the C2E contract.

“I had the pleasure of working with Peter on several infrastructure programs and will miss his unique listening skills,” John Weiler, CEO of the IT Acquisition Advisory Committee (IT-ACC), tells Federal News Network. “He will be a valuable lead on the new C2E multi-cloud program at the CIA.”

MORE FROM FEDTECH: How will the CIA continue to innovate with its new in-house R&D lab?

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