WASHINGTON -- Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon will share in the Pentagon's $9 billion contract to build its cloud computing network, a year after accusations of politicization over the previously announced contract and a protracted legal battle resulted in the military starting over in its award process.
The Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability is envisioned to provide access to unclassified, secret and top-secret data to military personnel all over the globe. It is anticipated to serve as a backbone for the Pentagon's modern war operations, which will rely heavily on unmanned aircraft and space communications satellites, but will still need a way to quickly get the intelligence from those platforms to troops on the ground.
The contract will be awarded in parts, with a total estimated completion date of June 2028, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Competition is intense to snap up big corporate and government cloud contracts — awards to build global computing networks where information is stored, shared and secured over the internet instead of on local computer systems. The Pentagon's award is seen as one of the most coveted because it’s a stamp of approval in a market where ensuring a client’s data security is important.
“It’s the most important cloud deal to come out of the Beltway,” said analyst Daniel Ives, who monitors the cloud industry for Wedbush Securities. “It’s about the Pentagon as a reference customer. It says significant accolades about what they think about that vendor, and that’s the best reference customer you could have in that world.”
Google’s involvement is a shift from 2018, when it decided not to compete in the Pentagon’s bidding process because it might conflict with its ethics principles. Google employees had been vocal at the time in protesting military uses of the company’s artificial intelligence technology.
Last July, the Pentagon announced it was cancelling its previous cloud computing award, then named JEDI. At the time, the Pentagon said that due to delays in proceeding with the contract, technology had changed to the extent that the old contract, which was awarded to Microsoft, no longer met DOD's needs.
It did not mention the legal challenges behind those delays, which had come from Amazon, the losing bidder. Amazon had questioned whether former President Donald Trump's administration had steered the contract toward Microsoft due to Trump's adversarial relationship with Amazon's chief executive officer at the time, Jeff Bezos.
In July when the cancellation was announced, the Pentagon’s chief information officer, John Sherman, said it was “likely” both Amazon and Microsoft would get some portion of the business in a new award.
A report by the Pentagon's inspector general did not find evidence of improper influence, but it said it could not determine the extent of administration interactions with Pentagon decision-makers because the White House would not allow unfettered access to witnesses.
The Pentagon’s cloud is also anticipated to host the military’s future warfighting network, known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control, that will connect information from all the services onto one network. Previously, each service had its own tactical network and data could not be easily shared across services, which could create delays in situations where location data and trajectory, such as with a missile launch, need to be known in seconds.
O'Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.