Has the CIA Opted for Amazon Cloud?

Though neither Amazon nor CIA officials would confirm the contract, all signs point to its existence.

by / March 20, 2013

The CIA has agreed to a cloud computing contract with Amazon Web Services that's worth up to $600 million over 10 years, according to FCW, which also reported that Amazon will help the agency build a private cloud infrastructure. The new setup will allow the CIA to keep up with emerging technologies in a cost-effective manner -- something that wasn't possible under the CIA's previous venture into the cloud.

Neither Amazon nor CIA officials would confirm the contract's existence, but CIA officials have hinted at significant changes to software procurement, big data analytics and commercial-sector innovation within the agency.

On March 12, for instance, CIA Chief Information Officer Jeanne Tisinger told the Northern Virginia Technology Council Board of Directors how the CIA is leveraging the commercial sector's innovation cycle, looking for cost efficiencies in commodity IT, and using software-as-a-service for common solutions.

Two audience members told FCW that Tisinger said the CIA was working "with companies like Amazon," and during a February conference organized by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, CIA Chief Technology Officer Gus Hunt dropped the firm's name in relation to software procurement. 

"Think Amazon – that model really works," he was quoted by Reuters as saying, regarding the purchasing of software services on a "metered" basis, for which Amazon is well-known, FCW reported.

As Director of IT Management Issues at the Government Accountability Office, Dave Powner told FCW that although he was unfamiliar with the CIA-Amazon deal, such a partnership would make sense.

"I'm not aware of that contract," he said, "but I think in times of reducing budget situations you would expect to see agencies that haven't considered cloud solutions extensively in the past would be looking more and more of doing something along those lines."

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