Amazon and IBM Fighting over CIA Cloud Project

IBM showed strong protest over the $600 cloud project agreement that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) supposedly awarded to Amazon. The giant companies, Amazon and IBM continue to battle for the intriguing cloud contract as each pushes its old and new business solutions for the CIA.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) already announced that it will create the huge cloud platform, The Register for the CIA. IBM did not take this sitting down and made an appeal to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), which recognized the need for further investigation with the awarding of the contract. GAO sided with IBM that the cloud project was awarded hastily and under questionable circumstances.

In an official e-mailed statement, Ralph White, managing associate general counsel for procurement law of GAO wrote:

“On June 6, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained, or upheld, portions of a protest filed by IBM U.S. Federal, of Bethesda, Maryland, challenging the award of an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to Amazon Web Services, Inc., of Seattle, Washington.  The challenged contract, awarded under request for proposals No. 2012-12041000001, provides for commercially-managed cloud computing services for the intelligence community.”

The downside of this decision would be a major delay on the CIA project. In a separate email made by AWS, it confirmed that an agreement already exists between CIA and Amazon. Here, is a portion of that email:

“Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology. The CIA selected AWS based on its superior technological platform which will allow the Agency to rapidly innovate while delivering the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems. The Agency conducted a very detailed, thorough procurement that took many months to award. We look forward to a fast resolution of the two issues raised by the GAO so the Agency can move forward with this important contract.”

On the side of IBM, it was originally part of the initial bidders to acquire the 10-year CIA cloud project. However, a month after news broke that Amazon acquired the project; IBM filed the protest to contest it. The protest had already been supplemented three times since then, with the last amendment made last April 11.

Prior to IBM’s protest, there have been a number of similar objections made since 2008. In November last year, both AT&T and Microsoft filed separate complaints to GAO objecting the specifications of a particular project in one of the CIA contracts for its cloud adoption program.

CIA, on the other hand, continues to embrace innovation to improve its agency services.

In a statement, CIA CTO Ira Hunt said, “It’s the CIA’s job to leverage the world of big data, find out what actually maters, connect the dots and figure out what our adversaries are intending to do.”

Initially, CIA made smaller private cloud modifications to its internal system, but the series of protests signal a bigger and more ambitious cloud plan for the CIA platform, and probably more rifts with giant cloud players are expected because of this. In fact, a few days ago, the Defense Information Systems Agency already announced a re-bidding after it cancelled a $45 million single-supplier contract. It is probably to halt another GAO protest like the one with Microsoft and IBM.

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