Brandon Simpkins, lead network engineer at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, examines server operations. Simpkins completed a fellowship at Amazon Web Services.

Brandon Simpkins, lead network engineer at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, examines server operations. Simpkins completed a fellowship at Amazon Web Services. U.S. Navy photo by Gerard Sekerak/Released

Defense Department 4th Estate Gets Amazon Web-Services Boost

New cloud capabilities are coming to agencies like DARPA.

Some Pentagon agencies pushing the technological edge have been doing so without access to the kind of flexible cloud services used by the Navy and Air Force — and thousands of private startups. That’s changing with Monday’s announcement that Amazon Web Services are now available to the Fourth Estate — essentially, which is DoD minus the military service branches. It will also be available to all services and combatant commands. 

The AWS contract is part of DISA’s milCloud 2.0 effort, which seeks to get more cloud-based services, such as storage, to the Defense Department. AWS is currently the only cloud service provider on milCloud 2.0 besides GDIT on-premise clouds, so users could essentially use both.

“Users across the DoD enterprise can leverage the milCloud 2.0 contract for migrations, application modernization and new application development, and can now take advantage of cloud services from AWS in areas such as analytics, edge computing, end user computing and security,” Dave Levy, vice president of U.S. Government, Nonprofit and Healthcare at AWS, said in a statement. 

DoD’s AWS users already include Army Space and Missile Defense Command, the U.S. Navy, the Air Force, and the U.S. intelligence community. 

Essentially, having multiple portions of the Defense Department using AWS could allow it to much better understand its own data and, from there, use machine learning to, say, create better projections for the trends within that data. That could help show how agencies are spending money, how contracts are developing and even trends in things like soldier health (since the Defense Health Agency is also part of the Fourth Estate.) Some Fourth Estate agencies such as the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, have attracted lawmaker scrutiny in recent years. So the change could give officials in those agencies more insight into the organizations they are leading and, thus, better answers for lawmakers. 

The announcement is not connected to Amazon’s attempt to gain control of the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI, contract, awarded to Microsoft in October 2019. A ruling is expected within weeks on Amazon’s claims, which include that the White House unduly pressured Pentagon buyers.

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