Navy, Marine Corps gain new latitude to buy cloud computing services

In a step that may go some way toward reducing some of the red tape between the Defense Department and cloud computing vendors, the Department of the Navy (DoN) said last week that the Navy and Marine Corps can sign off on their own business cases for migrating to commercial cloud vendors without seeking higher-level approval.

The change shaves at least one level of bureaucracy from the process. Previously, any naval component that hoped to move its systems to the cloud had to first complete a standard template making their business case for doing so and then submit it to the DON chief information officer.

In a May 17 memo, Robert Foster, the DoN chief information officer, delegated his authority to approve those requests: Janice Haith and Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall will handle final approvals for the Navy and Marine Corps, respectively. 

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As a second measure to streamline cloud purchases, Foster also told the Navy and Marines that they must stand up their own managed service organizations to help shepherd individual commands and application owners through the process of migrating from government data facilities to privately-operated cloud services.

“This MSO construct enables a governed implementation of cloud service offerings, including regulation of users, configurations, networks, hosts and other resources to enforce standardization and monitor fiscal, contractual, security and compliance procedures while in DON operational use,” Foster wrote.

The MSOs also are meant to assist with the contracting process, and to perform the role of “brokers” for commercial cloud in much the same way the Defense Information Systems Agency was tasked to do three years ago, before DoD decided that cloud acquisitions should be turned back over to the individual military departments.

The Navy already has laid the foundations of its MSO through a “Cloud Store” run by its Data Center Application and Optimization office. DCAO offers many of the governance and migration assistance Foster referenced in last week’s memo, but via the store, it also hopes to become a one-stop shop where Navy components can avail themselves of commercial cloud services without having to conduct procurements of their own.

“We’re in the process of developing a hosting contract that’s aimed at providing cloud services via multiple vendors at several impact levels,” Erle Marion, the commercial cloud hosting lead in the Navy’s program executive office for enterprise information systems said in a March 29 interview. “We’re hoping to have more than one at impact level two and more than one at impact levels four and five.”

For the moment, the store’s offerings are limited to one vendor — Amazon Web Services — that holds a pre-existing Navy contract. The Navy had hoped to publish a request for proposals to expand the selection within its store by the end of April, but has not done so yet.