The Defense Department’s newly published cloud strategy leans heavily on several core concepts including maximizing competition among cloud service providers, sticking to a single cloud strategy, leveraging commercial-sector best practices, creating a culture for better technology evolution, and above all else supporting warfighters and increasing their lethality.

‘One Cloud Strategy’

To achieve the overall cloud strategy, DoD said it will rely on a “Cloud Smart-Data Smart” approach. The first part of that approach, Cloud Smart, equals “one cloud strategy to adopt cloud solutions that streamline transformation and embrace modern capabilities for multiple clouds and missions.” The second part, Data Smart, is defined as “data transparency and visibility enabled by enterprise infrastructure, application standards, and data tagging.”

That combined approach, DoD said, will allow it to leverage battlefield decision-making advantages enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and the use of common data and application standards “associated with conducting operations in the cloud, such as data normalization/tagging, transport protocols, and interfaces, will be developed to enable and encourage the adoption of enterprise solutions that navigate DoD away from custom, approaches,” DoD said.

“These standards, combined with the computing power offered by cloud, will allow the Department to function at a tempo never before seen, making informed, analytical decisions at machine speed,” it said.

Competition and Best Practices

Regarding leveraging industry best practices, DoD said it must leverage “commercial technology, capability, and innovation whenever possible,” maximize “competition to ensure that DoD is getting the best technology and value,” leverage “industry open standards and best practices to avoid lock-in and provide maximum flexibility for future cloud advances,” and independently assess cloud services to make sure that data remains secure.

In seeking to maximize industry competition, DoD said it is “positioning itself to get the best value in today’s market of cloud computing capabilities to support warfighting and business requirements and to grow capability as industry evolves.”

“In addition, DoD seeks to maximize competition, not only when awarding the pathfinder General Purpose cloud, but also by ensuring access to a variety of Software as a Service (SaaS) capabilities that are complementary to the General Purpose and Fit For Purpose clouds,” it said.

“The Department must take advantage of the advances that American private industry has made,” it said. “All of this will be built into commercial pricing structures. If DoD can adopt this commercial mindset toward cloud computing, it can incorporate commercial industry lessons learned into future architecture decisions,” the agency said.

Technology Evolution

DoD said its cloud strategy seeks “to create a culture that is better suited for adaptability and modem technology,” by, among other goals, fostering an environment “where people can innovate iteratively.”

The agency also aims to “embrace enterprise solutions” while moving away from “custom federated approaches,” create a “sustainable culture and workforce than can effectively use what cloud provides,” and create a “culture that enables continuous learning from our cloud partners.”

Elaborating on those goals, DoD said, “Iterative innovation is essential for successfully adapting modem technologies in an evolutionary fashion. To achieve this, DoD will embrace the use of leading modem technology quickly and more rapid prototyping of new systems. Examples include developing and deploying capabilities for DevSecOps in the cloud environment to securely develop and test software for use in the cloud and using commercial clouds to enable small and medium size companies to more effectively secure Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).”

On the personnel front, DoD said its workforce must “change it culture,” and that the agency “must develop a cadre of technical professionals, as well as encourage technical proficiency throughout the entire Department.”

And regarding industry partners, it said, “The Department has never built or implemented an enterprise cloud solution and therefore, recognizes the importance of finding a commercial partner to help begin the process of enterprise learning and the development of technical cloud proficiency.”

Warfighter, Lethality Priorities

And above all, DoD said its transition to commercial cloud services “needs to continuously test that cloud solutions are built in a manner that never puts the warfighter and his/her mission at risk,” adding, “this will require the Department to rigorously red team and challenge itself with independent assessments of the cloud environment and to utilize tactical distributed computing.

“At all times, DoD needs to ensure that cloud is addressing the needs of improving military lethality,” the agency said. “By constantly challenging itself around lethality with red teams, DoD can ensure that the cloud will be positioned to support the challenges of the global environment.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.