The Department of Defense (DoD) sees limiting cloud service sprawl and increasing interoperability as top priorities in modernizing the agency’s technology enterprise, and the looming $9 billion Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contracts as vital to that effort, a top Pentagon tech official said on March 21.

During Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange 2023 event, Lily Zeleke, deputy DoD chief information officer for information enterprise, explained that the huge agency must be aligned in the way that it acquires systems and capabilities especially as it moves towards a joint warfighting effort – better known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

In December 2022, DoD selected Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle to participate in the long-anticipated JWCC contract. The four tech giants will compete for work tied to JWCC – which spans unclassified, secret, and top-secret designations.

“We’re going to work with the services as we look at how to proceed going forward in new cloud acquisition or in how we invest in the cloud,” Zeleke said. “We don’t want to duplicate the efforts and we don’t want to have various cloud contracts popping up that we cannot track.”

“So I think there is a lot of work that’s awaiting us, but it’s foundational and fundamental for us to be able to in a systematic, fair, and real way get everyone to optimize the goodness of JWCC,” she said.

However, Zeleke did acknowledge that the department does not intend to order military services that have created separate cloud contract vehicles to utilize JWCC.

“There may be things that the services have in place right now that help them optimize and they’re going continue to use,” she said. “So, we’re going to work with the services, and we will rationalize across the board as much as we can.”

Zeleke also explained that the DoD intends to use the JWCC contracts to drastically simplify the process that agency components use to acquire cloud services. The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Hosting and Compute Center (HACC) is currently working on getting tools in place to speed up the ability to execute on task orders.

DoD has already kicked off its unclassified category, according to Zeleke, and much of the work happening right now is focused on getting cloud services up and running at the secret and top-secret classification levels. Those classified and tactical edge capabilities are among the “unmet needs” the department has seen as requiring an enterprise approach like JWCC, she said.

“They have two tools to automate the tracking and funding and ordering pieces. That’s to enable fast acquisitions, as well as to know our spending on cloud and optimize our services. It helps us get JWCC into use quicker. The differentiator is that for many of the processes where you would have paper or maybe different handoffs, it is now automated and in one place,” Zeleke said.

Read More About
More Topics
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.