AWS building secret government cloud for CIA, claims report

Top secret sign

The CIA has signed a cloud computing deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS) worth $600 million (£396 million) over ten years, according to reports.

Sources close to the deal told FCW that AWS will help the American foreign intelligence agency build a private cloud infrastructure to help it keep pace with new technologies in a cost effective manner.

In the past, the CIA’s cloud strategy had focused on a number of smaller, highly specialised private clouds. However, it is suspected this did not bring the economies of scale found with commodity cloud services.

FCW said that, while the full scope of the CIA’s current contract with AWS is not clear (particularly as both organisations have refused to confirm or deny its existence), it is likely to provide a public cloud environment inside the secure firewalls of the intelligence community. This, the publication claims, would negate concerns of classified data being hosted in a public environment.

This is not the first indication of the CIA is moving towards a commodity cloud approach, nor is it the first time Amazon has been mentioned with reference to the secretive agency.

In February 2012, Ira ‘Gus’ Hunt, CTO for the CIO at the CIA, told an industry conference the agency was moving towards a pay-as-you-go metered model for software services, rather than all-you-can-eat enterprise licensing agreements.

“Think Amazon, that really works,” Hunt said.

Additionally, Jeanne Tisinger, CIO of the CIA, allegedly told the audience the agency was working “with companies like Amazon”.

A source with a background in UK intelligence who wished to remain anonymous, told Cloud Pro: "There has been a lot of talk about establishing an intelligence cloud. Not even a well-resourced organisation like the CIA could [build a cloud] for themselves, we have moved beyond that point.

"The CIA already contracts out a lot of work - reports suggest 70 per cent of the US intelligence budget goes to outside contractors. So not only is [this type of alleged contract] likely, it is the only way to go. The key question is how it would be implemented: who has access and how is that controlled?"

Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at the US Government Accountability Office, told FCW: “I am not aware of [the contract between AWS and the CIA] but I think in times of reducing budget situations you would expect to see agencies that haven’t considered cloud solutions extensively in the past would be looking more and more of doing something along those lines.”

Jane McCallion
Managing Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Managing Editor, specializing in data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Managing Editor, she held the role of Deputy Editor and, prior to that, Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialize in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.