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CIA Opens Competition for Lucrative Cloud Deals to Amazon Rivals

The Central Intelligence Agency is planning to hire multiple companies for lucrative cloud computing deals in a new program that will give rivals a chance to take on market leader Amazon.com Inc.

(Bloomberg) -- The Central Intelligence Agency is planning to hire multiple companies for lucrative cloud computing deals in a new program that will give rivals a chance to take on market leader Amazon.com Inc.

The U.S. government posted draft requirements this week for new CIA contracts that aim to build on commercial cloud capabilities the intelligence community first gained through a $600 million contract awarded to Amazon in 2013, according to documents presented to industry and obtained by Bloomberg News.

Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and Oracle Corp. are catching up to Amazon with new technical offerings, public-sector clients and federal security authorizations and are likely to submit bids. The CIA initiative likely will dramatically expand the federal cloud market, which is becoming more competitive.

Using commercial cloud service providers, rather than developing those services in-house, has proven to be a faster way to meet the intelligence community’s needs and to “facilitate the adoption of innovation happening in the commercial marketplace,” the government said in the proposal.

The CIA and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the Commercial Cloud Enterprise initiative, or C2E, the CIA will make multiple awards to companies providing cloud computing infrastructure and cloud-based software, according to the documents. The initiative calls for tech companies to host data with varying security requirements, including unclassified, secret and top secret, according to the documents.

Bidders will be judged on a range of factors including their global reach, innovation, and “operational excellence,” according to the documents.

The government said the contracts could last up to 15 years with a five-year base period and two five-year renewals. The estimated award date is September 2020.

The CIA has previously indicated that it intended to spend “tens of billions” of dollars on cloud computing, Bloomberg has reported. It’s unclear whether the agency has finalized an amount it plans to spend.

The agency has long touted the benefits from its 2013 deal with Amazon, which was described as ”transformational” by Sean Roche, the CIA’s associate deputy director of digital innovation. It also won praise from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The draft requirements outline CIA plans to implement a “multicloud ecosystem,” likely avoiding some of the criticism the Pentagon faced from industry players when it decided to award the highly-lucrative Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract to just one company.

“In a multi-cloud ecosystem, the government will gain advantages from use of each” cloud service provider’s “unique area of investment in technology, cybersecurity strategy, and best practices,” according to the proposal.

In October, Microsoft beat Amazon for the JEDI contract, which is worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Amazon has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, arguing that it lost because President Donald Trump interfered.

In 2018, Microsoft won a deal to let 17 intelligence agencies use Azure Government, a cloud service tailored for federal and local governments.

IBM and Oracle have also recently gained new federal security authorizations, clearing the companies to handle more sensitive government workloads.

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