Defense IT

IG: DOD not keeping track of cloud contracts

The Defense Department’s push into cloud computing—seen as the key to the Joint Information Environment and other essential systems—is being hampered by an inability to demonstrate that adopting cloud computing actually saves money, according to a report by the department’s inspector general.

The crux of the problem, the IG said, is that DOD’s CIO office hasn’t come up with a standardized definition of cloud computing, nor has it created a repository for cloud services contracts that would allow for the payoff from those contracts to be tracked and measured. “Specifically, DOD cannot determine whether it achieves actual cost savings or benefits from adopting cloud computing services,” according to the report’s summary.

The report added that the lack of a repository of clearly defined cloud service contracts could also hurt DOD’s ability to identify security risks.

DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen has said that cloud is at the core of many of DOD’s future plans, including JIE—intended to accommodate all of the military services, other DOD components and coalition partners—and the “anytime, anywhere” mobile access to DOD systems envisioned in the Defense Information Systems Agency’s five-year strategic plan.

One of the key benefits of the cloud model is the interoperability it can afford, which suits DOD’s long-range plans. Another is the purported cost savings in buying services rather than building and maintaining physical systems, and in the ability to do away with duplicative systems.

The DOD IG doesn’t say that cloud computing doesn’t save money, but that DOD’s failure to keep a list of cloud service contracts—and develop a consistent definition—meant that any benefits couldn’t be measured. When the IG sought a list of contracts from fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2014, the CIO’s office had to compile them from “various sources” with criteria that didn’t always match up. The CIO’s office also admitted that it might not have had a complete list, according to the report.

The IG report recommends that DOD develop a standardized departmentwide definition of cloud computing or adopt one based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s definition. It also recommends that the department create an integrated repository for cloud services contracts.

In a response the CIO’s office said that improvements to a reporting system known as the Select and Native Programming Data Input System for IT, or SNAP-IT, would capture the details necessary for a cloud contract repository, although the IG said it was not sure of the effectiveness of those improvements and reiterated its call for a repository.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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