Congress Directs Defense to Use Commercial Data Centers

December 20, 2011

Congress has thrown a roadblock into the Defense Department's plans to consolidate many of its data centers into facilities operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency or the military services.

In the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Act passed last week, lawmakers directed Defense Chief Information Officer Teri Takai to develop a plan to use commercial cloud computing services instead of DISA's. Language tucked into the military construction section of the act asked Takai to submit a plan by April 1, 2012, for "migration of Defense data and government-provided services from department owned and operated data centers to cloud computing services generally available within the private sector."

The Pentagon in November announced it had adopted a "DISA first" strategy for data center consolidation, which it expects to generate $680 million a year in savings starting in 2015. Defense shuttered 55 data centers at the end of September -- three more than planned -- and the Army expects to close 185 data centers by 2014.

In a related development, the authorization act zeroed out the Army budget to consolidate its enterprise email with DISA until the service examines alternatives.

The language on use of commercial cloud computing services assumes "the private sector provides a better capability at a lower cost with the same or greater degree of security."

This April, Takai told a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities that the "paramount" goal of ensuring effective security in a cloud computing environment is best achieved through an internal, private Defense cloud. Takai added, "there will be instances where we [can] use commercial cloud providers . . . [if] they meet our standards." She did not specify what type of applications Defense would host on a commercial cloud.

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