During an awards gala next week in Tysons Corner, Doug Wolfe, CIO of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), will be recognized as the Government Computer News Government IT Executive of the Year.
Wolfe has ushered in the era of cloud computing in the intelligence community, driving the transition to Amazon Web Services (AWS) first as CIA Deputy CIO in 2012 and then as CIO since assuming that role last year.
The $600 million hosted cloud solution will provide services on demand to 17 agencies of the Intelligence Community (IC), for which CIA is the executive agency responsible for brokering critical IT functionality and services.
“We hope to get speed and scale out of the cloud, and a tremendous amount of efficiency in terms of folks traditionally using IT now using it in a cost-recovery way,” Wolfe told a symposium in Washington earlier this year.
Wolfe is executing on a vision first laid out in the IC Information Technology Enterprise plan championed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and IC Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk in early 2012. Cloud computing is at the core of the strategy to help the IC better discover, access and share critical information in our current era of seemingly infinite data.
One of the innovative features of this cloud contract is that technological advances are built into the relationship. Whenever Amazon introduces a new innovation or improvement in cloud services, the IC cloud will immediately evolve. AWS executives say that the company has made more than 200 such incremental improvements last year, ensuring a sort of built-in innovation to the IC cloud that will help the IC keep pace with cloud advances.
Because the IC cloud will serve multiple tenants—the 17 agencies that comprise the IC—administrators will be able to restrict access to information based on the identity of the individual seeking it. The idea is to foster collaboration without compromising security.
Conceptually, the Amazon IC cloud can be thought of as a workspace hanging off the IC’s shared network—a place where data can be loaded for a variety of tasks like computing or sharing. The IC cloud gives agencies additional means to share information in an environment where automated security isn’t a barrier to the sharing itself. This could prove vital in situations reminiscent of 9/11, which highlighted issues with the sharing of national security data inside the IC.
Suffice it to say, this cloud contract is a really big deal. It’s no surprise GCN has chosen Wolfe as its top government CIO for 2014. In a recent public appearance, Wolfe called it “one of the most important technology procurements in recent history,” with ramifications far outside of the technology involved.
“It’s going to take a few months to bring this online in a robust way, but it’s coming,” Wolfe said. “And I think it’s going to make a big difference for national security.”