The NSA’s New Amazon Account
The National Security Agency (NSA) has opted to award a secret contract valued at $10 billion to Amazon Web Services.
The often subsidized and federally contracted private company will aid the NSA in their pursuit of a Hybrid Compute Initiative. The details of the contract, code-named “WildandStormy,” remain a mystery, though experts believe the NSA is attempting to modernize its primary classified data repository.
Back in February of 2020, John Sherman, chief information officer of the U.S. intelligence community, said the NSA’s Hybrid Compute Initiative “will be tailored to address the massive processing and analytical requirements that NSA has, the software that must … run at very honed specifications on bare metal hardware and cloud computing that must be bought in bulk given … the data quantities and processing demands at NSA.”
In an interview after the speech, Sherman told FedScoop that HCI will give the NSA a “much more modern architecture that builds on what they’ve learned with GovCloud, but in a more managed service kind of set of architectures that allows them to get out of some of their brick-and-mortar facilities at Fort Meade and elsewhere.”
Big Tech déjà vu
Of note, two weeks after being notified by the NSA of the contract, Microsoft filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office over the deal – temporarily freezing the finalization of the Amazon contract.
If this story sounds familiar, another litigious clash involving a Commercial Cloud Enterprise contract worth tens of billions of dollars took place between the two tech giants in 2019. Amazon, then playing the role of spoiler, had claimed then-president Donald Trump had influenced the decision to award Microsoft the contract over his disdain for Amazon founder Jeffery Bezos. In a move that shocked the tech world, the Pentagon canceled the multi-billion dollar deal to pursue one involving both Amazon and Microsoft.
According to Washington Technology, Microsoft lawyers are arguing that the NSA did not conduct a thorough evaluation before awarding the coveted contract.
Amazon’s massive growth – much like that of Tesla – comes in no small part to its success at obtaining subsidies. Dating back to 2012, the company has obtained over 20 economic subsidy packages each year for its warehouses and data centers; the subsidies are valued at over $4 billion and counting.
As the lines between the state and industry continue to blur, the concept of the “private company” is becoming a distant memory – while concepts like crony capitalism and fascism grow more recognizable with each contract and state hearing.