Army looking into commercial solution for Cloud purchasing

By Elizabeth UrbaniakSeptember 8, 2021

A team of contracting professionals from Army Contracting Command-Rock Island is supporting a revolutionary change to the Army’s Cloud purchasing that will have a wide-reaching impact on the Army’s commercial Cloud procedures.

Stephanie Wilson, Agreements Officer, and Jason Caulkins, Agreements Specialist, have been working on the Enterprise Cloud Management Agency’s (ECMA) Cloud Account Management Optimization (CAMO) prototype since May 2020 and awarded an Other Transactional Authority (OTA) agreement in March 2021.

An OTA is a type of contracting vehicle that may be used to engage industry and academia for a broad range of research and prototype requirements. OTAs reside outside of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and have been utilized by government agencies for decades.

Caulkins states the reason why the team chose to use an OTA agreement versus a traditional FAR based contract was the flexibility the OTA allows the government to prototype in a more agile, commercial manner.

Wilson said that one of the tenets of the OTA is the usage of competition, especially using competition to encourage non-traditional contractors to bid for the prototypes.

“The Army wants to utilize competition to the greatest extent because OTA allows the government the ability to speak to industry in a way that traditional FAR contracting does not. Using OTAs lets us have that open dialogue with our industry partners to help us determine how industry can support the government without operational gaps,” said Wilson.

According to Wilson, this prototype agreement is to change the way the Army purchases Cloud from an estimation-based model to a consumption-based process.

Wilson said that the Army has been purchasing Cloud commercially for a couple decades, but has been buying it haphazardly by focusing on the specific programmatic requirements of each individual customer, while not taking into consideration the aggregate usage of the Army.

“If we purchase programmatically, the Army isn’t taking into consideration the benefits of purchasing portfolio-wide or even enterprise-wide,” said Wilson.

Wilson said prototyping the Cloud purchasing process is a massive effort. The OTA, valued at $330 million, has a Period of Performance (PoP) of 24 months as well as the ability to continue prototyping for another 24 months for a total of 48 months. The awardee is currently working with Amazon and Microsoft as the cloud compute and store infrastructure providers.

“ECMA is certainly hoping that the awardee can prototype the process within the 24 months, but if additional time is needed, ECMA would rather have a successful prototype,” said Wilson. “ECMA is hoping that once the prototype process is underway that it will be rolled out to the Army as an Enterprise solution.”

Wilson said that customers are able to purchase cloud compute and store now as that infrastructure will be used as the platform in which the process is prototyped in real time. Customers will begin to see the consumption-based process develop as the prototype develops. The OTA’s prototyping effort includes the goal of adding user functionality with the creation of tools such as a Cloud purchasing dashboard.

“The whole purpose with what we are trying to achieve is giving the customer access to the dashboard to manage its compute and store on a consumption-based process hopefully saving the customer time as well as money,” said Wilson. “That is really the benefit for the Army and our Army customers. The Army will be more efficient in buying Cloud, which would not only streamline the way we do our purchases but will also allow the Army to see and understand its Cloud purchases as an enterprise.”

Wilson said the new process will be a huge rollout for the Army and Army stakeholders, whose requirements touch the Cloud, so if anyone has any questions on how this might affect them, the team is available to help.

“Because of us trying to change the purchasing process, there are many secondary and tertiary effects that the team is going to have in the way that the Army purchases its cloud compute and store, and the ECMA and ACC-RI team is looking to address those.”