Enterprise cloud contract could ‘turbocharge’ AI in Pentagon

JWCC will allow the Defense Department to harness artificial intelligence capabilities from the four vendors awarded under the contract, according to David McKeown.
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BALTIMORE, Md. — The Pentagon’s enterprise cloud effort, the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), will provide the Department of Defense artificial intelligence capabilities from top commercial vendors.

“With JWCC coming on board, it’s not just an infrastructure as a service contract vehicle. All of the SaaS offerings that these major vendors have, they’re going to bring them to the table as they build these custom-built clouds for us. The AI that Google has is going to be there. Others are delving into it. Oracle, AWS, Microsoft. Expect that it will be there,” David McKeown, acting principal deputy chief information officer and senior information security officer at the Pentagon, said Wednesday at the AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference.

JWCC, awarded in December of 2022, was the DOD’s highly anticipated enterprise cloud effort that replaced the maligned Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program. Google, Oracle, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft were all awarded under the contract and will each compete for task orders.

Tech companies have been heavy investing in artificial intelligence capabilities. Google and Microsoft have unveiled chatbots using generative AI, which can provide users with texts, images and even carry on conversations based on prompts.


McKeown warned that data must be made available in all four vendors’ environments to facilitate the employment of AI analytics.

“As we move forward with our Joint Warfighting Cloud Computing contracts and we established large data repositories in these different cloud vendors’ environments, we can’t afford to duplicate that data. We’ve got to figure out a way to make that data available to all four of those clouds and searchable to all four of those clouds so that we can run the AI analytics over that,” he said. “We’re working on that and I think there’s some evolving solutions there.”

After taking advantage of the artificial intelligence capabilities that organizations have to offer, the next step, McKeown said, is to determine what problems they want to “turbocharge” solutions for by applying AI to them.

“We’ve got to structure our efforts in the future on very well-defined problems that we want to solve and then bring AI to the fight to solve that problem,” he added.

While artificial intelligence can be a powerful tool for the DOD, on the flip side, McKeown warned of concerns of potential adversary uses of the technology.


“The adversary having this is a big concern. What are they going to do to use that to figure out how to penetrate our information systems and steal our data?” he said. “AI is pretty scary in the capabilities that it has. It can be very beneficial, as we’ve discussed, but we need to also take a vantage point of our adversaries and figure out how they’re going to use it against us and start to defend against that.”

Earlier at the conference, Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, warned of how revolutionary these capabilities can be in the wrong hands.

“Generative AI, I would offer, is probably one of the most disruptive technologies and initiatives in a very long, long time,” he said on Tuesday. “Those who harness that [and] that can understand how to best leverage it … are going to be the ones that have the high ground.”

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