As I have discussed in a recent post, Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel is pushing for government IT initiatives that “enable the delivery of digital information and services anytime, anywhere, on any device, safely and securely-throughout the Federal workforce and to the American public.” This digital government movement seeks to develop a more open and agile government IT system, and is driven by the coming of age of cloud computing.

But can military and defense agencies be a part of this movement to the cloud? And if so, how can they reap the benefits of cloud computing while mitigating risks?

Pros and Cons of the Federal Cloud

Listing the benefits of cloud computing is easy: not only can the cloud help large agencies save on IT infrastructure costs, but it also allows for “on-demand” access to computing power from any location.  Though all agencies need to be aware of the costs of the cloud, these benefits alone make it an easy choice for many within government.

When it comes to the military and defense community, however, there are several key factors to consider that make moving to the cloud more of a risk:

  • Security and privacy: In defense IT, data location and access is of critical importance, and different data exist at different levels of sensitivity and importance. As a result, defense and military outlets may be wary of moving their classified data and mission-critical computer power off-site.
  • Enterprise-wide cost: Since the military’s IT infrastructure is large and complex, moving the entire enterprise to the cloud would undoubtedly be expensive. This is compounded by the fact that off-the-shelf technology would need to be augmented by a host of add-ons to meet the vast needs of the defense community – all leading to higher costs and a complicated infrastructure.
  • Support: A smoothly-operating IT system is critical to the mission of today’s military. Though many cloud solution providers can offer a high level of support, it may be too early to tell if existing providers can handle the volume that would be required for cloud support across the defense enterprise.


From where I sit, it seems as though the cloud has a hybrid future in the U.S. military and defense community.  To mitigate risks, the defense community could adopt cloud solutions for networks with lower security requirements while maintaining on-site infrastructure for sensitive and classified data.  Alternatively, the defense community could also consider managed hosting as a solution for ensuring that mission-critical learning and training content is safe and secure.

There are many other ways the military can be a part of the digital government movement beyond moving to the cloud. Increasing the use of mobile devices, apps, and even social media in training is just one way that the defense community can leverage new technologies for both cost savings and more effective professional learning.

Are there other ways your military or defense agency is joining the digital government movement? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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