‘Star Wars’ References Stripped From Pentagon Memo on Cloud Computing

Updated on
  • C3PO and Jedi invoked before top official rewrites message
  • Defense Department trying to sell cloud computing across silos

Pat Shanahan

Photographer: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Force just wasn’t with the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian when he tried to inject “Star Wars” references into a memo setting up the Defense Department’s multibillion-dollar cloud computing initiative.

In a memo issued Jan. 4 and rescinded about an hour later, Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan announced a new “Central Cloud Computing Program Office” -- or “C3PO” -- to “acquire the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud.”

“C3PO is authorized to obligate funds as necessary in support of the JEDI Cloud,” Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. executive, wrote, managing to get a beloved droid from the space-themed movies and an equally popular fictional order of warriors into what otherwise would be a routine message in the Pentagon bureaucracy.

The memo was recalled because “it was issued in error,” according to Shanahan’s spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis.

A new, more conventional memo issued Jan. 8 renames the office the “Cloud Computing Program Manager,” or CCPM. The JEDI reference simply disappeared.

The official Star Wars.com website describes C-3PO as “a droid programmed for etiquette and protocol built by the heroic Jedi Anakin Skywalker.” The JEDI Order, typified by Luke Skywalker, is defined as a “noble order of protectors unified by their ability to tap into the power of the Force” to serve as “guardians of peace and justice in the Galactic Republic.”

Related story: Pentagon’s Cloud Transition Under a Hush Order

On Earth, Shanahan and Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, are leading the effort to move the Pentagon toward cloud computing in a bid to preserve the U.S. military’s technological advantages over China and Russia while finding new ways to secure sensitive databases.

Lord has said separate data silos -- even within each military service -- prevent real-time sharing of information among war-fighters and adoption of new technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. An “industry day” that’s still to be scheduled is planned before a request for proposals to be issued by March 31.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.