DOD works to debunk JEDI 'myths' as IG announces review

In a recent briefing, Defense Department CIO Dana Deasy focused on DOD's cloud strategy and debunking "myths" about the JEDI procurement, but the inspector general just announced a review of the program.

DWith the Defense Department's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud procurement getting attention from the White House, the new Defense Secretary and business press, DOD CIO Dana Deasy held an Aug. 9 briefing clarifying the thrust of the department's digital modernization strategy and updating the progress on the $10 billion, 10-year procurement.

Pushing back on language being used in the press that the program was on hold, Deasy said the JEDI procurement is continuing on schedule, but an August award is not in the cards. "There is not a pause on the overall JEDI program, meaning that we are still a number of weeks away from completion of the overall evaluation," he said.

Since DOD won the lawsuit brought by Oracle in the Court of Federal Claims, Deasy said, the Defense Department is "now able to pivot our full attention, the energy of everybody's time and efforts back towards the completion of the evaluation."

The department will also have to consult the inspector general's office, which is currently investigating potential violations, should a final award be made before the report is complete.

In an Aug. 13 email to reporters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General said that "a multidisciplinary team of auditors, investigators and attorneys" has been assembled to review the program.

"We are reviewing the DOD's handing of the JEDI cloud acquisition, including the development of requirements and the request for proposal process," spokesperson Dwrena K. Allen wrote. "In addition, we are investigating whether current or former DOD officials committed misconduct relating to the JEDI acquisition, such as whether any had any conflicts of interest related to their involvement in the acquisition process."

Allen described the review as "ongoing" and said that the team was "making substantial progress." The results of the review will be shared with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Congress, and a publicly released report is under consideration.

In his Aug. 9 briefing, Deasy said DOD Secretary Mark Esper's review is likely still weeks from completion. DOD will not award a contract if the source selection process wraps before Esper completes the probe.

Deasy said his job was to educate Esper so "he will have a good understanding" of the consequences of not continuing with JEDI. To ensure this, Deasy plans on bringing in technical expertise from U.S. Cyber Command, representatives from the military services and combatant commands over several weeks.

DOD released a slide deck dated July 25 and an accompanying fact sheet ahead of the briefing, which focused on DOD's cloud strategy and debunking "myths" about the JEDI procurement respectively.

The material makes a point of noting that DOD is only on the hook to pay $1 million to its JEDI winner as a "guaranteed minimum" and there are multiple option periods to make sure DOD "is not locked in." Additionally, the documents note that JEDI is one piece of a broader cloud push.

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who heads the DOD's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) said that cloud is a key piece of DOD's AI strategy.

"While we moved fast in Project Maven, delivering the first AI capabilities to a combat theater within six months of standing up, there is no question whatsoever that both Maven and the JAIC would be much further along right now with A.I. fielding, had we had an enterprise cloud solution in place as originally scheduled," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said that the enterprise cloud will support efforts already underway to push data and intelligence to the edge in combat situations. Shanahan outlined a new Project Maven push called "smart system" currently in development and being fielded in Afghanistan. Smart system is "an AI-enabled [operations-intelligence] fusion system" that works in conjunction with a system used by Special Operations Command. The system generates a lot of data on the battlefield, but Shanahan said, there's "no common fabric" for cleaning the data to share with other users and integrating that data with new algorithms and applications requires a lot of human labor.

"If I am a warfighter, I want as much data as you could possibly give me, let me use my sort of algorithms to sort through it … at machine speeds, let the machines do that, but the humans think," Shanahan said. "It's really hard for me to do that without … an enterprise cloud solution."

Adam Mazmanian contributed to this report.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

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