Pentagon moves on from JEDI

The Pentagon plans to replace the $10 billion cloud contract with a new multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability.

The Defense Department has cancelled its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud program, and aims to replace it with a new multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability.

The Pentagon will be issuing a presolicitation notice for JWCC, acting DOD CIO John Sherman told reporters on July 6. He indicated that DOD will seek proposals from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services because market research “assessed that both of these [companies] will be able to meet the department’s enterprise cloud requirements.”

A solicitation is expected in October with awards made by June 2022. Sherman said the plan is to fully realize the JWCC by 2025, testing and tweaking the new environment, and working out scope and scale from next year onward. DOD officials wouldn’t specify how much the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract would be worth beyond it reaching the billions of dollars. The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Cloud Computing Program Office will orchestrate the move.

Sherman said the JWCC is intended to “be a bridge to our longer-term approach, allowing us to leverage cloud technology from the headquarters to the tactical edge,” at all security levels. Sherman said nothing the DOD has in place now does that.

DOD first indicated it might abandon JEDI in January. Kathleen Hicks, the deputy defense secretary, hinted again at the move in June. Amid JEDI’s troubles, lawmakers last week pressed for faster milCloud 2.0 adoption.

There are still questions, however, about whether the new approach, which aims to underscore transparency and openly align DOD’s needs with cloud service providers’ offerings, could resurrect old problems.

When asked if this direct-award approach could cause similar protests and concerns around taking an anti-competitive approach, Sherman said direct engagement with company leadership should preclude that.

“The additional market research that we’re doing between now and mid-October of this year will enable us to be able to engage those vendors directly to ensure that our market research is as thorough as possible,” Sherman said. “And if any of the other hyperscale cloud services providers in the United States can meet our requirements by the time of our award timeline, then they will be considered in the direct solicitation as well.”

Alex Sarria, a government contract attorney with Miller & Chevalier, said the move indicates that politics clouded the JEDI procurement’s process.

“The decision to initially solicit bids from only Microsoft and AWS for a multiple-award contract signals three things: First, DOD would rather recompete this massive requirement than face the political bias allegations that AWS raised in its protest,” Sarria said via email.

“Second, DOD apparently has concluded that AWS can satisfy its requirements, even though AWS was not selected for an award in JEDI,” he wrote. “Third, DOD seems to think no other sources can meet its requirements, but it is going to test that conclusion by conducting additional market research.”

Sarria added that protests from other cloud service providers, such as Oracle, could resurface “if DOD confirms its original analysis.... So stay tuned.”

Sherman insisted the new direction has less to do with JEDI’s protracted legal battle and more to do with evolving user needs.

“In terms of major tech procurements, we’ve learned to stay very closely aligned to our mission needs, to engage our stakeholders and to make sure we’re keeping up with technology in the private sector as well,” Sherman said. “This has been a heavy lift ... we’re determined to get this one right.”

“JEDI was the right approach at the time,” Sherman said. “Had the award happened when we were hoping it would’ve, we would’ve been having this multicloud discussion anyway.”

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