Congress Tells Pentagon to Justify Its Single Cloud Plan

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The omnibus spending package directs the Pentagon to outline its cloud strategy and share reports, costs and other details related to its JEDI procurement.

Congress is beginning to scrutinize the Defense Department’s plan to award its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract—which could be worth as much as $10 billion over 10 years—to a single cloud provider rather than multiple companies.

In a legislative report accompanying the $1.3 trillion funding packaged unveiled Wednesday, lawmakers voiced “concerns” over the Pentagon’s decision-making and called for swift explanations.

“There are concerns about the proposed duration of a single contract, questions about the best value for the taxpayer, and how to ensure the highest security is maintained,” the report states.

The report requires the Pentagon to produce two reports specific to its cloud computing efforts for Congressional defense committees.

The first, due within 45 days of the appropriations bill’s passage, requests specific information regarding the JEDI procurement. The JEDI procurement dates back to a decision last fall to pursue an enterprisewide cloud contract.

The report requests “the amounts requested in the fiscal year 2018 and 2019 budget for this and all other cloud computing services acquisitions by appropriation” as well as “fiscal year 2019 future years defense program levels for cloud computing services; identification and justification for acquisitions” and “where other transactional authorities will be utilized.”

OTAs, a method of procurement outside the Federal Acquisition Regulation, gathered attention in recent weeks after the Defense Department issued—then significantly reduced—the value of a contract award to Virginia-based REAN Cloud. Though the REAN Cloud OTA is not part of the JEDI cloud procurement, industry is watching the department’s cloud contracts closely.

Finally, the report requests certifications that tech chiefs from all military commands and other key defense officials were “consulted during the drafting of the [JEDI] request for proposal.”

The second report—due 60 days following the omnibus’ passage—directs the defense secretary to outline the Pentagon’s cloud strategy, including “standards, best practices, contract types and exit strategies to ensure government flexibility as requirements evolve.”

It also asks the Defense Department to spell out why a single-award contract is better than a multi-award cloud contract, which the majority of industry favors.

“The report should also include justification, to include cost considerations, for executing a single-award contract rather than creating an infrastructure capable of storing and sharing data across multiple cloud computing service providers concurrently, to include data migration and middleware costs,” the report states.

The Pentagon released a draft RFP for its JEDI cloud procurement in early March, the same day it held an industry day. Congressmen had previously kept relatively quiet about the procurement, given the Pentagon’s mixed signals regarding whether it would pursue a single- or multiple-award approach. Now that the Defense Department has seemingly solidified its approach, lawmakers are beginning to talk publicly about the procurement.

James Langevin, D-R.I, ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, told Nextgov he’ll monitor it to ensure it is ultimately beneficial to national security.

“There are many excellent and capable technology companies in the defense industrial base that are willing and capable of competing for this contract, and I am pleased they will be given the opportunity to bid in an open process. The Defense Digital Service has stated that while this contract will be a single award, it is not restricted to a single vendor, meaning that teams can compete,” Langevin said. “But as they move forward towards achieving cloud capability, I will continue to monitor the proceedings to ensure that the process is open and fair, and ultimately beneficial to our national security.”