IBM Files Bid Protest Against Pentagon’s JEDI Contract

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IBM becomes the second company to file a pre-award bid protest against the Pentagon’s multibillion cloud contract.

IBM filed a bid protest Wednesday against the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract.

The pre-award protest, filed with the Government Accountability Office, comes days before the Oct. 12 deadline for the Pentagon to accept bids from cloud service providers. IBM officials told Nextgov they still plan to submit a bid for JEDI, but the company’s protest takes issue with the Defense Department’s decision to award JEDI to a single cloud service provider.

“JEDI’s primary flaw lies in mandating a single cloud environment for up to 10 years,” said Sam Gordy, General Manager for IBM Federal, in a blog post announcing the protest. “Leading global enterprises want clouds that are flexible, provide access to the best applications from multiple vendors, and can smoothly transition legacy systems. JEDI is a complete departure from these best practices.”

In a call, Gordy told Nextgov the company waited to file the protest in hopes of the Pentagon moving toward a multi-cloud approach. While the Pentagon did amend the JEDI procurement, it didn’t waiver on its decision to stick with one cloud provider.

“We felt an imperative to protest because at the end of the day, no business in the world would structure their cloud the way JEDI is and lock themselves in for a decade,” Gordy told Nextgov. “This pre-submission protest is our last opportunity to influence it.”

Oracle, another JEDI competitor, protested the JEDI solicitation in August on similar grounds. Oracle has subsequently filed a series of amended protests in the months since under legal seal, with a final decision expected from GAO by mid-November.

IBM’s protest appears to raise additional issues beyond the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract to a single company. Gordy said JEDI flies in the face of the Office of Management and Budget’s Cloud Smart policy that emphasizes “the need for multi-cloud and hybrid solutions.”

“That’s not what we see in JEDI, which also ignores the intent of Congress to ensure America’s warfighters benefit from healthy competition and access to multiple technologies from multiple suppliers,” Gordy said.

IBM also contends the JEDI solicitation “restricts the field of competition,” suggesting certain requirements outlined in JEDI “mirror one vendor’s internal processes or unnecessarily mandate that certain capabilities be in place by the bid submission deadline versus when the work would actually begin.

“Such rigid requirements serve only one purpose: to arbitrarily narrow the field of bidders,” Gordy said.

GAO has 100 days to issue a decision in the protest.

“Our desired outcome would be for GAO to suggest or direct the Defense Department to take corrective action,” Gordy told Nextgov.

JEDI will put a commercial company in charge of hosting and distributing mission-critical workloads and classified data to warfighters around the globe in a single cloud. The Defense Department’s previously aimed to have some operating capabilities by mid-2019, but it is not clear how protests may affect that schedule. The contract has generated significant competition and battle between industry titans that has taken place in public and private.

Last week, Google pulled out of the competition and Microsoft, another competitor, announced Tuesday that it would compete for JEDI. Most experts believe Amazon Web Services, which hosts some of the CIA’s classified data in its C2S cloud, is the frontrunner for JEDI.

Editor's note: This article was updated with additional comments from IBM.