The Defense Department will opt for a new multibillion-dollar, multi-vendor contract.
The Defense Department is canceling the embattled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, officials announced Tuesday.
“With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,” a DOD spokesperson said in an announcement shared with media.
Cancellation of the JEDI project comes with a new DOD cloud effort called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, or JWCC. The project will be a multi-cloud, multi-vendor indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. Like with JEDI, DOD anticipates a multibillion-dollar ceiling. The JWCC will start with a three-year base period and two one-year options.
The new pre-solicitation calls for bids from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft “as available market research indicates that” the two companies are the only ones that meet the department’s current cloud needs, though other cloud service providers may be considered. Acting Chief Information Officer John Sherman said during a media briefing Tuesday he would be reaching out to other cloud service providers not named in the documents—specifically, Google, Oracle and IBM—later today.
“The additional market research that we're doing between now and mid-October 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, adding that if other providers can meet the department’s requirements and timeline, they will be considered in the direct solicitation.
DOD expects to extend direct solicitations in mid-October and anticipates direct awards in April 2022.
Sherman also confirmed that the Pentagon will be working directly with cloud service providers and will not contract with a company or systems integrator to manage the program during the direct award time period. The Cloud Computing Program Office, a part of the Defense Information Systems Agency, will manage the project. A full and open procurement phase, which Sherman said is likely to begin in 2025, is expected to follow the direct award phase.
“For the near term, however, we are confident the direct award path is absolutely required and appropriate to enable us to bring urgently needed enterprise cloud capabilities to the force,” Sherman said. “The JWCC will serve that purpose, and be a bridge for our longer term approach, allowing us to leverage cloud technology from headquarters to the tactical edge, which will bolster our knowledge even further as we move to a full and open competition.”
The JEDI cloud contract, first conceptualized by the Defense Department in 2017, was designed to be the Pentagon’s war cloud, providing a common and connected global IT fabric at all classification levels for its many customer agencies and warfighters. However, the contract has been delayed for multiple years, in part due to a series of lawsuits that had caused the Pentagon to reconsider its single-award approach to enterprisewide cloud computing. The contract was valued at up to $10 billion if all its options were exercised.
Microsoft has won JEDI twice, but a federal court’s injunction in response to Amazon Web Services’ continued JEDI protest has prevented any significant work under the contract. Pentagon officials have repeatedly stated the need for enterprisewide cloud computing across the Defense Department, but have had to make do with other smaller cloud programs without JEDI.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks teased a JEDI update in June during the Defense One Tech Summit months after the acting chief information officer in a January information paper shared with Congress and media hinted JEDI’s days were numbered.
“We understand the DoD’s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided,” Toni Townes-Whitley, president of Microsoft’s U.S. Regulated Industries, said In a blog post Tuesday. “The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward. The security of the United States is more important than any single contract, and we know that Microsoft will do well when the nation does well.”
In a statement to Nextgov, Amazon Web Services said it agreed with the Defense Department’s decision to terminate JEDI.
“We understand and agree with the DoD’s decision. Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement,” an AWS spokesperson said. “Our commitment to supporting our nation’s military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology at the best price is stronger than ever. We look forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.”