Pentagon cancels JEDI contract

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract is dead and the Pentagon is pressing forward with a multivendor, direct award approach to better fit warfighter needs.

DOD cloud

The Defense Department’s controversial Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud program is dead and a new multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract approach called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability will take JEDI’s place.

Acting DOD CIO John Sherman told reporters on July 6 that the department is issuing a presolicitation notice for JWCC, indicating 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.

The news comes as DOD pushes for more artificial intelligence and data analysis capabilities with combatant commands and as lawmakers press for faster milCloud 2.0 adoption amid JEDI’s troubles.

DOD first indicated it might abandon JEDI in January. Kathleen Hicks, the deputy defense secretary, hinted again at the move in June.

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 come with old problems.

When asked if this direct-award approach could cause similar protests and concerns of taking an anti-competitive approach, Sherman said the 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, told FCW 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 stay tuned.”

Microsoft wrote in a blog post that it understands DOD’s “rationale” and that the decision “doesn’t change the DOD Inspector General’s finding that there was no evidence of interference in the procurement process. And it doesn’t change the fact that the DoD and other federal agencies – indeed, large enterprises worldwide – select Microsoft to support their cloud computing and digital transformation needs on a regular basis.

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.”