Pentagon’s Effort to Supply Departmentwide Cloud Capabilities is Delayed, Again

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Officials say they essentially underestimated how long it would take to review plans from the four cloud service providers.

The Defense Department is delaying the award for its latest multibillion-dollar program to provide enterprise-wide commercial cloud services to the end of the year—which means certain solutions likely won’t be deployed until at least mid-2023.

Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Oracle were named by the Pentagon as contenders for the potentially massive $9 billion Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract in November and invited to submit proposals. 

But DOD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said “conducting the due diligence with four vendors” is taking more time than previously anticipated and that is contributing to the shift from the original award scheduled for April 2022.

“There's no problem with anything, but it's just a matter of doing this really unprecedented enterprise cloud procurement here in the DOD,” Sherman told reporters on Tuesday. “[A]s we've gotten into this and leaned into it with four vendors, we recognize that our schedule was maybe a little too ahead of what we thought and that now we're going to wrap up in the fall and we're aiming to award in December.”

During a press briefing, Sherman and other senior defense officials confirmed that JWCC is currently structured as potentially four separate indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, with a total ceiling of $9 billion. Only the four cloud service providers that received solicitations will compete—but none are guaranteed an award under JWCC.

Their impending contracts will have a three-year base period with two one-year options. And at JWCC’s conclusion, officials said the Pentagon intends to launch a full and open competition for a future multi-cloud acquisition. 

DOD’s Deputy CIO for Information Enterprise Danielle Metz noted that unclassified data and associated services are anticipated to be available at the time of award. Secret data and capabilities at impact level 6 would be within 60 days of the contracts, and “top secret and out to the tactical edge” services would come no later than 180 days after contract award.

“What sets JWCC apart from the other current cloud service offerings that we have is that this is going to be a direct partnership with a cloud service provider. So, it’s going to enable us to be able to have commercial parity and to hold into account the cloud service providers from a cybersecurity perspective,” she explained. “We'll be able to glean a lot and work closely with the cloud service providers, which will set the stage for our future acquisition activities.”

JWCC is set to replace the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, which was tied up for years in protests and litigation. Its award is expected to mark a pivotal shift in how the Defense Department buys departmentwide services with a deliberate focus on multiple vendors and interoperability for a common solution. 

Sharon Woods, who leads the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Hosting and Compute Center, said in December that the new direction could  “remove a lot of the barriers that have slowed down mission owners: contracting, acquisition, task orders, how the funding flows,” while also fast-tracking mission partners’ ability to get the capabilities they need.