Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Friday, December 14, 2018
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DoD Insists on Single JEDI Cloud Provider 

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The Defense Department is sticking to its guns on a plan to award a single, huge contract for cloud computing that would support U.S. military operations.

In a report to Congress justifying the single-source contract award, the Pentagon’s chief management officer argued that selecting one cloud vendor would help expedite the rollout of the enterprise-wide cloud initiative called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI. The conclusions of the DoD report were first reported by the web site FCW.

Rivals for the hotly contested contract suspect the procurement is tilted toward Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN), which is certified to handle top-secret military data and provides cloud infrastructure to U.S. intelligence agencies. Their protests prompted the congressionally-mandated report.

According to FCW, the five-year JEDI contract is expected to be worth about $1.6 billion, although some estimates on the value of the DoD cloud deployment run as high as $10 billion.

John Gibson II, the Pentagon’s chief management officer, told Congress that DoD acquisition officials want to avoid a cumbersome multiple award contract followed by individual task orders. “That pace could prevent DoD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable,” Gibson stated.

According to FCW, the report also made the case for a standardized approach to military cloud deployment as a way to avoid "inconsistent and non-standardized infrastructures across classification levels [that] complicates development and distribution of software applications, potentially adding delays and costs….”

The report estimates there are more than 500 cloud acquisition and data migration efforts underway within DoD, leaving data scattered across clouds and “further inhibit[ing] the ability to access and analyze critical data,” the report states.

Despite DoD’s preference for a single enterprise cloud provider, lawmakers face intense lobbying efforts from AWS’ rivals to divvy up the JEDI contract. An earlier DoD attempt to award a single-source cloud migration services contract to a small northern Virginia systems integrator, REAN Cloud, was eventually scaled back in response to industry protests from $950 million to just $65 million.

The DoD report to Congress did identify some progress toward consolidating U.S. military cloud infrastructure. Pentagon agencies have begun shifting operations to an existing platform dubbed MilCloud 2.0at a faster pace than expected, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA awarded a $498 million contract last year to CSRA to provide commercial cloud services to the military services and defense agencies. (CSRA was acquired by General Dynamics in April.)

DoD’s report to Congress noted that JEDI could be integrated with MilCloud, particularly as a way of reducing cloud hosting costs.

Meanwhile, a final request for proposals for the JEDI program is expected by the end of May. A contract award could come as early as September. As with most large government procurements, observers anticipate the contract award to a single vendor will touch off another round of formal protests.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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