Esper's JEDI review continues

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has no deadline for completing his review of DOD's planned $10 billion JEDI cloud buy.

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he has no timetable to complete a review of the Pentagon's planned $10-billion cloud computing acquisition.

Esper told reporters traveling with him en route to European Command last week that he had questions around "strategy" and whether the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud program was "handled properly."

Esper announced his plan to review the controversial program at a July 24 news conference a day after he was sworn in as the DOD chief. The secretary told reporters on Sept. 5 that the timeline of the completion of the review and any subsequent contract award also depends on the conclusion of an ongoing inspector general investigation.

"I have no firm timeline in mind. I want to make sure I get to the point where I'm comfortable enough to know it," he said on Sept. 5.

So far, Esper's review has included multiple two-hour briefings and reading independent reports as well as congressional correspondence outlining concerns with the procurement.

The IG review Esper referenced was launched June 11 but only publicly announced last month. It includes a look at the acquisitions process, the writing of requirements for prospective vendors and a review of whether there was any misconduct by current or former DOD officials. A lawsuit brought by Oracle, a vendor that was eliminated from the bidding because it didn't meet the basic requirements, alleged that defense officials wrote JEDI requirements with an eye to awarding the contract to Amazon Web Services. AWS and Microsoft are still in the running for the lucrative cloud deal. That lawsuit was decided in favor of the Defense Department, but Oracle is appealing the verdict.

In his remarks, Esper endorsed the overall goal of the cloud program but said he was examining whether JEDI itself is the right vehicle.

"I do know that cloud-based [artificial intelligence] capability is important to the warfighter. I know that. And so we need to move in that direction, and sooner rather than later," Esper said. "And the question is, as I said before, is JEDI the right strategy? Was it handled properly? Is it fair to the taxpayer? All those things. That's kind of what I'm trying to understand."

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