JEDI is no more, but military's enterprise cloud push goes on

The Defense Department has canceled its controversial and heavily-litigated JEDI cloud infrastructure contract in favor of a new contract with a multi-vendor approach, which will be divided initially between the same two vendors that contested the former.

The Defense Department’s decision to cancel the much-debated and controversial JEDI cloud infrastructure contract will take the military in a new direction to get that underlying capability.

DOD said in a statement Tuesday that it is nixing the JEDI initiative in favor of a new contract vehicle called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, which the Pentagon characterizes as “multi-cloud/multi-vendor.”

But this second attempt by DOD to acquire enterprise commercial cloud computing technology will stick with the same two competitors involved initially.

What is now JWCC will be divided between JEDI’s twice-chosen winner in Microsoft and the other bidder in Amazon Web Services, the global e-commerce and technology conglomerate’s cloud computing arm.

The Pentagon will initially seek proposals from only Microsoft and AWS as “available market research indicates” they are the only two cloud hosting providers “capable of meeting the department’s requirements,” according to the announcement.

Direct solicitations should go to the companies in mid-October with awards to follow in April 2022. Both contracts will have a three-year base period and up to two individual option years.

DOD also said it will continue its market research to see if other cloud hosting vendors could fulfill the requirements and specifications.

Both JWCC and JEDI before that have all been intended to give DOD a global IT foundation upon which the military could gain other related capabilities in artificial intelligence, data storage, analytics and command-and-control.

Microsoft was initially awarded the JEDI contract in October 2019 and again nearly a year later after DOD undertook a partial corrective action in response to a lawsuit filed by AWS over the source selection process.

An ongoing injunction from a federal judge has held up much of the work on JEDI by the department and Microsoft. The Court of Federal Claims judge hearing AWS' lawsuit ruled in April that the case could go forward.

In a blog post published Tuesday, Microsoft’s president of U.S. regulated industries Toni Townes-Whitley expressed the company’s support for DOD’s decision to go down a different path than the heavily-litigated JEDI effort.

“Even though we couldn’t work directly with the DOD on JEDI while the protest was in the courts, the investments we’ve continued to make in support of the contract requirements ensure that Microsoft will be an even stronger competitor for future contracts,” Townes-Whitley wrote.

“DOD has a critical unmet need to bring the power of cloud and AI to our men and women in uniform, modernizing technology infrastructure and platform services technology.”

Amazon Web Services likewise is in agreement with the decision to cancel JEDI and also sounds ready to move on given the company's argument that the award was subject to political influence from then-Trump administration officials.

"Unfortunately, the (JEDI) 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 in an emailed statement to WT.

"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.”

(NOTE: This story was subsequently updated with comment from Amazon Web Services)