Ross Wilkers

CLOUD

DOD gives JEDI cloud update, but what has really changed?

The Defense Department is going full steam ahead with its big-ticket, single-winner-take-all JEDI cloud computing contract even as the overall temperature around it heated up this week and a pre-award protest.

DOD on Friday released several documents for the potential 10-year, $10 billion Joint Defense Enterprise Infrastructure contract that include an updated list of questions from industry and answers from government. This release on FedBizOpps also touts a series of changes to the RFP including to the overall statement of objectives, definitions, pricing scenarios and small business information.

But how DOD carried out this release is unusual. Typically, an agency releases those changes in a Microsoft Word document in the so-called “Track Changes” mode or similar redline version so those updates are clearly noted.

DOD released these latest changes in a separate PDF document to summarize them. The amended documents have a change bar in the left margin with the revisions.

The timeline and overall approach remains as stated, as DOD was more than happy to remind everyone in the buildup to the final solicitation’s release July 26 and in the RFP itself. Questions pertaining to the final RFP were due Aug. 16 and all bids must be in by Sept. 17.

That said, the updated Q&A posted Friday does state the government will consider an extension of the final bid due date, possibly by another 30 or 60 days.

DOD’s release of the Q&A and other “changes” caps off an eventful week for the JEDI contract, which many analysts and market observers believe Amazon Web Services is the favorite to win. Some believe the JEDI requirements and its status as a single-award are too tailored for AWS, but other market watchers I have spoken with believe Microsoft is also a strong contender. IBM will also bid for JEDI as a prime.

If it were possible, the overall temperature surrounding JEDI went up several notches Monday when Defense One and Nextgov jointly reported the existence of a 150-page “dossier” that a Washington, D.C.-based private intelligence company promoted to several media outlets including themselves. Allegations in that dossier have been reported in other national publications including Vanity Fair.

Essentially, the dossier prepared and compiled by that intelligence firm in RosettiStarr alleges improper links between DOD and a consulting firm that did work for AWS. That consulting firm was led by Sally Donnelly, a former senior adviser to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

RosettiStarr declined to tell Defense One and Nextgov who funded and backed the dossier. Donnelly, DOD and AWS all deny the allegations in that dossier.

That dossier’s existence being revealed on top of the pre-award protest Oracle filed Aug. 6 against JEDI all somehow brought this high-profile cloud pact even more into the public eye. The crux of Oracle’s argument is against the single-award strategy and also claims that DOD’s public statements contradict how the agency is going about JEDI.

JEDI’s size and specs, including DOD’s envisioned nature of it being a cloud environment for warfighters also have added to the public and private chatter. At our Aug. 17 WT Power Breakfast event, former CSRA CEO Larry Prior said Amazon’s win five years ago of the $600 million CIA cloud contract changed the government IT market forever and JEDI could have a similar if not greater impact.

The CIA’s acceptance of commercial cloud makes it easier for other agencies to do the same, he said. But JEDI “is just so big… it’s put itself way up on the skyline and it feels like a battle of the titans.”

And as Prior pointed out, many government agencies run their financial management systems based on Oracle products with cloud a component of that. Fear of a lockout in the event of missing out on JEDI also is a factor, he said.

It makes too much sense that Oracle -- and possibly other protesters before and after award -- do not want to let this big one slip without a fight.

With respect to the updated JEDI RFP Q&A posted Friday, it does include a mention of Amazon.

One question goes as follows: “An online commercial marketplace for third party products and services seems to be an Amazon-like requirement or intended to limit the competition to Amazon, especially since it is a gate criterion. Such a marketplace may be something run by a retail sales company like Amazon, but it is not for commercial cloud services providers. Accordingly, to enhance competition, will DOD revise this requirement to provide that the marketplace should be a contract performance requirement; i.e., the awardee shall establish and operate a commercial marketplace?”

DOD’s response: “Multiple commercial cloud service providers have an online marketplace. This is an important government requirement to facilitate the rapid adoption of cloud infrastructure and the ability to operationalize that infrastructure.”

A second question that caught our attention goes as follows: “Running a commercial marketplace creates an organizational conflict of interest and procurement integrity issues for the IaaS/PaaS contractor especially when third party product and services vendors are actual or potential competitors of the JEDI awardee. There does not appear to be any way to mitigate this conflict of interest or protect against procurement integrity issues. Accordingly, will DOD delete this requirement from the RFP?”

DOD’s response: “The (statement of objectives) limits the online marketplace requirements to the cloud vendor's own offerings; and third-party offerings that are free, excluding the cost of (infrastructure as-a-service) resources, or where the DoD already possesses a license using the bring your own license approach. The RFP only requires a limited set of third party offerings to be made available in the online marketplace, which has been further clarified with this amendment. Organizational conflicts of interest are fact specific determinations that contracting officers are required to continually assess; the JEDI Cloud requirement for an online marketplace, as amended, does not create a blanket OCI, but the contracting officer will continually assess the possibility in accordance with the (Federal Acquisition Regulation).”

In essence, the JEDI winner and hence operator of the marketplace has full access to any organization that supports or feeds into the environment. That could include proprietary information, prices and coding data.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to show that the updated RFP documents show revisions)

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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