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Ellen Lord out as leader of DOD JEDI steering committee

The Defense Department has revamped the group overseeing its massive cloud initiative known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan issued a memo Jan. 4 that revealed Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord had been replaced as chair of the Cloud Executive Steering Group by Jay Gibson, deputy chief management officer. Gibson was not part of the group originally.

Lord is the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Her office will continue to support the cloud effort, according to Shanahan’s memo.

JEDI is DOD’s initiative to accelerate the movement to the cloud by fielding a commercial cloud solution that can host unclassified, secret and top secret information. DOD wants to take advantage of emerging technologies such as machine learning, big data analytics and artificial intelligence to deliver more capabilities to warfighters.

The JEDI initiative has been in the works since last summer and has drawn some concerns from industry and others because DOD was saying it wanted to go with a single commercial cloud provider.

But in the past month, DOD has seemingly waffled on that approach. Including Lord, DOD officials one week said that they were moving forward with a single cloud provider. Then the next week, they said the final strategy had not yet been determined.

Shanahan says in his Jan. 4 memo that Defense Digital Service Director Chris Lynch will manage the JEDI competition. But Shanahan does not say if it will be one award or a multiple award contract.

Given the scope of DOD wants, many are estimating that the contract would be worth billions.

In addition to Gibson, Shanahan also added new members to the Cloud Executive Steering Group in Bob Daigle, director of DOD’s office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation; and Essye Miller, acting DOD chief information officer.

They join Lynch; Will Roper, director of DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office; Raj Shah, managing partner of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental; and Joshua Marcuse of DOD staff.

Lord was the only person on the steering group to be removed.

John Bergin, business technology officer in the DOD CIO's office, also is no longer serving as an adviser to the steering group.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on why Lord and Bergin were no longer part of the Cloud Executive Steering Group.

Lord’s departure is particularly puzzling, especially given that she was one of the public faces for the project. She spoke about the project at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif. in early December and also was asked about it during her testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in mid-December.

The addition of Essye Miller also is noteworthy because several people in industry expressed surprise to me earlier that the CIO was not more directly involved.

But still missing -- and also an industry concern -- is that there still are no direct representatives from the mission owners who theoretically will be using the cloud infrastructure to host their applications.

In his memo, Shanahan said Lynch will manage the competition and Navy Capt. David McAllister of the Strategic Capabilities Office would lead the effort to “transition select DOD components or agency systems to the acquired commercial cloud solution.”

The expectation is that DOD will hold an industry day and release a draft request for proposals during the first quarter of 2018.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 05, 2018 at 8:20 PM


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