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Defense expert: DOD hurts JEDI effort by lack of plan

The ups and downs of the Defense Department’s JEDI cloud initiative are well-chronicled here and other places. And the saga isn’t nearly done yet of course.

All throughout, former Defense Science Board chair and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow William Schneider sees a mistake DOD continues to make. Overall, he is supportive of DOD’s plan to make an enterprise shift to the cloud.

DOD hasn’t expressed a clear vision of where they want to go with their cloud strategy unlike the intelligence community when the CIA awarded Amazon Web Services a contract five years ago to build a cloud in 2013, Schneider told a gathering of reporters Thursday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan is right in recognizing the need for the cloud and for DOD to move away from its decentralized approach to IT and the risks that are inherent with that kind of environment, Schneider said.

Shanahan also has said that DOD will use multiple cloud providers and adopt more commercial practices.

But JEDI seems to run counter to that with its $10 billion ceiling and single-award format. It seems that DOD is saying one thing but acting in the completely opposite direction. (My words, not Schneider’s.)

Schneider, who also is a former Office of Management and Budget official and undersecretary of state, believes that DOD will move to a multiple cloud environment and that JEDI is just the first step in that process.

“But the lack of a roadmap has amplified the anxiety about the future of the market,” he said.

A roadmap would ease some of the tensions on Capitol Hill and in the contracting industry. Outside of the presumed favorite Amazon Web Services, most in industry have been pushed back against the idea of a single award. Congress has placed several reporting requirements on DOD because of their concerns.

But through it all DOD has stayed the course with a single-award strategy. The most recent amendments to the RFP restated that strategy. Proposals are due Sept. 17.

A protest by Oracle is still pending at GAO with a decision due Nov. 14.

With the industry push-back and congressional concerns, JEDI has been more “litigious” than most services contracts, Schneider said.

But he also tied that to the lack of a roadmap.

“When you do a road map there are a lot of enabling things that are below the level of visibility,” Schneider said. “You have to think about how you are going to contract for services? What is your supply chain like? What outcomes do you want?”

Focusing on outcomes is an important issue at DOD and the broader government, according to Schneider. Overall, Schneider sees JEDI’s problems as an indicator of broader and perhaps more significant issues because of how DOD procurement works.

“DOD needs to get out of the requirements mindset,” he said. “Private industry works on warranties, not requirements.”

But making that kind of change also requires a literal act of Congress to change procurement laws and allow DOD to move more like a commercial enterprise.

And here again, a roadmap for JEDI could have helped because DOD could have gone to Congress and won some relief from defense acquisition regulation if they were able to articulate their vision.

Now DOD fighting an uphill public relations battle. However Oracle’s protest is resolved, there will likely be more protests once an award is made. All of that means more delays for DOD.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 30, 2018 at 11:17 AM

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