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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Is JEDI destined to be just another contract?

Since the Defense Department launched its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, DOD has been roundly criticized for its single provider strategy.

Many in industry have complained that it cuts off the military from future innovation, and flies in the face of legislation and regulation that dictates multiple-award contracts should be the default for government contracting. Congress also got involved and put several requirements that DOD had to meet to continue its strategy. 

Through all that heat, DOD has been steadfast in its adherence to a single cloud provider for JEDI. It has talked about the need for the military to have a single data lake (more like an ocean) in order to take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. DOD has also talked about a need for speed in fielding this massive cloud.

And now JEDI is a run-off between presumed favorites Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. DOD has eliminated Oracle and IBM from the competitive range. Oracle’s lawsuit continues at the Court of Federal Claims.

Over the last 18 months, DOD has been steadfast in its single-award approach.

But the rhetoric has changed in that time with much of it being driven by Dana Deasy, who became DOD's chief information officer in May 2018. Out of the gate, he talked about DOD’s need for a world-class cloud infrastructure and how that will involve multiple clouds.

Deasy has sounded like part of his role is to reassure those who don't win JEDI that there will still be cloud opportunities for them.

Two things this week reinforced that in my mind. One is the statement that DOD released announcing the down select to AWS and Microsoft. The second was some of the language in a request for information released earlier this week detailing the need for a contractor to support DOD’s Cloud Computing Program Office.

Here is what Elissa Smith, DOD spokeswoman, said in announcing the downselect on Wednesday:

DOD remains committed to adopting the best enterprise cloud solution that fits its unique and critical needs. The scope and complexity of DOD's mission requires multiple clouds from multiple vendors. JEDI is one element of DOD's overall multi-cloud strategy and part of larger efforts to modernize information technology across the DOD enterprise.

What struck me about Smith’s statement is that she didn’t have to say any of that beyond the first sentence. Why bring up multiple clouds?

Here is the statement from the RFI:

JEDI Cloud is an important first step to acquiring a general-purpose cloud capable of delivering infrastructure and platform services for the majority of the Department’s mission. JEDI Cloud will also serve as a pathfinder for DoD to understand how to deploy enterprise cloud at scale while effectively accounting for security, governance, and modern architectures.

When I read these two statements, it seems as if DOD is downplaying the importance of JEDI. It almost sounds like they are talking about a pilot project and not a contract with a $10 billion ceiling.

Is this to assuage companies not named AWS or Microsoft? Is this to reassure Congress? Or to even quiet discord in the ranks where different parts of DOD will likely fight tooth and nail to go their own way?

Maybe it is all of those things at once, but something is going on. We will find out.

I also must mention the $10 billion number that is attached to JEDI. Because of continuing delays (remember, JEDI originally was going to be awarded in September 2018), the contract isn’t close to an award and then clearing the final protest hurdles. 

The market is evolving rapidly in the meantime. More parts of DOD and rest of the government are embracing the commercial cloud. Look at what the CIA and the intelligence community are doing with their recently-announced Cloud Computing Enterprise contract -- which will have multiple awardees.

JEDI could easily just be one of several vehicles DOD can use for cloud acquisitions. That $10 billion ceiling just is not going to happen. I’m thinking $1 billion or maybe $1.5 billion over 10 years. A very nice contract, but not the game-changer we all thought a year ago.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 11, 2019 at 12:56 PM

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