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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Is JEDI at the end of the beginning?

Earlier this week, we picked up FCW.com’s story about how Congress continues to scrutinize the Defense Department’s massive cloud computing initiative known as JEDI.

That cloud infrastructure project has been controversial from the very start because of DOD’s decision to award it to one vendor. Handicappers have made Amazon Web Services the favorite, but some others seeMicrosoft as not far behind..

Much of industry and many members of Congress have criticized the single-award strategy because it potentially locks DOD into a single vendor and puts limits on innovation.

As many have told me, different clouds are better suited for different missions. For example, one cloud might be great for moving massive video files while another cloud is better at more transactional operations.


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There also have been questions raised by Oracle about improprieties at DOD involving current and former AWS employees.

DOD said its investigation showed that the relationships connected to AWS had no impact on the acquisition strategy. But Oracle’s protest at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims continues.

A court decision is likely sometime this summer.

FCW's article talked about how the House Appropriations Committee is raising some objections and asking questions. Many of those questions the same as asked last year when the committee was under GOP control. So the concern about JEDI is decidedly bipartisan.

More recently, the CIA has launched its next large cloud initiative with a multiple-award approach. That is making DOD’s single-award strategy stand out even more as an outlier.

The question in my mind is whether any of this will make a difference -- the lawsuit, the continued scrutiny by Congress or the comparison of DOD's strategy to that of the CIA.

My conclusion? No, they won’t.

Well, a quick caveat. Oracle's lawsuit could, but they lost the same argument at the Government Accountability Office. So I consider a court victory to be a long shot.

JEDI has held fast through hearings and congressional oversight last year. Now, the contract is even farther down the road and that makes it harder to cancel or change. DOD's evaluation is now in the downselect phase between AWS and Microsoft.

One of the early supporters of JEDI and its single-award approach was Patrick Shanahan. He was the deputy defense secretary, now is acting secretary and is the nominee to take the post on a more permanent basis.

When the defense secretary is in your corner, you have a lot of cover from the naysayers.

I also think that DOD has backed away from some of the rhetoric around JEDI that it will be a transformational contract. They have increasingly talked about JEDI as just one part of its overall cloud strategy.

DOD has come too far down the road to turnaround now. We’ll likely see a JEDI award by the end of the summer if not mid-summer. (Again, the big caveat is what the court might do.)

We’ll likely see a protest by whoever loses. If those protests go in DOD’s favor, JEDI could be up and running by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

If GAO or the courts rule against DOD, then we could be looking at the middle of 2020 or later, depending on what they need to do to correct any problems.

But whatever happens, I’m increasingly thinking we are at getting closer and closer to the end of the beginning for JEDI.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 24, 2019 at 10:00 AM

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