Pentagon on track to award $9 billion cloud contract in December

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The Pentagon’s chief information officer said the multi-cloud, multi-vendor JWCC contract will be awarded “in about a month.”

The Pentagon is planning to award its “critically important” Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability—or JWCC—contract “in about a month, 30 days-ish, from now,” according to remarks made by a Defense Department official during the Defense Information Systems Agency's Forecast to Industry 2022 event on Monday. 

“I am so excited about what we have done with JWCC and the anticipation for the upcoming award here, again, in about a month,” DOD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said during a panel discussion. 

Last November, DOD named Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Oracle as contenders for the multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract valued at up to $9 billion.

DOD previously pushed back its deadline for announcing the JWCC award from the initial April goal to the end of the year, to give officials more time to review the companies’ bids. Although all four companies received a formal solicitation, they are not guaranteed to receive an award.

"The government anticipates awarding two [indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity] contracts—one to Amazon Web Services, Inc. and one to Microsoft Corporation—but intends to award to all cloud service providers that demonstrate the capability to meet DOD's requirements," DOD wrote in the Nov. 19, 2021 presolicitation notice

Sherman previously said in March that the JWCC contract was expected to be awarded in December, and that the delay was the result of “doing the due diligence” on the four proposals that DOD received. His latest comments confirm that DOD is on track to make a decision regarding the JWCC contract by the end of the year. 

“I think we just underestimated the amount of time this was going to take,” Sherman added during Monday’s panel discussion. 

DOD’s effort to implement the JWCC program comes after the Pentagon’s previous attempt to develop a multi-billion dollar, single-cloud network—known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI—was ultimately scrapped following years of controversy, delays and lawsuits.

The Pentagon first conceptualized JEDI in 2017 as a way to develop enterprisewide cloud capabilities for the military, and the $10 billion cloud computing contract was envisioned as being awarded to one cloud service provider. 

Although Microsoft was officially awarded the JEDI contract twice, the DOD’s effort was held up by lawsuits and complaints from other commercial cloud providers about the contracting process, as well as allegations of political bias on the part of the Trump administration.

The Pentagon finally announced in July 2021 that it was canceling JEDI, saying at the time that, “due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy and industry advances, the JEDI cloud contract no longer meets its needs.”

DOD ultimately announced JWCC as a successor cloud computing framework that would pivot to a multi-contract approach to hopefully bypass some of the legal concerns that arose from the JEDI process. 

Although JEDI was abandoned before any of it could be implemented, Sherman said that “a lot was learned” from that experience to help shape the JWCC process, and that DOD wouldn’t be prepared to award the JWCC contract “if we hadn’t gone through all of this.”

DOD has characterized cloud infrastructure services, and JWCC in particular, as a vital component of its warfighting capabilities, particularly when it comes to carrying out the goals of the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control—or JADC2—strategy. 

In announcing the release of its JADC2 implementation plan in March, DOD said the streamlined process would improve the Pentagon’s information sharing capabilities by enabling U.S. military forces “to ‘sense,’ ‘make sense,’ and ‘act’ on information across the battle-space quickly using automation, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning to deliver informed solutions via a resilient and robust network environment.”

Sherman said JADC2 is “utterly reliant on having an enterprise cloud capability that operates at all three security classifications—top secret, secret, unclassified—from the continental United States all the way up to the tactical edge,” and added that JWCC is “the fundamental pillar of JADC2.”

“JWCC is the piece that’s got to be there to make this happen,” he added.