With new leadership, the JEDI saga enters new chapter

The leadership of the DOD's JEDI cloud initiative has shifted and here is what it all means as a final request for proposals awaits.

The competition for the Defense Department’s forthcoming $10 billon cloud computing contract known as JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) has dominated industry headlines in 2018.

Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Google and other vendors have been fiercely competing for the contract, which is currently slated to be a single-source award, despite facing pushback from both industry and Congress.

The JEDI program has changed hands three times in only six months -- from top-level acquisition officials as part of the Cloud Executive Steering Group, to the Digital Defense Service, then finally to the DOD CIO. In late June, the DOD announced that the Defense Digital Service, which had been leading the technical requirements for the procurement, would no longer spearhead the JEDI initiative.

Newly appointed DOD CIO Dana Deasy is now leading the JEDI effort to consolidate cloud efforts across all of DOD, which has more implications for those within the department than outside of it. Changing leadership has contributed to confusion about the program; details on the effort still remain sparse.

A NEED FOR CLEAR GUIDANCE

The initial announcement of the JEDI cloud procurement spurred many questions as to how the cloud would fit within the DOD cloud sphere. Would it complement or compete with milCloud? How would it mesh with the 500-plus ongoing cloud efforts within the department?

The ambiguity of JEDI’s role has been challenging for IT leaders within the department who are looking to engage with the cloud or already have ongoing cloud initiatives.

JEDI is an effort to streamline and consolidate cloud efforts in the DOD, but it’s been unclear within the DOD how JEDI might impact any given office’s ongoing cloud projects. Some IT leaders have adopted a wait-and-see approach, letting the JEDI procurement unfold before proceeding with further cloud initiatives and projects, further contributing to DOD’s slow cloud adoption.

Consolidated leadership under Deasy should provide more centralized guidance in regard to the JEDI initiative to internal stakeholders throughout the DOD; the DOD CIO is much more positioned to communicate a clear vision to internal stakeholders compared to the Defense Digital Service.

Deasy indicated in May that the department needs to get on the same page in regard to cloud, and we’re starting to see him drive that by grabbing JEDI's reigns. At a July 11 event, Deasy indicated that cloud was one of his four critical focus areas, and that the JEDI competition was being re-evaluated top-to-bottom.

WAITING FOR AN RFP

JEDI’s request for proposals has yet to be released, despite originally being forecasted for a May. No doubt DOD’s Deasy not only wants to ensure the procurement strategy is sound, but that there is a clear vision broadcasted throughout the DOD before an RFP is released.

If the DOD is going to spend about $2 billion a year for an enterprise cloud that spans multiple classifications and ideally offers Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service, it will want to ensure the program is widely adopted.

While these delays may be seen as a setback, they could ultimately lead to a positive outcome. The JEDI initiative is benefitting from a change of leadership and additional time to communicate to internal stakeholders within the DOD.

An IT endeavor of this magnitude necessitates DOD CIO involvement. With Deasy now firmly in place as the first permanent CIO since Terry Halverson’s departure in February 2017, the JEDI effort is in better position to succeed.

As the program slowly shapes up, technology companies will want to stay close to their customers to track how JEDI will impact ongoing cloud efforts. Though the JEDI contract is still slated to be a single award, the DOD aims to have multiple clouds and vendors involved going forward.

Vendors selling or providing solutions that relate to cloud initiatives need to understand where customers have unique requirements versus where an enterprise solution could be a fit.

The goal of DOD cloud initiatives is clear—achieving cost efficiencies through data center closures, modernizing infrastructure and improving security posture. With such a large-scale effort, figuring out how DOD gets there, however, will take time.

Deasy himself has said that cloud is an iterative technology, so technology companies will need to be patient, while seeking clarity from top level DOD leadership, as well as from customers working at the ground level.

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