Shanahan: No Plan to Sole-Source Pentagon Cloud Computing Efforts

By Vivienne Machi

Image: iStock

As the Pentagon prepares to release a final request for proposals for a major cloud computing contract next month, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan rebuffed reports that a single company would be responsible for moving the department’s entire information technology enterprise to the cloud.

The contract for the forthcoming joint enterprise defense infrastructure — or JEDI — cloud program represents less than 20 percent of the total capacity of data the department is looking to eventually migrate to the cloud, Shanahan said April 24 at a media breakfast in Washington, D.C. “What we are not going to have is a sole-sourced cloud provider," he added.

The JEDI program will provide enterprise-level commercial cloud services to all of the Defense Department’s agencies and personnel, according to a solicitation released on FedBizOpps.

Previous reports have pegged the program’s value at about $10 billion over 10 years, but the Pentagon has not assigned a cost ceiling or dollar value, Shanahan said.

The Defense Department released the second draft request for proposals April 16. The final RFP is expected to be released in May, according to the solicitation.

The document noted that the JEDI cloud program is “only the initial step to provide the underlying foundational technologies required to maximize the capabilities of weapon systems, business systems and data-driven decision-making" for the military.

“JEDI Cloud is intended to be available enterprise-wide and complementary to other existing cloud initiatives. It will not preclude the release of future contracting actions,” the document stated.

Tech companies vying for the program are reportedly concerned about a single-source contract stifling innovation.

Shanahan, who was Boeing’s senior vice president for supply chain and operations before joining the Defense Department last year, told reporters: “What I learned over time in industry is you always have to have multiple suppliers of everything that you do.”

“The inference with sole-source is that for 100 percent of the business, we let one contract,” he said. However, the forthcoming JEDI contract will be the first of multiple contracts which will encompass 10 years of cloud migration work, he noted. After two years, a second contract for five years of work would begin, followed by a final three-year contract, he said.

“This is about, for us, preserving options, creating competition and scale, but also moving quickly,” Shanahan said. “In the department, we want to create long-term, strong industrial partnerships, but we want multiple partnerships.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is making personnel changes and considering building a new office to help manage its many artificial intelligence efforts.

It was announced earlier this month that former JP Morgan Chase Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy would become the department’s first CIO starting in May. Deasy will assist with the Pentagon’s substantial IT modernization work, Shanahan said. 

He called Deasy “an experienced person who has been on the frontline” of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence technologies during his time at the global financial services company.

The Defense Department is looking to stand up a new center to help streamline its AI development processes, which could occur within the next six months, Shanahan said.

Defense Secretary James Mattis recently spoke at a House Armed Services Committee hearing of plans to create “a joint office where we would concentrate all of DoD’s efforts, since we have a number of AI efforts underway right now.”

What is currently being called the “AI center of excellence” will help the department develop “the basic skills” for streamlining its artificial intelligence pursuits, Shanahan said. “As people’s skills increase and we figure out how to put that data on the cloud, we’re going to take on bigger and harder problems,” he said.

The department is also working to streamline other emerging technology efforts in order to quickly develop capabilities as near-peer adversaries race to create their own high-tech systems.

Several U.S. military projects to build hypersonic weapons are currently being worked on within the Air Force, Army, Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Those efforts will eventually be consolidated around the most promising technologies, Shanahan said.

The department is currently finalizing a “hypersonic roadmap” that lays out the tests that need to occur between now and the year 2023 in order to achieve a capability within the next decade, he said. The plan stretches across 10 technical domains and should be completed by July, he added.

The U.S. military’s directed energy efforts may also see some consolidation as officials begin to focus on the technologies that show the most promise, he noted. “There’s different aspects of the technology that we will probably parse out, either to a service or to one of the research labs,” he said, citing beam control and power supply as examples. 

Topics: Information Technology, Defense Department, Cyber

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