JUST IN: Despite Legal Challenge, JEDI Cloud Computing Contract Award Expected in August (UPDATED)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Photo: iStock

A contract decision for the Defense Department’s highly anticipated and controversial joint enterprise defense infrastructure program is expected by the end of August, said the Pentagon’s chief information officer June 25.

The multibillion-dollar initiative, known as JEDI, is meant to create an expansive cloud computing system for the Defense Department. It is currently in the source selection process, which is pitting Amazon Web Services and Microsoft against each other for the lucrative contract. Cloud technology allows users to store and access data from anywhere at any time over the internet rather than on a local computer hard drive.

The program — which could be worth up to $10 billion — is currently embroiled in a legal challenge before the Court of Federal Claims brought by Oracle America, which objects to the contract going to a single vendor. However, the Pentagon is nevertheless eyeing late summer for an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity firmed-fixed price contract award, said Dana Deasy.

“We have a federal claims court hearing that will take place some time during the month of July, and we have a source selection process that ... will complete its natural process towards the end of August,” he told reporters during a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C.  “We're not waiting for the [court's] decision in that it doesn't impact the source selection process. ... Right now they are two disconnected events.”

As the Pentagon moves closer to a contract award, it is starting to chart out what a general-purpose cloud environment would look like for each branch of the military, he said.

“It's the logical time to sit down with the various services, start to describe what we believe the general purpose cloud environment will start to look like and, more importantly, for them to start thinking about what activities set will they have coming up this fall and going into next year that might be a good candidate” for JEDI, Deasy said.

However, until the contract is awarded, the Defense Department will not be able to pick which programs to integrate with the initiative, he added.

“Right now, we're more in a mission of going out, educating people on the construct, but then we have to basically wait until the contract is done so they understand technically what they're getting,” Deasy said. “We're starting a very strong awareness campaign that says, ‘OK folks, this is coming.’”

Over the past six months, the department has held a series of "cloud awareness sessions" with the combatant commands and service subcomponents to educate them. “There is a significant amount of pent up demand just waiting to use the capability once it comes online,” he said.

Currently, there are numerous cloud efforts throughout the Defense Department. But as the Pentagon looks toward a multi-domain fight, there will be a need for commonality and interoperability among the services.

“The services are starting to see that there is great value in being able to use common platform solutions, of which JEDI is just one of those solutions,” Deasy said. “It will not be the only common platform solution," he added.

Deasy noted that despite criticism from industry over plans for single-sourcing, the Defense Department did not have a moment where it considered awarding contracts to multiple companies for JEDI at the beginning. However, that doesn't mean there won't be other opportunities in the future, he noted.

"We are already today a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment. And if one really takes the time to understand what we've constructed here, we've constructed a 10-year program that is actually broken down into components,” he said. “It's actually broken down into ... points where we can renew or we can choose to do something else.”

That was done by design, and not enough people are focusing on that aspect, he added.

“We believe that if you look at the maturity of cloud and big changes that occur, it's about ... every two to three years that that happens,” Deasy said. “If you look at our terms, it's a ... construct that allows us to step back, stop, reevaluate, and decide at what point in the future do we want to then start to introduce other new players into the solution. But we will do that over the natural course of time.”

Deasy noted that the JEDI program is a “heavy lift” effort and the Defense Department has not embarked on such a large-scale cloud program before.

“We've got to start with somebody to learn how we're going to do this at the scale ... knowing that as we mature this, we're going to naturally need to introduce [additional] players into the mix,” he said.

It is imperative that the JEDI program does not face any further delays, Deasy said.

“If JEDI gets delayed, who suffers in all this is the warfighter because there is active sets of programs that several of the combatant commands right now are depending on when that contract gets released,” he said. “If JEDI was to get further delayed, well guess what happens? Now you're back to the model where people need to go build their own cloud solutions. That does not serve the department's interests well, it does not serve the warfighter well.”

U.S. Transportation Command is one organization that would be negatively affected by a delay, he noted. The command is currently planning to build a set of next-generation applications that it intends to integrate with a cloud system.

“We went in, we sat down, we talked to them, we shared with them the vision for JEDI and they said, ... ‘This is the right vision,’” Deasy said. They “are just one example of many that as soon as that contract gets awarded, they want to be able to start taking advantage of it.”

Update: This story has been updated to clarify that the JEDI program will pursue single-sourcing, not sole-sourcing.

Topics: Cyber, Information Technology

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