DoD Cloud Services JEDI Contract Clears Hurdle, Faces Others
Announced in September of 2017, the DoD’s single cloud computing system, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) appears to have passed its last procurement process hurdle. Following the dismissal of a protest brought by Oracle Corporation in the US Court of Federal Claims, the DoD now seems likely to award a contract in late August to either Amazon AWS or Microsoft Corporation. This contract projects to have $10 Billion in information technology services delivered to the DoD over a 10-year period. However, the contract still faces risk of political involvement from the White House or Congress.
The DoD initially anticipated to have awarded the contract by spring of this year, but bid protest, claims of unfairness, and irregularities in the contract awarding process forced them to push this timeline back. Oracle, whose bid for the JEDI contract was eliminated in April 2019, brought claims in the US Court of Federal Claims, arguing that an Amazon employee, who spent time at the Pentagon between employment stints at Amazon, unfairly swayed the selection process in favor of Amazon. However, on July 12, 2019, the US Court of Federal Claims ruled the contract criteria were legal and confirmed Oracle was unable to fully meet the criteria of the original contract request.
The DoD has far-reaching ambitions for the JEDI program to support Unclassified, Secret, and Top-Secret application software requirements, creating a centralized cloud service. DoD currently manages a decentralized collection of cloud-based information technology capabilities service, including more than 500 public and private cloud IT systems procured by various DoD agencies and the military service branches. JEDI’s single-source contract structure reflects Pentagon officials’ belief that a single-award contract offers procurement speed advantages over the slow pace that is believed to be experienced with multiple-award contracts. Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo, current CIO for the Joint Chiefs, warns that any further delay in implementing JEDI will negatively impact the military’s ability to effectively plan and win in communication compromised environments, undermining efforts to improve force readiness and to achieve advances in strategically important emerging technologies such as AI.
This timeline for concluding the JEDI contract may be pushed back even further, after recent news reports suggesting President Trump may order an investigation into the JEDI deal. This action would come after multiple members of Congress have written letters to leading Administration officials showing their concern over the contract award process for JEDI. These legislators’ main concerns center on the fairness of the JEDI contract’s terms, which may have effectively frozen out some potential competitors from bidding for the contract, not allowing for true competition and rather made it so only two companies, Microsoft and Amazon, could meet the requirements. However other members of Congress, namely U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry, are pushing for the awarding of the contract to move forward, citing that doing so is in the best interest for our national security. JEDI also may face another hurdle from Congress in the form of appropriations legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives, requiring that the DoD state the specific use of the JEDI cloud service prior to receiving any funding. In attempting to make the DoD’s information systems more efficient, the DoD has experienced everything but efficiency in awarding this contract. If we are to serve the needs of the warfighter to our fullest potential, then we must continue to remove obstacles from the acquisition process.