Almost six months into President Joe Biden’s first term as president, the administration and the Pentagon have canceled the controversial $10 billion JEDI cloud modernization contract that was previously awarded to Microsoft Corp. in late 2019 under then-President Donald Trump.
Since the contract was awarded, its status has been up in the air. U.S. military leaders wanted to get JEDI going to bring desperately needed technology improvements and services to the agencies of the U.S. armed services, but Amazon immediately challenged the contract award as illegal, taking the matter to the courts. Amazon had charged that the Trump administration pushed to award the deal to Microsoft due in part to his personal distaste for Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.
The JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) cloud Request for Proposal (RFP) will now be re-issued, according to the Pentagon, with specific language calling for the next contract specifications to use a multi-cloud approach, as is the practice of most enterprises today.
In a July 6 statement, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) said the original JEDI contract and RFP was canceled to meet new evolving requirements for cloud technologies, including a critical multi-cloud approach rather than a single cloud provider as stipulated in the original RFP. The original contract approved in 2019 no longer meets the DOD’s needs, the statement reported.
“The Department continues to have unmet cloud capability gaps for enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services at all three classification levels that work at the tactical edge, at scale — these needs have only advanced in recent years with efforts such as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Acceleration (ADA) initiative,” the Pentagon said in a press release.
“JEDI was developed at a time when the Department’s needs were different and both the cloud service providers technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature,” John Sherman, acting DOD Chief Information Officer, said in a statement. “In light of new initiatives like JADC2 and AI and Data Acceleration (ADA), the evolution of the cloud ecosystem within DOD, and changes in user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments to execute mission, our landscape has advanced and a new way-ahead is warranted to achieve dominance in both traditional and non-traditional warfighting domains.”
The new contract RFP will be known as The Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) RFP, which will be a multi-cloud/multi-vendor Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. The JWCC will replace the now out-of-date JEDI contract specifications.
To fulfill this RFP, the DOD “intends to seek proposals from a limited number of sources, namely the Microsoft Corp. and Amazon Web Services as available market research indicates that these two vendors are the only cloud service providers (CSPs) capable of meeting the department’s requirements,” the agency said. The DOD will, however, also conduct research to determine whether any other U.S.-based hyperscale CSPs can also meet the DOD’s requirements and should be included in the contract RFP. That could include companies such as Oracle Corp., Google Cloud and IBM Cloud.
In a July 6 story by Reuters, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa praised the Pentagon’s decision. “The JEDI contract has been burdened by potential conflicts of interest, size, needless delays and its single awardee structure,” Grassley said. A fresh review process “will afford the program an opportunity for greater public trust and confidence,” Grassley added.
Reactions from AWS and Microsoft
In a statement sent to EnterpriseAI, an AWS spokesperson said the company understands and agrees with the DOD’s decision to cancel the original JEDI contract and move to a more appropriate and up-to-date multi-cloud and multi-vendor approach.
“Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement,” said the AWS spokesperson. “Our commitment to supporting our nation’s military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology at the best price is stronger than ever. We look forward to continuing to support the DOD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.”
In a July 6 post on the Official Microsoft Blog, Toni Townes-Whitley, president of Microsoft’s U.S. regulated industries division, wrote that the company’s commitment to the DOD remains steadfast.
“We understand the DOD’s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided,” wrote Townes-Whitley. “The DOD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward. The security of the United States is more important than any single contract, and we know that Microsoft will do well when the nation does well. Because the security of the United States through the provision of critical technology upgrades is more important that any single contract, we respect and accept DOD’s decision to move forward on a different path to secure mission-critical technology.”
Read the rest of the story with analyst commentary at EnterpriseAI.news.