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Pentagon Hopes JEDI Contract Good For The Force

Posted by Colin Clark on

WASHINGTON: The JEDI cloud computing contract may be one of the most controversial deals the Pentagon hasn’t even awarded.

Worth up to $10 billion over a decade, the Pentagon’s attempt to build its first true enterprise-wide cloud has sparked charges that the deal is designed to go straight to Amazon, which already supplies the CIA with its cloud services.

The RFP, approved by Ellen Lord, the head of Pentagon acquisition on July 19, includes an initial two-year base, two consecutive three-year options and a final two-year option. Those first two years are designed to test the system and make sure it meets security and other operational standards. In a clear signal to companies who’ve been complaining that the deal looked cooked to serve up Amazon, Lord’s approval includes this sentence: “The contract will be awarded pursuant to full and open competition.”

It seems pretty clear that the Pentagon is issuing this first contract to test cloud service and figure out how the services use them. Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, head of Air Force ISR, said this morning that she doesn’t want her service to depend on one cloud provider in the long run. “If I have a multi-cloud, I’ve given him (the enemy) a targeting problem,” she said.

Why is this important to note? “It seems that as a result of an extremely nasty, scorched earth lobbying effort designed to force DOD to split this first cloud pie among several contractors, the Department said ‘no, thanks,'” Bill Greenwalt, former top acquisition staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says in an email. “Perhaps this decision to go with one contractor was made after a careful consideration of the question of whether these companies could actually be able to work together and not fight DOD and each other every step of the way.”

Greenwalt was not hopeful about the prospects for a clean competition. “Look for this not to end quickly with inevitable bid protests and public opinion battles yet to come,” he says.

The RFP comes after what may become a landmark Government Accountability Office protest ruling about an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) contract for cloud computing for Transportation Command. The JEDI contract explicitly sidesteps OTA, perhaps because of the GAO ruling, although that’s surmise. Instead, this is an ID/IQ contract, a fairly routine mechanism for DoD and the federal government.

Air Force photo

Lt. Gen. Veralinn “Dash” Jamieson

The most likely large contenders: Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Google. The Defense Department would like to see some small businesses get involved but cloud computing is all about scalability and that means those large companies have to be involved. One of the really intriguing things to watch will be whether Google, whose employees protested its participation in the data analysis contract known as Project Maven, bids on the contract.

Dash told the Mitchell Institute audience this morning that “we have to have a society-wide conversation” about data privacy, and whether we will try to ensure the Western values that prize privacy are paramount or will we take the path of China, who has made clear that its citizens have virtually no rights in the face of the state’s hunger for control.

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