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Omnibus spending bill questions JEDI acquisition strategy

The Defense Department’s massive cloud infrastructure initiative has been some kind of wild ride.

Right out of the gate, much of the private sector cried foul because  the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative looked like it would be a $10 billion, 10-year, single-award contract.

Industry folks went to the media and Capitol Hill with complaints that a single award wouldn’t give DOD the innovation it was looking for.

Then it seemed like DOD listened and the language coming from members of the Cloud Executive Steering Group seemed to soften. The parts of industry opposed to a single award were heartened. “Cooler heads prevailed,” one person told me at the time.

Then came the JEDI industry day and it looked like nothing had changed from DOD’s original plan. It would be a single award. A hybrid cloud with cloud infrastructure services from multiple providers just wouldn’t solve their problems, they said.

The draft RFP was out and final solicitation would come in early May. An award to a single provider would come by September.

But now there’s been a new twist in this ride.

On Wednesday night, the House Appropriations Committee released a $1.3 trillion "omnibus" spending bill for fiscal 2018. It must pass by Friday night for the government to remain open.

In a legislative report that accompanied the bill, Congress questions DOD’s JEDI strategy.

“There are concerns about the proposed duration of a single contract, questions about the best value for the taxpayer, and how to ensure the highest security is maintained,” the report states.

To address those concerns, Congress is asking for several things:

  • A report to the defense committees within 60 days of the bill’s passage. The report should justify the single-award strategy. They also want to know all the parts of DOD that will use the contract and what the exit strategy will be.
  • Within 45 days of passage, DOD needs to provide the RFP to the defense committees. They also need to provide the amounts request for 2018 and 2019 as well as future years.
  • Other items Congress wants in their reports include standards, best practices, and contract types. It also wants information on data migration and middleware costs.

Congress is telling DOD to provide information on how it identifies and justifies acquisitions where other transaction authority is used.

They also want DOD to provide certification from the DOD Chief Information Officer, each military service, combatant command, DISA, and the CIO of each service that they have been consulted on the drafting of the RFP.

Congress is sending a clear signal to DOD -- prove a single award is the right strategy.

DOD has some work to do. Comments on the draft RFP were due March 21. As I said, the final RFP is supposed to come in early May and award by late September. That was a tough schedule to start with. It looks impossible now.

The report isn’t part of the 2,000-plus page omnibus bill that will fund the government for the rest of the year.

So the requests in the report aren’t technically part of the law. But a colleague who has more Hill experience than me said that the report has the force of an order from Congress.

“The people who put it in there will be angry [if DOD ignored the report] and you wouldn’t like to see appropriators when they’re angry,” he said.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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