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Questions remain despite DOD's JEDI report to Congress

According to the Defense Department’s report to Congress about the massive Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud initiative, the agency has taken pains to explain the market research efforts it has undertaken to develop JEDI. Those efforts include “focus sessions” with DOD agencies and the services, a request for information and two draft RFPs.

However, there is little in the report that explains why is DOD planning to make JEDI a single-award contract.

In section 6.2 of the document, DOD says “the underlying documentation required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation to support the single award ID/IQ approach is still under development within the department.”

Really? Shouldn’t that be done by now? And isn’t that one of the key points Congress wanted an explanation for?

To its credit, DOD writes that the final solicitation will not be released until the “underlying documents are executed.”

The report goes on to explain that the JEDI solicitation will have mechanisms to reduce the risk of vendor lock in such as the contract’s two-base and portability requirements. DOD also retains ownership of any data stored in JEDI’s public cloud.

The concept of containerization also supports an easier exit strategy, DOD writes.

DOD writes that it will maintain contracts with “numerous cloud providers to access specialized capabilities not available under the JEDI cloud contract.” For example, software as a service.

Basically, DOD argues that a multiple-award contract would be too slow and too expensive.

If it was multiple award, each task order would need to be competed, “thus being paced by DOD acquisition processes.”

The pace could prevent the delivery of new capabilities to warfighters, DOD says.

A multiple-award contract would stop DOD from creating a single “data lake," which DOD says is needed to take advantage of machine learning.

Connecting multiple cloud providers would introduce security risks because those connections require manual configuration, DOD claims.

DOD says that it hopes in time “that cloud technology and offerings will become more interoperable and seamlessly integrated.”

But right now from DOD’s perspective, that’s not the case.

I’m sure others such as Oracle, IBM and Microsoft would disagree. Those companies have been among the most vocal opposing a single-award. The IT Alliance for Public Sector also has urged DOD to not pick a single winner.

In a letter to Congress earlier this month, ITAPS said that a single award goes against commercial best practices and negatively impacts innovation, costs and security.

A supporter of the single-award concept is Amazon Web Services, who many see as the front runner to land the $10 billion contract. In 2013, AWS won a $600 million contract to build a private cloud for the CIA and intelligence community. JEDI is seen as following the pattern set by the CIA.

It is unlikely that DOD’s report to Congress will lessen the pressure or scrutiny from Capitol Hill.

Two days after DOD filed its report, the House Armed Services Committee released a markup of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which also included reporting requirements related to JEDI. Lawmakers there also threatened to withhold funds if the reports aren’t satisfactory.

About the Author

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

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