Debate heats up over DOD $10B cloud deal
- By Lauren C. Williams
Pressure on the Pentagon’s massive cloud effort racheted up, featuring industry protests, Congressional appropriators limiting pre-award funds and public concerns over future contract management.
Oracle Cloud bolstered its pre-award protest against the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement with its second supplement since the proposal was released in August. The original protest and first supplement were respectively filed Aug. 6 and Aug. 23.
Congressional appropriators restricted funds distribution for the JEDI cloud contract in their conference report for the 2019 defense spending bill released Sept. 13. Funds won’t be released for the JEDI or multi-billion-dollar Defense Enterprise Operations Solutions cloud programs until 90 days after DOD provides congressional defense committees a detailed strategy for budgeting, acquisition and end goals.
The lack of an articulated strategy for JEDI has been a frequent discussion topic at several of the Hudson Institute's JEDI or Defense Department cloud-focused events this year.
John Stenbit, former DOD assistant secretary for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, said at a Sept. 14 Hudson Institute event that the department should focus on defining what it wants and not award a contract until a vendor proves interoperability.
DOD has "not adequately described where they’re going ... and that makes it difficult to manage," Stenbit said. "What is the test of if they pass, I'll pay them; if they don’t they won't?"
Thomas Keelan, the Hudson Institute’s project manager and research associate who focuses on cloud computing and emerging technologies, told FCW the event series -- sponsored by Oracle and Microsoft -- is meant to encourage productive policy discussions ahead of the award rather than waiting to see what happens.
"We want to drive a public policy debate now to look at the whole picture of DOD IT operations" and "tease out questions now so when JEDI is rolled out it, can be used as a learning experience, not a precedent setter," he said. "JEDI is a case study, and we want to scrutinize it as such."
The Hudson Institute events, which have recently focused on the contentious single-award process and DOD’s ability to manage a seemingly amorphous cloud environment, have drawn interest from an array of media and industry, including smaller cloud providers, startups, software vendors as well as House Armed Service Committee staffers and a few DOD employees, Keelan said.
Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.
Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.
Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.
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