The Defense Department (DoD) said today it was taking steps to cancel its existing Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud services contract after three years of work that left the contract tied up in court, and the Pentagon without benefit from the $10 billion deal awarded to Microsoft.

DoD’s move to abandon the JEDI contract appears to put it back pretty close to square one as it begins efforts to arrange a new cloud service contract – dubbed the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC).

The list of potential bidders for the new deal – headlined by Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) as two service providers big enough to meet the contract’s needs – also gives the next phase of the cloud saga a very familiar ring. AWS competed unsuccessfully for the JEDI contract, and protested its award to Microsoft.

The Pentagon said today the new contract it is seeking to arrange will be a multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract, and that it may seek to negotiate with providers other than Microsoft and AWS. It identified those two firms, based on market research, as the only cloud service providers (CSP) “capable of meeting” DoD’s requirements.

But DoD said it will “immediately engage with industry and continue its market research to determine whether any other U.S.-based hyperscale CSPs can also meet the DoD’s requirements. If so, the Department will also negotiate with those companies.”

Withdrawal Well Telegraphed

The Pentagon’s decision to cancel the JEDI contract was widely expected after DoD said earlier this year it might pull the plug on the deal if legal delays continued much longer.

Last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the Department of Defense (DoD) was looking to move forward on solutions for the agency’s enterprise cloud needs within several weeks.

She declined to comment on the JEDI contract directly, but said DoD “must have an enterprise cloud solution approach in order to make the most of JADC2,” or the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy approved by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in May.

Technology Moves Along

DoD said today that the JEDI contract “no longer meets its needs” due in part to evolving requirements, industry advances, and “increased cloud conversancy.”

“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.

“JEDI was developed at a time when the Department’s needs were different and both the CSPs’ technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature,” said Acting DoD CIO John Sherman.

“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,” Sherman said.

Microsoft Statement

Microsoft said in a statement that it understands DoD’s rationale for canceling the JEDI deal.

“The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” Microsoft said. “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 than any single contract, we respect and accept DoD’s decision to move forward on a different path to secure mission-critical technology.”

“It’s clear the DoD trusts Microsoft and our technology, and we’re confident that we’ll continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work,” the company said. “Their decision today doesn’t change the fact that not once, but twice, after careful review by professional procurement staff, the DoD decided that Microsoft and our technology best met their needs.”

AWS Applauds

“We understand and agree with the DoD’s decision,” an AWS spokesperson said. “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.”

“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,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.”

DoD’s Cloud Inventory

Amid the three years of the JEDI contract, it’s also important to remember that DoD is operating with two large and growing enterprise cloud vehicles – Defense Enterprise Office Solution (DEOS), and milCloud 2.0.

In particular, milCloud 2.0 now has both general-purpose and fit-for-purpose capabilities, and can meet the objectives of the DoD Cloud Strategy.

“milCloud 2.0 is available today and ready to meet the DoD’s critical and urgent enterprise cloud requirements, providing rapid access to both secure on-premise and general-purpose cloud services,” said Amy Gilliland, president of General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), which runs the milCloud 2.0 contract.

“With these options – and with Impact Level 6 authorization coming later this summer – defense organizations can take advantage of the latest technology to improve cyber resilience and innovate more quickly with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging capabilities,” Gilliland said. “We’re pleased to support DoD mission partners as they accelerate cloud adoption and the modernization efforts critical to the needs of our nation’s warfighters.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.