When I last wrote about the Defense’s JEDI program (not JEDI knight) back in June, we had high hopes for its success. JEDI stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and is the backbone cloud computer system for Defense to tie the service branches together. To refresh your memory, Defense issued a $10 billion-plus contract to Microsoft for the massive cloud software effort, and Amazon appealed the award. When I wrote my June column, Defense had vowed to see the contract appeal though and grant the contract to Microsoft.
Boy, did a lot change in a hurry. By June 21, the Defense Department admitted that it was exploring options as the bid protest dragged on, and work on a master software effort could not start. Kathleen Hicks, deputy secretary of defense, admitted that it would take Defense a month or so to sort out.
According to a June 21 article in Defense News1:
“Hicks acknowledged that Pentagon’s centerpiece joint war-fighting strategy, Joint All-Domain Command and Control, hinges on its implementation of cloud computing―and that using the technology at the ‘boardroom’ level would enable efficiency measures such as internal audits and inventory control.”
(I wrote about JADC2—Joint All Domain Command and Control—in my February 2021 column. More coming on JADC2, as real tests are underway.)
In another statement, Hicks noted that besides tying the services together in war situations, that Defense badly needed some kind of over-arching cloud software for Defense function, including audits, inventory control, and human resources needs. That all sounds like running Defense just like any multi-trillion-dollar business. Each service branch has invested in its own cloud level project, but JEDI was the first Defense effort covering all service branches. In a bit of a conflict, 75% of Defense IT respondents in a survey said their own service branch could handle current cloud computing requirements. But, 80% said that could see the need for an over-arching cloud platform in the near future2.
On July 6, 2021, the Defense story changed; just a month after I wrote about the JEDI program. Defense cancelled the JEDI effort! A spokesman put the blame here: “With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps.”3
Our JEDI is dead? Oh no! Well, whoever says anything at Defense truly dies? At the same time as the JEDI cancellation, the Pentagon announced a new effort called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, or JWCC. The project will be a multi-cloud, multi-vendor indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. We better break that down from Defense Speak.
“Multi-cloud, multi-vendor” means that the Pentagon will contract with more than one software provider, and they can have different cloud structures. In short, no one company is getting the whole pie, but their efforts better have a crust and filling and be able to be baked in the same dish.
“Indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” (IDIQ) is probably the way most of the public thinks Defense spends their appropriations. However, IDIQ is pretty specific:
“IDIQ contracts are most often used for on-call service contracts, Architect-Engineering (A-E) services, and job order contracting. Awards are usually for a specified number of base years with renewal options for additional years. These contracts typically do not exceed a total of five years in duration. The government places delivery orders (for supplies) or task orders (for services) against a basic contract for individual requirements. Minimum and maximum quantity limits are specified in the basic contract as either number of units (for supplies) or as dollar values (for services). The government uses an IDIQ contract when it cannot predetermine, above a specified minimum, the precise quantities of supplies or services that it will require during the contract period. Exact dollar amounts for minimums must also be named.”4
JWCC will start with a three-year base period and two one-year options, and be in the billions of dollars. Guess who Defense expects the JWCC key players to be? Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services. At that time in July, Defense targeted JWCC awards to occur in April 2022 with the market research targeted for ending near the end of 2021.
Actually, smaller cloud systems have been under development at Defense, even while JEDI was grabbing the headlines. For instance, the Air Force has “Cloud One” and the Defense Information Systems Agency has “milCloud 2.0.” The Army has designated its cloud management office as “the Enterprise Cloud Management Agency.” A separate survey said DoD awarded nearly $400 million more in cloud contracts during fiscal year 2020 than it did in fiscal year 2019 without anything for JEDI.
So, is this JWCC akin to the COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) concept where Defense buys public parts for its systems, such as power supplies, displays, cables, connectors? Defense learned long ago that many commercial parts work and there is no need to design/manufacture specific Defense sub-assemblies.
A COTS Cloud was even proposed in 2017 before Defense spent four years pursuing JEDI. The most memorable part of the JEDI contract battle was that former President Trump even got into the review process, nominally because Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, including the Web Services branch, and Trump did not care for Bezos. Republicans did not forget about the Defense cloud choice. As recently as September, they wanted to re-open the cloud computing contract decision process as part of the NDAA mark-up for FY 2022. However, money was not appropriated to re-hash the JEDI Cloud computing decision. The nominal contention was about an Amazon consultant who became a Pentagon advisor, according to the New York Times5.
Even Oracle, which was turned down in the 2018 “JEDI semi-finals” before Microsoft and Amazon were the only platforms left standing for JEDI, pursued the JEDI contact all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal was just turned down on October 6, 2021. It was kind of bittersweet because Oracle sued to block the single source contract eventually going to Microsoft. Oracle has now gotten their wish for multiple contracts; not because of a Supreme Court decision, but because Defense cancelled JEDI.
Cloud computing remains a prickly federal issue. The National Security Agency, while not strictly Defense, was involved on Oct. 29 in a Microsoft protest for NSA’s “WildandStormy.” In that one, Amazon was the winner, and Microsoft appealed. That was not a “small one,” as it was also valued at as much as another $10 billion. This squabble may not make so many headlines because the NSA is even more sensitive to publicity than Defense.
But, Defense has to get moving on Cloud coordination. The key elements of JADC2 depend on inter-service communications. A Defense One article6 provided more details on the situation. In the article, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, who heads the JADC2 effort for the Joint Chiefs, said, “The delivery of JADC2 is dependent on a robust, purpose-built cloud for the environment we need to operate in.”
The article continues:
“While the Army, Navy, and Air Force had all been pursuing their own joint-warfighting experiments, the document gives Crall more authority to ensure that each service’s effort matches up with the Pentagon’s overall vision. Before the signing, he said, ‘I could persuade individuals to adhere to a framework and a structure and if there was slow compliance or no compliance there was no teeth in the system to make that change. We had no Northern Star.’ The signing of the strategy now allows Crall to ‘take that JADC2 strategy and a specific line of effort and place it over the top of this experimentation and vet it and say, ‘What parts of those are in compliance today and what parts are not?’”
So, what can we expect from the “son of JEDI,” Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, or JWCC. We can expect multiple programs from an array of Cloud contractors. DoD intends to release “directed solicitations” to Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. Even Google may participate as DoD officials consider the possibility of including more commercial cloud vendors. Defense is always interesting, as long as you understand the language. In my world, I call it “Defense speak.”
- “Pentagon to reveal JEDI cloud computing contract’s future in coming weeks,” Defense News, June 21, 2021.
- “JEDI Cloud Update Coming Soon, Says Pentagon’s No. 2,” Defense One, June 21, 2021.
- “Pentagon Cancels JEDI Cloud Contract,” Defense One, July 6, 2021.
- IDIQ, Wikipedia.com.
- “House panel rejects JEDI contract oversight proposal,” Defense News, Sept. 1, 2021.
- “Pentagon’s Accelerating ‘Connect-Everything’ Effort Hinges on Uncertain Cloud Program,” Defense One, June 7, 2021.
Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and is retired after 12 years as a senior engineer at (SAIC) supporting the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He was elected to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2012.