security in the cloud (ShutterStock image)

Defense

JEDI report to Congress stresses need for speed, standardization

In a May 7 report to Congress ordered in the omnibus spending bill, the Pentagon defended plans to acquire cloud computing capabilities to support military operations and warfighting under a single-award contract.

The JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) plan has proved controversial, especially among vendors who worry that the effort is purpose-built for Amazon, which has existing government secret and top-secret capabilities and a long-term contract to provide infrastructure for the intelligence community.

Defense Secretary James Mattis tried to quell such fears in an April hearing on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers that the acquisition wasn't designed with a vendor in mind.

A final request for proposals for cloud vendors is expected to land this month, with an award due in September.

The single-award contract is needed, accord to the report, to avoid the pace of a multiple-award contract followed by individual task orders.

"That pace could prevent DOD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable," the report from Pentagon Chief Management Officer John Gibson II states.

The report also asserts that "inconsistent and non-standardized infrastructures across classification levels complicates development and distribution of software applications, potentially adding delays and costs" and potentially inhibiting the use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The report is also critical of the federated cloud adoption practice currently in place at DOD. There are more than 500 cloud acquisition and migration efforts, the report notes, which are "reminiscent of DOD's current legacy information technology environment, which is not optimized for the 21st century."

The decentralized move to the cloud has "created numerous seams, incongruent baselines and additional layers of complexity for managing data and services at an enterprise level," the report states. "Scattering DOD's data across a multitude of clouds further inhibits the ability to access and analyze critical data."

While there's no specific budget request for the JEDI program, the DOD is seeking $393 million for cloud computing in fiscal year 2019, up from $230 million in 2018. That is expected to expand to $500 million in 2020, before dropping to what appears to be a sustainment level budget of about $250 million from 2021 through 2023. Overall, the five-year spend is pegged at $1.6 billion.

The report also states that JEDI can work in harmony with milCloud 2.0 from the Defense Information Systems Agency, with milCloud offering a kind of cost-saving staging area for defense agencies looking to reduce hosting costs. Currently defense agencies known collectively as the "fourth estate" are being prioritized for migration to milCloud 2.0, the report states.

Once JEDI is in place, the Navy, Marine Corps, Transportation Command and the Defense Media Activity will act as trailblazers to test the Pentagon's ability to provision and manage cloud migration and activity.

The report also stresses that the JEDI acquisition strategy includes an exit plan in case the initial contract doesn't work out as planned. The base ordering period on the deal is expected to be two years, and the winning vendor will be required to have a "detailed portability plan" to move and destroy applications and data as necessary.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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