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Cloud

Will the JEDI controversy end with the award?

The Pentagon's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud infrastructure project has been controversial from the start because of DOD’s decision to award it to one vendor – presumably Amazon Web Services -- with much of industry and the hill criticizing the single-award strategy because it potentially locks DOD into a single vendor and puts limits on innovation.

There also have been questions raised by Oracle about improprieties at DOD involving current and former AWS employees. DOD said its investigation showed that the relationships connected to AWS had no impact on the acquisition strategy. But Oracle’s protest at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims continues. A court decision is likely sometime this summer.

Meanwhile, the CIA has launched its next large cloud initiative with a multiple-award approach. That makes DOD’s single-award strategy look even more like an outlier.

The question in my mind is whether any of these factors will make a difference -- the lawsuit, the continued scrutiny by Congress or the comparison of DOD's strategy to that of the CIA.

My conclusion? No, they won’t.

Well, a quick caveat. Oracle's lawsuit could, but it lost the same argument at the Government Accountability Office, so I consider an Oracle court victory a long shot.

JEDI has held fast through hearings and congressional oversight last year. Now the contract is even further down the road, and that makes it harder to cancel or change. DOD's evaluation is now in the down-select phase between AWS and Microsoft.

One of the early supporters of JEDI and its single-award approach was Patrick Shanahan. He was the deputy defense secretary, now is acting secretary and the nominee to take the post on a more permanent basis.

When the defense secretary is in your corner, you have a lot of cover from the naysayers.

I also think that DOD has backed away from some of the rhetoric around JEDI that positioned it as a transformational contract. Officials have increasingly talked about JEDI as just one part of its overall cloud strategy.

DOD has come too far down the road to turn around now. We’ll likely see a JEDI award by the end of the summer if not mid-summer. (Again, the big caveat is what the court might do.)

No matter who wins, expect a protest. If those protests go in DOD’s favor, JEDI could be up and running by the end of 2019 or early 2020. If GAO or the courts rule against DOD, we could be looking at the middle of 2020 or later, depending on what's needed to correct any problems.

But whatever happens, I’m increasingly thinking we are at getting closer to the end of the beginning for JEDI.

This column was first posted to Washington Technology, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

About the Author

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

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