IBM amends its JEDI protest

The move came days after the Government Accountability Office dismissed a similar protest from Oracle against the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year cloud buy.

IBM added to its protest against the Pentagon's $10 billion cloud procurement in a filing with the Government Accountability Office on Nov. 19, just days after GAO dismissed a similar protest from Oracle.

The company initially protested the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure solicitation on Oct. 10. In a blog post, Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal, argued that JEDI's single-cloud approach is insecure, inflexible and hostile to future innovation. Gordy wrote that the solicitation ignored the intent of Congress "to ensure America's warfighters benefit from healthy competition and access to multiple technologies from multiple suppliers" and that it restricts competition among vendors through "rigid requirements."

IBM and GAO are not revealing what additional points are raised in the supplemental protest. In the Oracle decision, GAO rejected claims similar to those raised in Gordy's blog post. It ruled that the Defense Department is acting appropriately in using a single-award solicitation and doesn't run afoul of congressional requirements in appropriations legislation seeking justification for the single-cloud approach. GAO also didn't dispute assurances from contracting officers and digital services experts who offered assurances that a single-cloud approach didn't pose any particular cybersecurity risks.

GAO also said it found "no merit" in any of Oracle's allegations that the Pentagon included unnecessary and restrictive specifications. Oracle complained about requirements related to security, an app store and geographically dispersed data center locations. IBM's blog post does not include an exhaustive list of what requirements it deems restrictive or details from its protest filing, so it's not clear to what extent the IBM complaint overlaps with Oracle's.

IBM's protest is set to be decided on Jan. 19. But even if IBM loses, there will be multiple opportunities for vendors to register opposition to the proposal. One of the next could come when DOD winnows the field of vendors through a competitive range process, under which IBM and Oracle could be eliminated from the bidding while other vendors advance. Additionally, any vendor that survives this selection process but loses out on the award will have an opportunity to protest.

There is also the prospect of a lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims.

"I think it's going to have to go to the federal courts," said John Weiler, managing director of the IT Acquisition Advisory Council, which has been opposed to the single-cloud approach since it was first announced. "I don't think GAO has the technical expertise to understand it. If they really understood this, I don't think they would have ruled against Oracle," he said.

NEXT STORY: Key JEDI protest denied

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