Pentagon Cancels JEDI, Looks to New Cloud Contract

The Pentagon on July 6 canceled the massive and controversial $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud after years of challenges to its award to Microsoft.

The Defense Department said the move comes because the contract, which has been long delayed due to those challenges, no longer meets its requirements. The department is now looking to a new multi-vendor replacement, called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. While the Pentagon will reach out to industry for additional providers, “research indicates” that Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are the only providers able to meet DOD requirements, according to the DOD.

“JEDI was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different and both the [Cloud Service Providers’] technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature,” acting DOD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said in a statement. “In light of new initiatives like [Joint All-Domain Command and Control] and AI [artificial intelligence] and Data Acceleration, 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.”

The Pentagon in October 2019 awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft, with Amazon Web Services and Oracle quickly challenging the process of the contract award. AWS, an expected favorite for the award, challenged it in court, saying it was denied because of the Trump administration’s views on then-Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos.

Oracle on June 30 filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court aiming to overturn an initial ruling that said potential conflicts of interests in the award did not affect the company’s position.

Microsoft, in a blog post, said it understands the department’s rationale, based on a likely years-long litigation battle. The company said it is confident that it will “continue to be successful” as the Pentagon moves forward for the next contract.

“What matters now is the way forward, as the DOD has a critical unmet need to bring the power of cloud and AI to our men and women in uniform, modernizing technology infrastructure and platform services technology,” the company wrote. “We stand ready to support the DOD as they work through their next steps and its new cloud computing solicitation plans.”

Amazon, in a statement, also said it agreed with the Pentagon’s decision to move on from JEDI.

“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,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement. “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. We look forward to continuing to support the DOD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.”

The delayed progress on JEDI came as the military pushed ahead on cloud-based capability on high-tech initiatives such as Joint All-Domain Command and Control and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, which will depend on secure and fast cloud-based data for its mission to speed up data sharing and decision making. JEDI aimed to bring the efforts under one DOD-wide umbrella, while individual services moved ahead on their efforts.