WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense will reassess its cloud-computing options if a federal court does not dismiss allegations of improper influence in the contract process for the project worth billions, a new DoD memo said.
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, awarded to Microsoft in October 2019, would provide a department-wide platform needed to develop artificial intelligence and computing capabilities for war fighters at the tactical edge. But if the U.S Court of Federal Claims clears the way for Amazon Web Service’s interference allegations against former President Donald Trump over the JEDI project, the Pentagon warned that “the prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI cloud procurement into question,” according to the memo from the DoD CIO office to Congress.
“Under this scenario, the DoD CIO would reassess the strategy going forward,” the memo read.
AWS has stated that it wants to collect sworn statements from Trump and other current and past senior officials, including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Evidence AWS cites against Trump includes public and private statements about his dislike for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“These motions will be complex and elongate the timeline significantly,” the memo said.
Building the JEDI cloud infrastructure has been delayed since the Pentagon awarded the contract, valued up to $10 billion over a decade,. Shortly after the award, AWS filed a lawsuit to block the department from working to build the enterprise cloud environment, alleging political interference and technical evaluation errors by the department during the selection process.
“Regardless of the JEDI cloud litigation outcome, the department continues to have an urgent, unmet requirement,” the DoD memo said. “Specifically, the department’s need for an enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services for all three classification levels, extending from the homefront to the tactical edge, at scale. We remain fully committed to meeting this requirement — we hope through JEDI — but this requirement transcends any one procurement, and we will be prepared to ensure it is met one way or another.”
The allegations of interference by Trump add uncertainty to the JEDI cloud project under President Joe Biden’s Department of Defense. Meanwhile, some industry experts have challenged the construct of the JEDI cloud, arguing that the contract shouldn’t be a single award and instead should involve several vendors.
If the court dismisses the improper influence allegations, then the department believes that the litigation of the remaining three counts would likely take four to five months, the memo stated.
“Work on JEDI cloud would continue to be paused until the litigation process is complete, and DISA/CCPO [Defense Information Systems Agency/Cloud Computing Program Office] remains ready to resume management of the JEDI cloud work if/when the entire set of litigation is resolved in the government’s favor.”
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.