Defense Secretary James Mattis on April 26 was the latest Pentagon official to defend the military’s forthcoming, sole-source, multibillion cloud contract.

Echoing several Department of Defense officials insisting that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract will be “full and open competition,” Mattis emphasized to lawmakers in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing the need for expedience.

“The rush right now is that we have too many data banks that the frontline commander cannot swiftly draw information from,” Mattis said. “So what we’ve been looking at now is how do we get faster access to young folks on the front lines, displaying the information they need, not all the information in the world. That’s the driving impetus – it’s the lethality.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) pressed Mattis and other Defense officials testifying at the hearing with questions about the acquisition approach.

“I think it deserves some oversight,” Heinrich said. “We included language in the [omnibus appropriations bill] that requires you to submit full justification for executing a single award, not sole-source but single-award contract instead of a multi-cloud approach.”

DoD Comptroller David Norquist told Heinrich that the justification report would be submitted to Congress on May 7 ahead of the JEDI request for proposals.

Earlier in the week, Robert Daigle, director of cost analysis and program evaluation at the Pentagon, also defending the single-award approach for security reasons, among other concerns.

“In a multiple cloud environment, the department would have to spend its resources to manage the security seams between clouds. That’s resources away from the war fighter,” Daigle said. “It introduces people into the loop that are subject to making mistakes; those mistakes then can break the availability of data at the global level.”

Other officials insist that a single-award contract doesn’t necessarily mean one vendor. Officials have said that vendors vying for the JEDI contract can team up for their bid.

“Offerors may propose any kind of teaming/partnering arrangement so long as the proposed solution meets the requirements of the solicitation,” a government official wrote in response to industry comments on DoD’s second draft RFP for JEDI released earlier this month.

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