WASHINGTON — Defense appropriators in the House of Representatives intend to strip funding from the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud computing program, in the latest twist surrounding the department’s signature digital effort.
In budget documents released today by the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense, JEDI’s funding is paused for fiscal year 2020 as a result of concerns that “the rapid pace of innovation in the industry and that this approach may lock the Department of Defense into a single provider for potentially as long as ten years.”
“Therefore, the Committee directs that no funds may be obligated or expended to migrate data and applications to the JEDI cloud until the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense provides a report to the congressional defense committees on how the department plans to eventually transition to a multi-cloud environment, as described in its January 2019 Cloud Initiative Report to Congress,” the language reads.
That report will include “a list of specific contracting opportunities for commercial cloud services the department is contemplating over the next two years; a description of each contract opportunity; whether it will be structured as a full and open competition or sole source contract; the department’s planned use for the cloud service; the estimated fiscal year and quarter for the release of each solicitation; planned contract type and structure; and estimated maximum contract value and period of performance, including each option.”
The root of the committee’s concerns are not new: that the department chose a sole provider for JEDI, estimated to be worth $10 billion over its lifespan. The program went through a downselect that concluded only Amazon Web Services and Microsoft could meet the requirements. Prior to those selections, but predicting a limited field, Oracle launched a lawsuit and an organized pressure campaign through both the press and the Hill, which eventually led to an internal Pentagon ethics investigation and a pause on the program.
With that investigation now finished, the contract could be awarded as early as mid-July. Critics have said that the JEDI contract is effectively tailored for an Amazon Web Services award, as few other companies are large enough or have the necessary security authorizations to meet the Pentagon’s needs. Defense Department officials counter they are running an open and fair procurement focused on getting the best tech to support the war fighter, and that a single provider would best meet the needs of the war fighter.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.