The Defense Department’s cloud services contracting saga finally has come to an end that, for many, was obvious from the start more than four years ago.
The Pentagon today announced it has chosen four cloud providers, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Google and Oracle, for spots on its Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) vehicle.
The five-and-a-half year multiple award indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract has a ceiling of $9 billion. The contract runs through June 2028.
“The purpose of this contract is to provide the Department of Defense with enterprisewide, globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge,” DoD said in the award announcement. “The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability will allow mission owners to acquire authorized commercial cloud offerings directly from the cloud service providers contract awardees.”
Under JWCC, DoD will parcel out several billion dollars in cloud spending through smaller awards it will issue as task orders. But the companies competing for that work will never actually submit bids for each discrete chunk of DoD’s enterprise cloud. Instead, a computer system and a centralized program office will be in charge of deciding precisely which firm is best suited for each piece of JWCC, and issue orders accordingly.
DoD says with JWCC, warfighters will be able to acquire the cloud capabilities under one contract including:
available and resilient services
centralized management and distributed control
ease of use
elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure
advanced data analytics
tactical edge devices
The awards, which many believed were a forgone conclusion after DoD issued solicitations to these four companies in November 2021, for all intents and purposes brings the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) soap opera to a fitting end as well. DoD cancelled the JEDI program in July 2021 after multiple protests and accusations of conflicts of interest and other improprieties.
DoD kicked off the JWCC effort as the replacement for the controversial JEDI initiative in early 2021 by doing market research on the current state of the cloud sector. It had expected to make awards in March 2022, but the negotiations with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle turned out to be more complex and time-consuming than the department initially expected.
Air Force preparing for JWCC
With JWCC now awarded, the question becomes how soon DoD can fully accredit the cloud platforms and address some of the long-standing challenges with enterprise cloud such as data sovereignty and integration with existing cloud applications.
Lauren Knausenberger, the chief information officer at the Air Force, said at the AFCEA Air Force IT day on Dec. 8 that there still is a lot to figure out for how JWCC fits in with their broader IT goals.
“We don’t yet 100% know what JWCC means. What it does mean for cloud providers that we should be able to even more easily buy compute, have an easier time interoperating in our compute stack. And once it becomes a mature capability, it absolutely can be game changing,” she said. “The intent is to have global compute be able to interact seamlessly between the cloud and the edge.”
The Air Force already has applications and systems in all four cloud service provider platforms through its CloudOne platform. Knausenberger said this means that service will need to change a little.
“We do have to build out the enterprise services. We do have to build out the front door as we don’t necessarily want all of our teams to come up individually to JWCC and have to figure out how they’re going to get their application into the cloud,” she said. “For the short term, we still have the different service clouds that are going to have to provide some sort of an integration function. But it is our intent, as soon as the services in JWCC are ready, to start consuming more and more of those services. But I do think that we are going to continue to need kind of the front door.”
Knausenberger added the Air Force will have to ensure its developing cloud requirements in a more coordinated way to take advantage of the potential benefits of lower costs and ease of use around JWCC.
Accelerating the move to the cloud is one of six lines of effort in the new Department of Air Force IT strategic plan. The service released the strategy on Sept. 30.