The Defense Department on Friday issued formal solicitations to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google and Oracle for its highly-anticipated Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) program, the multibillion dollar project intended to replace its ill-fated JEDI Cloud contract.
The decision followed several months of market research, and represented a change from DoD’s previous plans from its new multi-award approach. In July, when it cancelled the JEDI contract — short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure — officials said they believed that only Amazon and Microsoft had the technical capabilities to meet their needs under JWCC.
“The DoD studied the commercial cloud market and assessed capability statements that were submitted by cloud service providers and any follow-up communications provided to the department,” Russell Goemaere, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “We assessed each CSP’s service and capability offerings as they related to the department’s unfulfilled warfighting needs, enduring capability gaps, high-level JWCC requirements, and each CSP’s ability to meet the JWCC capability delivery schedule. We also collaborated with DoD stakeholders from the military services, combatant commands, principal staff assistants, defense agencies, and field activities to survey requirement owners about what they would want to see in an enterprise level cloud offering.”
John Sherman, DoD’s then-acting CIO said in July that he intended to engage in discussions with all five U.S.-based “hyperscale” cloud providers before the department made a final decision. It wasn’t immediately clear why IBM, the fifth provider DoD consulted, did not receive its own solicitation. In a statement, the company said it would “continue pursuing opportunities to support JWCC,” without elaborating.
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The decision to include Oracle was particularly noteworthy, as that firm had been a thorn in DoD’s side throughout most of the JEDI Cloud contracting process. Oracle filed numerous pre-award and post-award legal challenging its exclusion from JEDI, eventually taking the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case earlier this year.
“Oracle is delighted to be included in the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability,” said Deborah Hellinger, a company spokeswoman. “We are committed to delivering the highest level of security, performance, and value in enterprise cloud applications and cloud infrastructure in support of DoD’s warfighter mission.”
Google said earlier this month that it would be interested in pursuing work under the JWCC contract, if DoD picked it for one of the directed solicitations.
“If selected as one of the compliant vendors, we will proudly work with the DoD to help them modernize their operations following the process we have in place for working with our customers, including the processes we’ve developed around our AI Principles,” Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud’s CEO wrote in a Nov. 11 blog post. “When the JEDI RFP was issued, Google Cloud was not in a position to bid. First and foremost, our technologies were not ready to meet the various classification levels and other technical requirements necessary to compete.”
Friday’s solicitations are not contract awards — at least not yet. DoD still must negotiate separate indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with each company, a process the department expects to finalize by the third quarter of Fiscal 2022.
And the fact that a company received a solicitation isn’t a guarantee that they will be awarded a contract, Defense officials told Federal News Network on Friday. That clarification appeared to be at least one significant change to DoD’s previous intent. In a presolicitation notice the department published on Aug. 3, officials said they would negotiate with and award contracts to all of the companies that their market research determined to be “responsible vendors.”
Once the contracts are formally in place, the Pentagon expects to start using JWCC to deliver unclassified cloud services 30 days after the awards, secret-level services after 60 days, and top-secret services after 180 days.
Aside from being a multiple-award construct rather than single-award, it’s not yet clear how substantially the JWCC project will differ from the department’s initial vision from JEDI. The department on Friday declined to make public the solicitation documents it sent to vendors. Thus far, the only documentation DoD has released has been the August presolicitation notice it published at the start of its market research process for JWCC.
“At a high level, the JWCC requirements include providing capability and parity of service at all three classification levels, integrated cross domain solutions, global availability of tactical edge environments and enhanced cybersecurity controls,” Danielle Metz, DoD’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprise said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Microsoft declined to comment on Friday’s announcement.
In a brief statement, Amazon said it looked forward to supporting the military as part of the contract.
“We look forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions,” the company said.
The three-year delay and eventual cancellation of the JEDI program has meant that each of the military departments have now created their own contractual mechanisms to buy and manage cloud services. The Air Force built a program called Cloud One, along with a cloud-conscious DevSecOps software development environment called Platform One.
The Army, meanwhile, stood up its own Enterprise Cloud Management Agency to manage its contracts with cloud service providers, and the Navy has done much the same by consolidating its cloud activities within a new Cloud Service Management Organization.
The Pentagon said on Friday that JWCC is not intended to supplant the work the military services have already done to incorporate commercial cloud into their IT service offerings — at least not in the near-term.
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“But as the department continues to mature and evolve in its use of cloud technologies, opportunities will arise to assess current cloud offerings against the current and future needs of the department and our warfighters,” a Defense official said. “We will work with the military services as their cloud service contracts come to a close to drive future adoption of JWCC and institute an enterprise cloud offering that the entire department can utilize.”