DoD sticks the (inevitable) fork in JEDI

Only because I looked it up this morning, I now know the term “jedi” is an invention of the banal Star Wars movies. I’d thought the movie makers had borrowed the term from some ancient civilization, along the lines of “ninja.”

All the more reason the Defense Department was correct in canceling its tortured cloud computing contract.

I mean, what else were they going to do?

DoD planners faced two realities. First, the litigation from Amazon, which, if not exactly the 1996 Inslaw case (look it up, kids), was growing to absurd length and complexity, even by federal procurement dispute standards. That DoD would prevail was uncertain. Second, the Pentagon concluded that after four years of pursuing a single-award contract, a multi-cloud approach might in the end be the most advantageous for the department’s cloud computing needs.

Thank goodness they didn’t call the successor project JEDI II. Instead, we now have Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC). Shelve those lightsabers.

In the long run it will be helpful to DoD to have a multi-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity approach. Continuous competition will mean continuous improvement in both services and prices. Unlike having multiple vendors for something like an engine, multiple cloud vendors don’t entail sky-high lifecycle maintenance and repair costs, multiplied by the number of vendors.

DoD’s challenge now will be to determine who gets onto that IDIQ? Because it has specialized purpose in supporting command and control, JWCC won’t be a generalized vehicle for anyone that wants to tilt up a data center and call itself a commercial cloud. Federal News Network’s Jared Serbu reported officials hinted that the two contenders for JEDI — Microsoft and Amazon — would be part of JWCC. They reason, the same market research that justified their technical capabilities still applies. Still, they can’t taint the new procurement with the original sin of promising anyone will or won’t get a spot. JWCC planners will seek information from the other cloud majors: Google, IBM and Oracle.

An irony here is that by starting over, DoD won’t obtain the needed capabilities any sooner than it would have had it continued the JEDI slog. Therefore it was apparently the need for a new approach, rather than reluctance to keep litigating, that drove the decision.

I’ve got a feeling the decision to jettison JEDI came from the top. JEDI, whether justifiably or not, had the whiff of politics after Amazon accused Trump appointees deep in the Pentagon with having a bias against the company. Plus the simple fact of having dragged on for so long gave the project a shopworn appearance. Given all of this, maybe Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “Folks, why don’t we just start over?”

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