The McKeon Group is closely monitoring recent Department of Defense efforts to accelerate and streamline the acquisition of cloud computing services at multiple security levels across the Department.
On April 16th, the Department released its second JEDI Cloud RFP, renewing debate over its call for a single winner-take-all, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. This has prompted criticism from Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Oracle Corp. and others in the industry who are worried the move will favor Amazon.com Inc.’s dominant position in the market and further solidify near future government contracts.
Tech companies also argue that a single-source approach will lead to increased security risks. Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal said, “it doesn’t make sense for DoD to opt for a less secure approach for purchasing cloud computing than it would any other weapon system.” 
On the other side, the Department of Defense believes that pursuing a multiple-award contract would significantly slow down the cloud improvement process, “pace could prevent the Department of Defense from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter.” 
JEDI will utilize artificial intelligence and big data analysis to help Defense officials make more informed decisions. Modern computing capabilities can access, retrieve, manipulate, merge, analyze, and visualize data at machine speeds, providing substantial decision-making advantages on the battlefield. 
Brigadier General David Krumm of the Joint Staff told reporters, “when we look at AI machine learning, what we’re really talking about is the ability to glean information from what is a massive amount of data, coming from all sorts of sources, that gives us the advantage in making decisions really quickly.” 
JEDI will rely on existing military communication systems and existing commercial software to handle and carry classified data to the appropriate source. Thus, whichever company wins the JEDI contract will take its commercial offerings and replicate those services in a classified space while using existing Department infrastructure to send information.
Despite industry rumors that the JEDI RFP’s onerous evaluation criteria may effectively limit competition to a handful of providers, there are several differentiating factors that could make the competition interesting:
- Identity is the new perimeter: JEDI proposals must demonstrate robust identity and access management capabilities, including role-based access controls. Offerors capable of delivering continuous access monitoring based on user analytics will have a competitive advantage.
- Platforms at the center: JEDI is not a data center contract; competitive proposals will showcase innovative PaaS capabilities.
- Continuous innovation: Vendors able to illustrate how they continuously test new ideas and solve problems their customers didn’t know they had will be better positioned than those who can only meet the bare minimum for each gate criteria.
- Joint Ventures: Given the size and scope of the JEDI contract it’s possible that joint ventures could emerge if contractors believe that pooling resources offers them a better shot at competing with established commercial cloud providers. In that case it will be crucial that at least one of the parties offers commercial cloud services with a broad customer base outside the government market. 
On May 31st, the Department announced that it will delay indefinitely its final request for proposals outlining requirements for a JEDI Cloud Contract.
The McKeon Group will continue to closely track future developments in Department of Defense cloud projects.
- Brody, Ben, Anthony Capaccio, and Naomi Nix. “Pentagon Cloud Bid in Congress’s Crosshairs Amid Amazon Concerns.” Bloomberg Government. March 22, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-22/u-s-spending-bill-directs-pentagon-to-justify-cloud-award.
- Department of Defense. “45-Day Report to Congress on JEDI Cloud Computing Services Request for Proposal & 60-Day Report to Congress on a Framework for all Department Entities to Acquire Cloud Computing Services.” May 7, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Dept. of Defense. “45-Day Report to Congress on JEDI Cloud Computing Services Request for Proposal & 60-Day Report to Congress on a Framework for all Department Entities to Acquire Cloud Computing Services.” May 7, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Freedberg, Sydney. “War Cloud: JEDI to Deploy Backpack Servers To Front Line.” Breaking Defense. April 24, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://breakingdefense.com/2018/04/war-cloud-jedi-to-deploy-backpack-servers-to-front-line/.
- Snyder, Daniel, and Chris Cornillie. “Breaking Down $10 Billion JEDI Cloud Contract RFP.” Bloomberg Government. March 14, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://about.bgov.com/blog/breaking-10-billion-jedi-cloud-contract-draft-rfp/.