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JEDI Cloud Faces New Challenge As Congress Threatens Withholding Migration Funds

The House subcommittee responsible for advancing military spending bills submitted a report that says it will require the Pentagon's CIO to explain how the military plans to avoid vendor lock-in as it pursues its winner-take-all cloud transformation initiative

Congressional leaders plan to deny funding for migrations to the cloud provider selected as the winner of the JEDI cloud initiative until the Defense Department's CIO details how the military will avoid vendor lock-in.

In a report put forward Monday to accompany a military spending bill for 2020, the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), demanded a roadmap from military IT leaders about implementing a multi-cloud strategy.

The subcommittee "continues to be concerned" with the single vendor JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) strategy, "given 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," the report reads.

[Related: A New Pentagon Leader Will Shepherd Controversial JEDI Cloud Award Into Its Final Stretch]

The JEDI bidding process has generated a firestorm of controversy primarily because of its decision for a single vendor for the military's "General Purpose" cloud.

The subcommittee "believes that the Department of Defense is deviating from established OMB policy and industry best practices, and may be failing to implement a strategy that lowers costs and fully supports data innovation for the warfighter," the report said.

Military leaders have defended that strategy as in the best interest of troops, arguing multiple providers will increase security management challenges and make data less accessible to U.S. forces deployed in remote settings, such as naval vessels.

But the subcommittee, which sends spending packages to the full appropriations committee for further amendments, will not "direct funding to migrate data and applications into JEDI Cloud" until it hears more about a strategy to avoid lock-in.

Other federal agencies are pursuing multi-vendor cloud strategies, as recommended by the Office of Management and Budget's "Cloud Smart" strategy, the report noted.

Those include the CIA, which is taking a multi-cloud approach in its Commercial Cloud Enterprise procurement after going with a single vendor in 2013. Amazon Web Services won the 10-year, $600 million CIA cloud contract that year.

The DoD should "adopt lessons" from the CIA's work in the cloud for the last five years, the report said.

DoD CIO Dana Deasy, advised by Defense Digital Services, a team within the U.S. Digital Service, has shortlisted AWS and Microsoft, the first and second largest enterprise cloud providers, respectively, as the only two bidders in the $10 billion sweepstakes that met the military's "competitive range determination".

The congressional subcommittee wants Deasy to break down different cloud computing contracts considered by the Pentagon over the next two years—what cloud services the military wants, how they will be used, and how those procurements will be filled.

The subcommittee also wants quarterly reports from the CIO on implementation of its cloud strategy to both House and Senate appropriation committees.

Oracle has been the most-vocal opponent of the single vendor strategy. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based tech giant has sued the federal government, alleging many improprieties in the bidding process, especially conflicts of interest and a violation of federal procurement law.

But Oracle has also protested along the same lines voiced by the congressional subcommittee, arguing the DoD's approach fails to ensure the best deal for the military.

At the same time, Oracle has taken a political tack—asking lawmakers to put its bid back in the running for the potentially $10 billion enterprise cloud transformation award.

Kenneth Glueck, the executive vice president who leads the Redwood Shores, Calif. company's government lobbying efforts, on April 25 appealed to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations to counter what Oracle sees as a flawed procurement process.

"We believe that a full and fair consideration of four competing JEDI proposals is in the best interests of the warfighter, the taxpayer, and the United States," Glueck said.

Controversy around JEDI has been highly politicized.

In October, congressmen Steve Womack from Arkansas and Tom Cole from Oklahoma, wrote a letter to Glenn Fine, principal deputy inspector general for the U.S. Department of Defense, that severely criticized the RFP process as favoring a specific cloud provider.

While the two republican congressmen didn't name the favored contractor, based on the requirements that provoked their concern—specifically a provider that meets Defense Information Systems Agency Impact Level 6—it's clear they were referring to Amazon Web Services.

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