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Pentagon CIO: JEDI Cloud ‘Re-Announcement’ Should Come By End Of August

After a court-sanctioned, 120-day reevaluation period, CIO Dana Deasy, who’s been at the center of the firestorm around the military’s potentially $10 billion cloud transformation contract, said the Pentagon will soon update its decision awarding the contract to Microsoft over Amazon Web Services. Both vendors have responded, and “our goal is to finish the evaluation of those responses in August, which was always our plan,” he said.

By the end of next month, the Pentagon should update its decision awarding the prestigious and highly controversial JEDI cloud transformation contract to Microsoft, the Defense Department’s chief information officer said Thursday morning.

Plans remain on-schedule to “do a re-announcement of our intentions to award probably sometime towards the very end of August, barring any last-minute unforeseen additional issues that are raised,“ Pentagon CIO Dana Deasy said in an online press conference posted on the Department of Defense Twitter account.

The military initiated a 120-day review period in March in response to a federal judge finding at least one shortcoming in the vendor evaluation process that delivered the potentially $10 billion contract to Microsoft over its public cloud rival Amazon Web Services.

[Related: Here’s Where The Pentagon’s JEDI Cloud Program Stands]

That “very public” process in which the judge asked military officials to look at a single section of the RFP solicitation is now wrapping up, Deasy said.

The military committed to conducting its review and allowing Microsoft and AWS both to respond back, he said. “Our goal is to finish the evaluation of those responses in August, which was always our plan.”

At the same time, Deasy said the military’s efforts to build an enterprise cloud as the foundation for digital modernization “has always been much more than JEDI.”

“Efforts of the national defense strategy are all about getting modern effective technologies into the hands of our warfighter,” Deasy said. That covers cloud, AI, and command and control communications, often referred to as C3, as well as cyber-security and the Pentagon’s “latest effort, data.”

CRN has reached out to both AWS and Microsoft for comment.

In February, Judge Patricia E Campbell-Smith, who sits on the United States Court of Federal Claims, granted Amazon Web Service’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing Microsoft from moving forward with task orders and substantial implementation work on the JEDI contract.

After that ruling, based only on one flaw in the assessment process, Judge Campbell-Smith allowed the military a period of remand to “reconsider certain aspects” of how it evaluated vendor bids from Microsoft and AWS.

Military officials have not made clear the extent of their evaluation, though they have resisted looking again at any other of the eight criteria in the RFP that JEDI bidders were required to meet, even though AWS argues six were improperly evaluated in the initial process.

AWS argued in subsequent legal filings that the military’s re-evaluation terms constitute an attempt to “gerrymander” the criteria in order to “preserve the illusion that Microsoft offered the lowest price while simultaneously perpetuating competitive impediments for AWS.”

The Pentagon is not fairly reassessing JEDI bids, AWS argued, but instead narrowly amending the one deficiency in its source-selection process specifically called out by Judge Campbell-Smith.

“In plain terms, DoD’s proposed corrective action focuses on allowing Microsoft to fix its fatally deficient proposal, while paralyzing AWS’s proposed pricing in the face of planned changes to the RFP’s requirements,” reads the Amazon motion opposing the existing plan. “And it does not promise to address the other procurement flaws in any meaningful way.”

Microsoft, for its part, says AWS is looking for a second-chance to salvage a failed bid, and the delay it is causing is harming the Armed Forces.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for communications, once urged Amazon to “stand down on its litigation” opposing the award, arguing the ongoing legal and administrative challenges are keeping the best tools out of the hands of U.S. warfighters.

Amazon’s arguments amount to “trying to bog down JEDI in complaints, litigation and other delays designed to force a do-over to rescue its failed bid,” Shaw said.

In asking for the remand, the Defense Department said it wanted to “conduct clarifications with the offerors,” regarding the availability of their online marketplace offerings. It will also reconsider its decision in regard to “other “technical challenges” that probably won’t need any clarifications from the vendors. And vendors won’t be allowed to modify their proposals during the process, the government said.

The military has suggested factors not addressed by the judge are outside the range of its current review.

Contentious legal battles, first between Oracle and AWS even before the JEDI contract was decided, then between AWS and Microsoft, have drastically delayed the U.S. military’s ambitious and expensive plan to modernize IT resources across all branches of the armed forces.

Like many organizations that have been using outdated computing technology and struggling with disparate environments, the Pentagon recognizes the value of cloud transformation with a leading commercial vendor.

“The Department of Defense (DoD) has entered the modern age of warfighting where the battlefield exists as much in the digital world as it does in the physical,” wrote former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to Congress in explaining the need for the cloud transformation initiative.

“Cloud is a fundamental component of the global infrastructure that will empower the warfighter with data and is critical to maintaining our military‘ s technological advantage.”

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