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U.S. Congressmen Seek To Challenge JEDI Cloud Contract Process

Bids were due the the week before last for the multi-billion cloud contract for the U.S. military. And now two members of Congress are saying military officials have violated ethical obligations because of ties to "a specific contractor"—referring to, but not naming Amazon, specifically.

Adding another wrinkle to the unyielding controversy engine that has become the Defense Department's JEDI cloud computing initiative, two U.S. congressmen on Tuesday accused military leaders of violating federal law and industry best practices to deliver the entirety of the massive contract to a single provider.

The Republican politicians -- 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 that ended in bids submitted more than a week ago.

While the two 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 are referring to Amazon Web Services.

[Related: Employees To Microsoft: Don't Bid On JEDI ]

The congressmen also wrote it has come to their attention, through media reports, that people in high-ranking positions within the military are going against the department's ethics guidelines because they "have significant connections" to that contractor.

Womack and Cole said the military hasn't explained "why they continue to insist on a contract structure that has been widely criticized by Congress and industry."

The letter was first reported by Politico Pro, a premium version of the political news site, and FCW, a federal technology trade publication.

That JEDI process, since the beginning, has gone against a recently passed appropriations bill that says in implementing an "enterprise-wide cloud computing" strategy, the Defense Department is obligated to include "defining opportunities for multiple cloud service providers."

The entire process has "run contrary to industry best-practices and federal acquisition guidelines," Womack and Cole said.

They said they are particularly concerned about "gating" provisions "that seem to be tailored" for AWS -- without actually naming AWS.

Oracle and IBM, supported by several other vendor allies in the industry, have lodged formal protests with the Government Accountability Office along those same lines.

Supporting their position is the Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council's IT Alliance for Public Sector, a consortium that's comprised of all the cloud providers involved in the dispute.

The coalition has argued a multi-cloud approach would adhere to best practices for ensuring price competitiveness and avoiding vendor lock in.

Oracle has repeatedly argued the technical specifications have been engineered to deliver the contract exclusively to Amazon Web Services.

And IBM's Sam Gordy, general manager for U.S. Federal, more recently said in a blog post that the path pursued and ardently defended by military leaders "would not provide the strongest possible foundation for the 21st century battlefield."

IBM goes as far as suggesting the military is jeopardizing the security of the armed forces by making its IT infrastructure more vulnerable to attack.

But defense officials have pushed back against complaints and resisted calls to change the winner-take-all nature of the award.

Pentagon brass have said any threat of vendor lock-in can be mitigated by demanding submitted RFPs that include plans that enable the military within two years to switch to another provider. Leveraging application containers is one way, the military believes, it can migrate if it decides not to commit to three- and five-year extensions stipulated in the contract.

Military leaders have argued that deploying workloads across multiple providers will increase security management challenges and make data less accessible to U.S. forces deployed in remote settings, such as naval vessels.

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