Is the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure One Cloud to Rule them All?

Published: July 24, 2019

Federal Market AnalysisCloud ComputingDEFENSEInformation Technology

Problems with the DOD’s JEDI communications strategy

Ever since the announcement that the Department of Defense intended to stand up a massive cloud to provide capability on an enterprise level, DOD leaders have struggled to correct the perception that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) would be “one cloud to rule them all.” The notion that DOD intends to pursue a single-cloud strategy developed in part as a result of the $10B price tag. After all, if the department intended to spend that much money on a single cloud why would it need others? Additionally, however, nowhere in the documentation released for JEDI does it state that the enterprise cloud must be compatible with other cloud infrastructures (i.e., IaaS). The final Statement of Objectives for JEDI states that the offeror’s “online marketplace within the JEDI Cloud environment must support the ability for JEDI Cloud users to deploy CSP and third-party service offerings,” but this is not an explicit statement that JEDI must be compatible with or interoperable with other DOD cloud infrastructures. The issue of interoperability was not addressed in the final solicitation Q&A, either, leaving the impression that JEDI is intended to be DOD’s only cloud infrastructure.

The use of a single-cloud infrastructure is not an industry best practice and critics have slammed the DOD for allegedly ignoring this fact. Yet both the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims have upheld the DOD’s acquisition approach as valid, clearing the path for an award in August 2019. Why might this be? I suspect it is because behind the scenes Defense officials have explained that JEDI is not the only cloud infrastructure the department will use.

DOD’s Cloud Strategy makes this clear, while the JEDI solicitation did not. Finalized in December 2018, the strategy drives DOD “toward [an] enterprise cloud environment, an ecosystem composed of a General Purpose and Fit For Purpose clouds.” The strategy also says, “the Department must address the unique mission requirements through a multi-cloud, multi-vendor strategy that incorporates a General Purpose cloud and Fit For Purpose clouds.” If the department can be this clear in its cloud strategy, why couldn’t it do the same in its JEDI documentation?

Unfortunately, the DOD’s contradictory public communications about JEDI and its cloud strategy have cost a fortune in litigation and delays to the award of the final JEDI contract. Congress, and now the White House, have become involved, promising more delays. All of this could have been avoided if the DOD had consistently communicated the message that it intends to take the best practices multi-cloud approach outlined in its cloud strategy.

There is a silver lining here for at least some industry partners. Namely, that the DOD will continue to procure cloud services from multiple vendors, particularly Software-as-a-Service based capabilities. A large number of cloud service providers already partner with either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft, so those CSPs stand to benefit from whichever one of those two competitors wins the JEDI contract.