Pentagon: JEDI bids on hold again, but it's still not the cloud contract you're looking for

US Department of Defense insistent on single vendor

The Pentagon has pushed back its controversial single vendor cloud contract deal, saying it doesn't want to "rush toward failure".

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract will cover all branches of the military, run for a maximum of 10 years and, crucially, be handed to one vendor.

This has drawn widespread criticism from tech advocacy groups who argue it will damage innovation and security, and vendors who think AWS, with its existing government clearance and contract wins, is a shoo-in.

But the US Department of Defense has insisted the single award structure is necessary to reduce complexity, citing that it currently runs more than 500 cloud instances as well as fragmented on-premises storage systems, and that multiple vendors would slow down progress and add expense "without commensurate increase in capabilities".

However, the department missed the date it planned to open up bids – 15 May – for the lucrative contract, which could go into the billions, and the final request for proposals has still not been issued.

Instead it yesterday published a further set of draft pricing scenarios, and Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White confirmed that there was now no set date for the final RFP, and that the DoD was "still working on it".

"It's important that we don't rush toward failure," she said at a press conference, repeatedly noting that there had been more than 1,000 responses to the first and second draft RFPs that were published earlier this year.

"This is different for us," White added. "We have a lot more players in it. This is something different from some of our other acquisition programs because we do have a great deal of commercial interest."

She declined to answer a question about whether the department was still on track to make the award by September as originally planned, saying she would "come back" on that.

White was also asked whether there had been any influence from the White House about the contract, or a directive to exclude any firm from bidding – speculation fuelled by President Donald Trump's Twitter attacks on Amazon and meeting with Oracle co-CEO Safra Katz.

"I can tell you that no political pressure has been given," White responded. "This remains a full and open competition, and that's what it will remain."

White also said that the department intended to continue with its winner-takes-all strategy, while pointing to a previous defence from the department that even though the contract could run for a decade, the DoD isn't obligated to stick with the same vendor beyond the minimum base period of two years.

"To date... there has been no change to that... strategy in terms of the first two years, for that single award, and then determining how to move forward after that," she said.

The new draft scenarios for pricing are open for comment until 6 June. ®

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