Pentagon considers ending massive computing contract: report

The Defense Department is considering scrapping a multibillion-dollar cloud-computing project that’s been bogged down by lawsuits and lawmaker scrutiny, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Amazon for more than a year has contested the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract awarded to Microsoft in 2019.

The Pentagon is in the process of reviewing the project after the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on April 28 decided not to dismiss a protest lawsuit filed by Amazon.

That means work on the contract will continue to stall after it was first halted in February 2020 due to litigation.

“We’re going to have to assess where we are with regard to the ongoing litigation around JEDI and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said April 30 at a security conference.

The Pentagon, in a Jan. 28 report to Congress, said an Amazon win in court “might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question.”

Microsoft was awarded the JEDI contract in October 2019, prompting Amazon to file a lawsuit alleging the Trump administration interfered, using “improper influence” to keep the multibillion-dollar contract away from Amazon Web Services.

Microsoft and the Defense Department attempted to get work underway on the contract, but the U.S. Court of Federal Claims put a pause on the activity last year.

Pentagon leaders for the past several years have looked for ways to consolidate thousands of data systems into one place or possibly a small handful of locations, allowing officials to access data quicker.

The JEDI contract is meant to do just that, using one vendor to move all but the Pentagon’s most secret programs into one cloud computing system. But some critics argue the Defense Department should instead switch to an approach that uses multiple companies.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, last week urged the Pentagon revisit the contract-bidding process to “enable best-in-class capability.”

Microsoft, meanwhile, told the Journal that it agrees with that delays caused by the “prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it,” but maintains that the company is “ready to support the Defense Department to deliver on JEDI and other mission critical DoD projects.”

Asked later on Monday about whether the Pentagon was indeed considering scratching the JEDI program, press secretary John Kirby repeated Hicks’ comments.

“We’re going to have to assess where we are in regards to the ongoing litigation and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” Kirby said. 

“We continue to have … an urgent unmet requirement for enterprise-wide commercial cloud services at all three classification levels, but we remain fully committed to meeting these requirements, we hope through JEDI, but these requirements transcend any one procurement and they’re going to have to be met one way or the other.”

Updated at 3:28 p.m.

Tags Amazon Cloud computing Defense Department JEDI contract Kathleen Hicks Microsoft Pentagon Steve Womack U.S. Court of Federal Claims
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