May 10, 2021
Did anyone seek this outcome? Multiple reports on Monday indicate the Pentagon may pull the plug on the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI).
JEDI, the Department of Defense’s project to update its systems to cloud computing, could be dead. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, top federal lawmakers are tired of the legal battle between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft. They’re pressuring the DoD to make a move. On April 30, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said JEDI would undergo a review, the WSJ reported.
“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,” Hicks said, according to the WSJ.
Her comments came after the Pentagon sent a report to Congress. That document said another Amazon court win could significantly impact the timeline for getting JEDI up and running. And DoD’s assessment came before a federal judge last month refused to dismiss Amazon’s claims alleging the Trump administration interfered in JEDI.
In 2019, after protracted timelines and various legal tussles, Microsoft Azure landed the $10 billion contract.
AWS, considered the frontrunner, did not take kindly to losing.
The world’s largest public cloud provider had expected to win JEDI. It filed a lawsuit to stop JEDI momentum, contending that then-President Donald Trump had interfered in the award process because of a personal beef with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Since that time, the JEDI decision has undergone endless court wrangling. AWS even convinced a judge to halt any work Microsoft had started on the project.
Now, the WSJ reports Pentagon officials are considering a new approach: awarding JEDI work to multiple vendors, not just one.
Indeed, that single-provider strategy proved a point of great contention. Not only did AWS invoke that structure as problematic, so did one-time competitor Oracle. However, those arguments did nothing to change the way the Pentagon wanted to implement JEDI.
Last September, AWS said it would continue to protest JEDI’s award to Microsoft, calling it “politically corrupted.”
What Comes Next?
As for next steps, well, that remains the question. If the Pentagon is serious about scrapping JEDI, everybody will lose. The clock will reset, the selection process begin again. Perhaps most problematically, the time needed to modernize the Pentagon’s myriad systems will have grown particularly prolonged. Could that invite trouble? Throughout the course of the JEDI legal battles, Microsoft especially has maintained that implementing JEDI is an issue of national security. The company reiterated the position on Monday in a statement to GeekWire.
“JEDI was developed to meet a critical national security need,” a spokesperson said. “We agree with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Justice that prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it. We stand ready to support the Defense Department to deliver on JEDI and other mission-critical DoD projects … We have served as a committed partner to the DoD for more than 40 years and we intend to continue this relationship in the years to come to ensure our service members have the technology they deserve.”
As it pointed out, Microsoft has long served as a contractor to the federal government. In fact, in March, the software giant won a $22 billion deal to supply its HoloLens headsets to the U.S. Army.
In fairness, Amazon also has extended its patriotic stance during its fights over JEDI.
While the company had yet to issue a statement of its own by time of publication on Monday ,it said last year it was “honored to support our nation’s military, and extremely proud of our role in helping U.S. government customers achieve mission success. Today, over 6,500 government agencies rely on the AWS Cloud to achieve an unmatched level of security, agility, innovation, and reliability. It is our commitment to supporting the U.S. military, and our experience earning trust and helping deliver transformational results within the intelligence community, that led us to bid on JEDI. We felt strongly then, just as we do now, that our technology is uniquely suited to help our military maintain an edge on the digital battlefield of today, and tomorrow.”
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