A judge on the Court of Federal Claims has rejected a motion filed by the Department of Justice and Microsoft which sought to dismiss Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) complaint that the Trump administration interfered with the award of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract to Microsoft.
AWS said in a statement Wednesday, “The record of improper influence by former President Trump is disturbing, and we are pleased the court will review the remarkable impact it had on the JEDI contract award.” The Defense Department (DoD) has consistently denied that the White House influenced its decisions on the contract.
“This procedural ruling changes little,” said Frank Shaw, corporate vice president at Microsoft Communications, in a statement released late Wednesday. “Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DoD chose Microsoft after a thorough review,” he said. “Many other large and sophisticated customers make the same choice every week. We’ve continued for more than a year to do the internal work necessary to move forward on JEDI quickly, and we continue to work with DoD, as we have for more than 40 years, on mission critical initiatives like supporting its rapid shift to remote work and the Army’s IVAS.”
The court decision revealed today allows AWS to continue to pursue legal avenues and depositions in its bid protest lawsuit, further drawing out the lengthy protest saga.
The court’s decision may also throw a potentially fatal wrench into the entire contract, as DoD warned in a communication to Congress earlier this year that it may consider moving on from the contract entirely if the court battle dragged on much longer.
JEDI – A Brief History
The JEDI program – once heralded as the crown jewel of the DoD’s cloud strategy – was positioned as the “foundational approach to deliver the benefits of a general purpose enterprise cloud for DoD,” while milCloud 2.0 and the Defense Enterprise Office Solution (DEOS) would serve the department’s fit-for-purpose needs.
milCloud 2.0 provides an integrated suite of cloud-based infrastructure services, while DEOS will provide secure productivity and collaboration capabilities in both unclassified and classified settings inside and outside the continental United States.
The Pentagon released its final request for proposals for JEDI in July 2018, and after a 15-month drama-filled battle among Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Oracle, awarded the contract to Microsoft in October 2019. AWS almost immediately filed a protest, and while initial work proceeded in late 2019, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims put a hold on contract work in February 2020. While the DoD re-awarded the contract to Microsoft in September 2020, work still was not permitted to move forward. In February, the DoD suggested in a communication to Congress that it might move on from the embattled contract.
The DoD has said it still has an urgent and unmet requirement when it comes to the need for an enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services for all three classification levels at scale. And the Pentagon said it remains “fully committed to meeting this requirement,” but “will be prepared to ensure it is met one way or another.”
One way it might meet that need is through the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) milCloud 2.0 contract, which is operated by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT).
milCloud 2.0 – which recently celebrated its third anniversary – is a fit-for-purpose cloud offering designed for mission-critical applications, workloads, and data that must remain on premises at the DoD. In February, GDIT announced the availability of Amazon Web Services (AWS) on the milCloud 2.0 contract – effectively adding off-premises, general purpose cloud solutions to the milCloud 2.0 lineup.
In the press release announcing the addition of AWS to the milCloud 2.0 contract, Leigh Palmer, GDIT’s senior vice president for its Defense Division, noted, “This aligns precisely with the DoD Hybrid Cloud Strategy and actually simplifies acquisition and choice for the DoD and DISA mission partners.”
GDIT notes that mission partners can get access and start migrating to milCloud 2.0 – both the fit-for-purpose, on premises offerings, and the general purpose, off premises services from AWS – within 48 hours of funding approval. The company has also said it expects that the milCloud 2.0 environment will achieve Impact Level 6 certification this summer, enabling it to support classified workloads.
This is significant as the contract could provide a viable path forward for the DoD to meet its cloud strategy objectives – including improving cybersecurity, enhancing resiliency, and accelerating AI progress.
“The milCloud 2.0 program is all about the speed of the capabilities we provide and the relevance to the DoD’s mission,” says Jim Matney, Vice President and General Manager, DISA and Enterprise Services Sector, GDIT. “We are continuously focused on evolving the environment – the AWS addition is a perfect example of that – and we are ready to meet mission partners’ cloud needs today and tomorrow.”