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Author: Subject: DOD Announces Enterprise General Purpose Cloud Contract Award

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[*] posted on 29-10-2019 at 11:53 AM
DOD Announces Enterprise General Purpose Cloud Contract Award

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Oct. 25, 2019)

Over the last two years the Department of Defense has awarded more than $11 billion across 10 separate cloud contracts. As we continue to execute the DOD Cloud Strategy, additional contracts are planned for both cloud services and complementary migration and integration solutions necessary to achieve effective cloud adoption.

Today the Department of Defense has taken another step forward in the implementation of our Cloud Strategy with the award of an enterprise general-purpose cloud contract to Microsoft. This continues our strategy of a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department’s needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier. This contract will address critical and urgent unmet warfighter requirements for modern cloud infrastructure at all three classification levels delivered out to the tactical edge.

This award is the conclusion of a process that began with the release of the first RFI to industry nearly two years ago. Throughout that time, the department’s focus never wavered from the need to support our warfighters with this essential capability.

The acquisition process was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The process cleared review by the GAO and Court of Federal Claims. At the outset the competition included four different offerors. All offerors were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria. Prior to the award, the department conferred with the DOD Inspector General, which informed the decision to proceed.

The base contract period is two years with a $1 million guarantee. The department projects that user adoption will drive an estimated $210 million of spending during the two-year base period. The DOD will rigorously review contract performance prior to the exercise of any options.

The Department continues to assess and pursue various cloud contracting opportunities to diversify the capabilities of the DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment. Additional contracting opportunities are anticipated.

“The National Defense Strategy dictates that we must improve the speed and effectiveness with which we develop and deploy modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform,” DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said. “The DOD Digital Modernization Strategy was created to support this imperative. This award is an important step in execution of the Digital Modernization Strategy.”

DOD will continue to partner closely with industry to bring the best of commercial innovation to bear on behalf of our nation’s warfighters.


Pentagon Contract Announcement

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Oct. 25, 2019)

Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington, has been awarded a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a ceiling value of $10,000,000,000 over a period of 10 years, if all options are exercised.

The JEDI Cloud contract will provide enterprise level, commercial Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) to support Department of Defense business and mission operations.

Work performance will take place at the awardee's place of performance.

Fiscal 2020 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $1,000,000 are being obligated on a task order against this award to cover the minimum guarantee.

The expected completion date is Oct. 24, 2029, if all options are exercised.

Washington Headquarters Services, Alexandria, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HQ0034-20-D-0001). Task Order HQ0034-20-F-0009 was awarded for the minimum guarantee of $1,000,000. Task Order HQ0034-20-F-0010 was awarded for $0.00 for Cloud Computing Program Office (CCPO) Program Management (PM) Support.

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[*] posted on 29-10-2019 at 08:23 PM

Amazon Vs. Trump: How A JEDI Protest & Impeachment Intertwine

If Amazon protests the Pentagon’s award of the $10 billion JEDI contract to rival Microsoft — and they almost certainly will — the president’s public feud with CEO Jeff Bezos will be central to their case.

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on October 28, 2019 at 11:53 AM

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in the control center of his space launch company, Blue Origin, before the first test launch of its New Shepherd rocket.

UPDATED with Berteau analysis WASHINGTON: The JEDI saga is far from over. Microsoft may have won the long-delayed cloud-computing award announced on Friday, but losing bidder Amazon is all but certain to protest – and the ongoing impeachment process against President Trump will be a crucial factor in their case.

“There’s not much precedent for the President placing a thumb on the scale on a procurement of this magnitude,” said Steven Schooner, a GWU Law professor and outspoken critic of how JEDI has been managed. The closest thing he can think of, he told me in an interview, is Obama’s public hints he preferred the domestic contender for the Air Force’s refueling tanker, Boeing, over EADS-Airbus.

“But this is by no means a slam dunk,” Schooner warned. “The challenge for Amazon will be proving – with more than hearsay — that the pressure was applied and proving that the pressure worked — i.e. that the President’s bluster and blather wasn’t ignored.”

“I can’t recall any similar involvement by the President in a major DoD contract in recent memory,” agreed CSIS expert Andrew Hunter, a former Pentagon and congressional staffer. “The one potential exception is contracts for systems like Air Force One and Marine One aircraft which are so closely tied to the Presidency — not the case with JEDI — and even on those systems, Presidents have steered clear of commenting on an ongoing contract competition.”

Running Out Trump’s Clock?

Now, Hunter doubted the ongoing JEDI wrangle would turn up evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that could influence the ongoing investigation in the House or a potential Senate trial: “The matter of the JEDI contract seems far afield of where the impeachment inquiry is currently focused.”

But the impeachment process will definitely influence JEDI.

Inside a courtroom, allegations that President Trump tried to strongarm the government of Ukraine into investigating a political rival give added ammunition to any argument by Amazon that he improperly meddled in the JEDI award as well.

Outside a courtroom, the possibility of Trump’s impeachment, resignation, or defeat in next November’s election means Amazon can try a strategy of running out the clock on his administration. Amazon doesn’t necessarily have to convince the Government Accountability Organization, the Federal Court of Claims, or anyone else to overturn the award to Microsoft. They could just keep the question unsettled long enough for the next administration to give them another shot.

Or the Pentagon, which is desperate for the long-delayed cloud-computing capability JEDI would provide, could lose patience and offer Amazon a share of the work in exchange for dropping its case. There’s plenty of precedent for such a deal, Schooner said, and “that doesn’t seem like a crazy – or necessarily a bad – outcome here, where one of the most common critiques of the government’s acquisition strategy focused on DoD’s preference for a winner-take-all, single contractor award.”

So “this may be one of those cases where it’s worth litigating to [stall] the procurement for a few months or longer,” Schooner told me. “If Amazon perceives that there is any chance that, in the foreseeable future, the President may be impeached or choose to resign, they would want DoD to be in a position to re-evaluate proposals or even amend the solicitation.”

An Amazon protest to the Government Accountability Organization – and such protests have become common for losing bidders on major government contracts – would probably result in a three-month hold while GAO reviewed the matter.

UPDATE BEGINS Technically, the Defense Department could declare the JEDI contract so important that work had to proceed even as the GAO reviewed the award, said David Berteau, president of the Professional Services Council. But “that’s rare.

It’s much more rare now than it was in decades past,” he said. “I would not expect that” on the already controversial and closely watched JEDI contract.

The normal process Berteau would expect to be followed here, he explained to reporters this afternoon, allows the losing bidders — in this case, Amazon — to request a debriefing from the government on exactly why they lost. That debrief could happen as early as tomorrow, he said, given that both Amazon and the Pentagon are probably primed and ready after all the delays. After the debrief, Amazon would have 10 days to file a protest, after which it would get 10 days to do initial discovery — a process which often digs up additional problems the company can raise in an amended protest, he said.

So, Berteau said, keep an eye not only on whether Amazon files a protest this week or next, but whether it files an amended protest within the 10 days after that. While some protests to GAO are pro forma and easily overturned, he said, “the government’s success rate when an amended protest is filed is very low.” UPDATE ENDS

If GAO overrules Amazon’s protest over the award to Microsoft, as it did Oracle’s protest over being disqualified from the competition, Amazon could follow Oracle’s example and file suit in the Court of Federal Claims. (The irony here is that Oracle’s claim was that the JEDI procurement was unfairly slanted in favor of Amazon). It took the court seven months to decide Oracle’s case. If the whole GAO plus CFC process takes the same amount of time for Amazon, 10 months, that keeps the contract up in the air until August 2020.

But with clever legal tactics and some legal luck, Amazon might keep the case alive even longer, right through the presidential election. A GAO protest could drag on for “approximately four to six months,” Hunter told me.

The Pentagon’s plan to consolidate many — but not all — of its 500-plus cloud contracts into a single Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). Note the suggestion that the single “pathfinder” contract for JEDI might evolve into multiple JEDI contracts.

On What Grounds?

Now, the GAO and the court would address the case in very different ways. While a congressional agency exempt from presidential oversight, GAO still prefers to limit its inquiry to narrow technical matters as much as possible, focusing on whether the agency awarding the contract followed its own rules. The Federal Court of Claims has much more leeway to look at wider matters.

UPDATE GAO is unlikely to look at President Trump’s public statements at all, argued Berteau, whose decades of experience in the Pentagon and defense industry has put him on both sides of GAO protests in the past.

“We don’t actually know what the president’s involvement in the decision was,” Berteau told reporters this afternoon. “We know the president’s comments that have been made publicly, [but] GAO ignores that….I don’t see that it plays a role at all.”

That is, Berteau emphasized, the president’s vituperations are irrelevant to a GAO review — but “it might be a different case in a lawsuit,” he went on. “It depends on the basis of the suit, the allegations, and the remedies sought.” UPDATE ENDS

“There is nothing that would stop Amazon from protesting at GAO first on issues that GAO traditionally examines, and then making a broader claim to the Court of Federal Claims second,” Hunter told me.

“A GAO protest would examine whether DoD had sufficient justification for its evaluation of the bidders. I’m not sure the outcome of that examination would appreciably change even if unusual Presidential involvement beyond what is already publicly known were discovered,” Hunter explained. “The Court of Federal Claims has a broader mandate, and so could potentially look at whether presidential ‘command influence’ irreparably skewed the competition.”

Now, the court could still find evidence of improper behavior and still uphold the award because those improprieties were not decisive, as it did in Oracle’s case. “Many found Oracle’s allegations of conflicts favoring Amazon to be persuasive, and I wasn’t alone in being surprised when Court of Federal Claims Judge Bruggink chronicled the conflicts, acknowledged they were troubling, but nonetheless concluded that they didn’t unfairly tilt the playing field,” Schooner said. “So just keep in mind that recent, relevant experience demonstrates that winning a conflicts or improper influence case isn’t always as easy as it appears.”

That said, the officials accused of favoring Amazon didn’t tweet about it, the way President Trump has done repeatedly about his “frequently demonstrated animus toward Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos,” Schooner said.

What’s more, “recent media reports reference an excerpt from the forthcoming Mattis book … which President Trump may have directly attempted to harm Amazon’s competitive standing,” Schooner noted. “A judge could easily conclude that government officials were unable to exercise independent judgment in selecting Microsoft if Amazon can demonstrate, as a matter of fact, that President clearly directed DoD officials to ensure that Amazon not be fairly considered or awarded the contract.”

“In light of the public media record, Amazon also may well choose to argue that the President’s actions and the outcome suggest that DOD ‘de facto debarred’ Amazon from lucrative work during this administration,” Schooner suggested. “That might be a stretch — because there doesn’t appear to be any underlying concern about Amazon’s business integrity — but, given the stakes, some creative lawyering might try to push the envelope.”

Given the legal ammunition available and the financial stakes – up to $10 billion and a 10-year lock on a crucial piece of the Pentagon’s computing infrastructure — “it’s hard to see what Amazon has to lose by testing the waters,” Schooner told me.
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[*] posted on 31-10-2019 at 05:02 PM

So what problems does JEDI solve, really?

By: Andrew Eversden   10 hours ago

The DoD wants the JEDI cloud to consolidate data for use by the warfighter at the tactical edge.

In the months leading up to the Department of Defense awarding Microsoft a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract, the Pentagon’s senior leaders described pent up demand for a new enterprise cloud.

But how exactly will DoD leaders use the new technology, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, and what will soldiers be able to do next year that they can’t do today?

Until the last few months, top DoD IT officials have struggled to convey a concise and specific answer to that question. Instead, when asked point blank what specific new capabilities the JEDI cloud would offer, Federal Times was told by a defense official that it would shift the focus “from cloud acquisition to cloud maturity in DoD’s business processes,” and address “critical and urgent unmet war fighter requirements for modern cloud infrastructure at all three classification levels delivered out to the tactical edge.”

But DoD CIO Dana Deasy offered some explanation during his confirmation hearing Oct. 29, saying the need for JEDI was accentuated by a recent trip he took to Afghanistan. He watched soldiers use three separate systems to find the information they needed to identify the adversary, another to decide what actions to take and a third system to find where friendly assets were on the ground.

Deasy said that JEDI will appease that problem by integrating unclassified data, classified data and top secret data into a single cloud and pushing it out to the tactical edge. In August, Deasy said the current inability to give the war fighter consolidated data is what JEDI is “trying to solve for.”

To further fill in the blanks, Federal Times spent recent weeks asking IT experts and industry leaders how they expected JEDI would improve capabilities for the DoD. Some described three categories of changes: allowing the war fighter access to information more quickly, consolidating data and developing artificial intelligence capabilities.

Daniel Goure, senior vice president at the Lexington Institute, said the war fighter “will have access to combat quality information coming from multiple agencies, multiple organizations, military and non-military, on which to make decisions.”

Contrast that to how the Pentagon manages data now – relying on more than 500 clouds. That structure prevents the Pentagon from being able to use the tools developed across data sets, said Jon Check, senior director of cyber protection solutions at Raytheon. Data can’t paint a full picture of the battlefield. It’s a gap that JEDI could fill, in theory, with defense leaders pointing to plans to move 80 percent of systems over to the JEDI cloud.

“You have siloed data from different sensor-type systems whether it's drones, satellites, whatever it might be, that's providing you situational awareness,” Check said. “If that data is not consolidated, the AI you're running ... won't have the full view. It has whatever sensor it might be, [like] drone data only, and it doesn't tell you ‘ok, well the satellite data is telling us something else.’”

But what will an enterprise cloud do, really?

In the months leading up to the award, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), expressed frustration with the delays, calling enterprise cloud “existential” to DoD’s AI capabilities in a media roundtable Aug. 9.

Without the enterprise cloud, AI will remain siloed at a small-scale with “little to no means to make AI available or useful to war fighter,” he said. “There is no question whatsoever that both Maven [a DoD AI project] and the JAIC would be much further along right now with AI fielding, had we had an enterprise cloud solution in place as originally scheduled.”

He described a state of things where JAIC and defense services are forced to find some means to gain access to data for training algorithms, to update fielded models site by site, to derive ad-hoc solutions to bring real-world data back – all to enable dynamic retraining of fielded models and “cobbling together one-off, bespoke cloud solutions to meet mission requirements.”

But not everyone views JEDI as the silver bullet. David Mihelcic, former chief technology officer of the Defense Information Systems Agency, acknowledges the challenge laid out by Shanahan, but questions whether the vision for big data analytics and artificial intelligence can achieved by a cloud contract.

“The data still exists in pockets and cylinders owned by different organizations and different classification levels, with different access control requirements and release-ability requirements,” Mihelcic said. “Just awarding a cloud contract isn't necessarily going to address any of those things.”

Other industry officials echoed Mihelcic’s message – also noting that the very structure of JEDI contributes to the problem. John Kuenzli, former commander of Army Materiel Command’s Logistics Support Activity, said the service has a disparate data problem unsuitable for a single cloud vendor.

“The Army still struggles with understanding how many networks and other actors are on our [unclassified network] today,” said Kuenzli, who now works in federal and Army account solutions for IBM, which bid on the JEDI contract. “That means there’s more data out there and there’s more IT systems out there. You don’t know how long it would take to get into a single cloud.”

IBM Federal General Manager Sam Gordy agreed, pointing to the potential of a hybrid cloud approach “to reach down into all that legacy data where it resides, as opposed to having to pull it all in to one centralized data repository.”

Should the current structure remain intact, DoD will need to undertake a discovery project to identify where department data resides, what the access control requirements are, and how to make that data shareable. That’s no easy task, Mihelcic said, considering the data and access permissions are owned locally.
Still, there is potential that Amazon could protest the award – a move that would force the department backwards.

“If JEDI was to get further delayed, guess what happens? Now you’re back to the model where people need to go build their own cloud solutions,” Deasy said in June. “That does not serve the department’s interests well. It does not serve the war fighter well. I think that’s an important message that once again has somehow gotten lost in this entire narrative here.”
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[*] posted on 15-11-2019 at 12:16 PM

Amazon files paperwork for protest of Pentagon’s JEDI cloud award

By: Andrew Eversden   4 hours ago

Amazon Web Services plans to protest the JEDI cloud. (Photo by Marine Corps)

Amazon Web Services has filed paperwork to protest the Pentagon’s decision to award its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said at a company meeting Nov. 14.

A source inside the company said the paperwork was filed last Friday. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed Federal Times’ reporting, adding that it was filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

In a video obtained by Federal Times, Jassy said at an all-hands meeting with Amazon Worldwide that the company was going to “push the government to shine a light on what really happened.”
Jassy also cited the political pressures that came from the White House as interfering in the contract proceedings.

“I think when you have a sitting president who’s willing to publicly show his disdain for a company and the leader of a company, it’s very difficult for government agencies including the DoD to make an objective decision without fear of reprisal,” Jassy said.

The JEDI cloud is potentially worth $10 billion over 10 years. Microsoft beat out Amazon in what was largely seen as an upset.

“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement. "We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

In the meeting, Jassy also claimed that in a comparison of Microsoft and AWS’s cloud platform, AWS was the frontrunner.

“We feel pretty strongly that it wasn’t adjudicated fairly,” Jassy said. “I think that if you do any thorough, apples-to-apples, objective comparison of AWS versus Microsoft you don’t come out deciding that they’re comparable platforms. Most of our customers will tell us that we’re about 24 months ahead of Microsoft in functionality and maturity.”

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The contract has been controversial since the outset. The contract award was delayed for months due to a protest and court case filed by Oracle, which levied several conflict of interest allegations against Amazon. Oracle’s case is currently in the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, after losing in a lower court.

Throughout the acquisition process, the Pentagon has struggled to clearly explain the basic details of JEDI cloud. Industry has also questioned the single award contract structure and what capabilities the JEDI cloud would give the war fighter that it doesn’t have today.

The Pentagon has said that it plans to move 80 percent of its systems over to the JEDI cloud.

Jill Aitoro contributed to reporting.
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[*] posted on 11-12-2019 at 01:01 PM

Full speed ahead: First phase of JEDI rollout expected in February

By: Jill Aitoro   2 hours ago

Dana Deasy, Department of Defense chief information officer, hosts a roundtable discussion on the enterprise cloud initiative with reporters, Aug. 9, 2019. (Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

SIMI VALLEY, California — One day before Amazon chief Jeff Bezos gave a keynote at the Reagan National Defense Forum, never uttering the word “JEDI,” the Pentagon’s chief information officer spoke with great confidence that Amazon’s protest of the Department of Defense’s enterprise cloud contract award will go nowhere.

In the meantime, CIO Dana Deasy confirmed that DoD is moving full speed ahead with Microsoft on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program — or JEDI — during an exclusive interview with Defense News. He also said that the first phase of the rollout — the unclassified cloud environment — is expected to become available in February 2020.

“We’ve been through this very long, drawn-out process now.

We’ve gone from GAO to Federal Claims Court, to the [inspector general]. In each and all cases, we’ve come out in a very positive position, as we always felt strongly we would,” Deasy said. “What was somewhat frustrating is we brought together some world-class people to create this vision of a large-scale cloud that you could provision, that you could use to develop [software] differently, that you could put out in the tactical edge and that could support AI. Those same people were constantly being pulled in to have to address all the issues around the protest.”

Indeed, the contract award was delayed for months due to a protest and court case filed by Oracle, which levied several conflict of interest allegations against competitor Amazon.

Oracle’s case is currently in the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, after losing in a lower court. In November, Federal Times broke the story about Amazon’s plans to protest the JEDI award to Microsoft through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, obtaining a video of Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy in an all-hands meeting with Amazon Worldwide stating that the company was going to “push the government to shine a light on what really happened.”

A redacted version of the AWS complaint, however, alleges that the DoD source selection team made several “egregious” and “unfounded” decisions during the cloud award, ultimately not complying with the contents of its own RFP. The complaint also tied the decision to several disparaging statements made by the president about Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

“These shifts in the DoD evaluators’ assessments of AWS’s proposal, including the significance of AWS’s security advantages, occurred as President Trump increased the intensity of his public attacks against Mr. Bezos, Amazon/AWS, and the Washington Post,” the complaint reads.

Bezos spoke in a fireside chat at the Reagan National Defense Forum Dec. 7, but did not address the controversial cloud contract.

Unlike protests filed in the Government Accountability Office, protests filed in the federal court do not bring an automatic stay in performance. But regardless of regulatory standards, moving forward with Microsoft does introduce a risk that a stay later in the process could be more disruptive.

Nonetheless, Deasy said he never considered a delay in performance.

“Never. From the beginning, the way we constructed the teams and organized how to write the RFP to where we are today, there was such deep consideration and due diligence — making sure we followed all the regulations,” he said. “I’ve told the team, ‘Let’s just not sit and wait. Let’s start to get the environment ready so when we come out of the protest, we haven’t lost any momentum.’”

Messaging problems

That’s not to say there have been no lessons learned for the Pentagon. Early on JEDI became branded as a 10-year, $10 billion opportunity. The Pentagon did not do enough to stomp out that depiction, Deasy said.

“I’ve seen this over my 38 years of being involved in technology: if you don’t convey your message right, the media can start to take a message that you intend to be ‘X,’ and the next thing you know you’re sitting way over here in 'Y' territory,” he said. “This was a two-year initial contract, of which the only money we put out initially is $1 million. The rest is all dependent on how fast Department of Defense starts to consume the capability.”

Deasy points to what he calls “breakpoints” in the contract to be able to reevaluate, and he says that DoD is, and will remain, a multi-cloud environment. There needs to be more than one cloud provider to satisfy the needs of the unclassified environment in particular, he said, because “it's too big, it's too broad, for any one vendor to handle.”

But the many disparate, individual clouds that currently exist — what Deasy described as “this mess” — was also not a winning hand. Step one was making sense of what was already in place.
“Guess what? We don't know how to do enterprise cloud at that scale, so we need to find a partner,” he said. “We need to start with somebody."

The DoD is now getting ready to stand up the unclassified environment, which Deasy expects will be ready by mid-February. The secret environment will be ready about six months thereafter. The timeline for the top-secret environment is a little less clear, depending not only on how the protest plays out, but also how quickly and smoothly the initial two environments roll out.

“It’s not only the fact that there’s an unclassified, a secret, and a top-secret environment,” Deasy said. “This is CONUS; this is OCONUS; and this is out to the tactical edge. So, this is like a 3x3 dimension that we have to solve for. This will be the first time the Department of Defense will truly have that capability. That is what is unique.”
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[*] posted on 13-12-2019 at 03:52 PM

Here are some early adopters of the controversial JEDI cloud

Andrew Eversden

10 hours ago

The Pentagon has 14 components moving to the JEDI cloud come February.

There will be 14 early adopters of the Pentagon’s controversial new enterprisewide general-purpose cloud, Defense Department CIO Dana Deasy said Dec. 12.

Deasy, speaking at the AFCEA NOVA Air Force IT Day, said parties eyeing a move to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud are U.S. Transportation Command, Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command and the Navy.

“What’s really unique is the variety of the 14 early adopters allows us to test various principles on JEDI from the tactical edge all the way to the top secret — needing to use the cross-domain,” Deasy said. “So we’re going to learn fairly quickly what it takes to actually now go from the strategic vision to the ability to stand it up and to bring it to life.”

Federal Times asked the Department of Defense to provide the other 10 components among the first movers. A DoD spokesperson didn’t immediately respond.

Deasy reiterated what he told Defense News earlier in the week: that the unclassified JEDI environment will be ready in February, with the “secret” environment ready six months after that. There is also no specific timeline for the top-secret environment.

He said that there are meetings every two weeks where the JEDI team discusses the “60 to 70 services” that must be ready to go when the unclassified environment kicks off.

DoD awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft over Amazon Web Services, which recently filed a protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that relied heavily on interference allegations against President Donald Trump. The contract is potentially worth $10 billion over 10 years.

Throughout the entirety of the JEDI procurement, DoD has struggled to dispel the notion that the Pentagon’s only cloud would be JEDI, when in reality the JEDI cloud is just one in a multicloud environment. Deasy took aim at that characterization in his address, highlighting that there are “something like” 10 more cloud contracts out for bids next year.

“The whole reason we started JEDI was we were not short on clouds,” Deasy said. “What we were short of was an enterprise capability ... all the way out to the tactical edge. ... There will always be a need for special-purpose clouds."

Once the JEDI cloud is set up, Deasy said, the next step is to look across the department at the various siloed cloud and ask “do they serve a unique purpose that is truly distinctly different than JEDI? Or is there overlap?” The Pentagon has signaled that it will move 80 percent of its systems to the JEDI cloud.

Consolidation is an option for overlapping clouds, but Deasy said the DoD won’t know what to do specifically with the overlaps until the JEDI cloud is stood up.

The JEDI cloud environment will allow the DoD to significantly reduce the number of clouds it has, which the Congressional Research Services has estimated sits at more than 500. With the JEDI cloud, Deasy’s ready to reduce that number by hundreds.
At the end of the day, “we sure in the heck don’t need 100 clouds, we probably don’t need 50 clouds, but we definitely need more than one or two clouds,” Deasy said.
Mark Pomerleau contributed to this report.
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[*] posted on 24-12-2019 at 03:38 PM

There’s a new role for this Air Force cybersecurity outfit

Mark Pomerleau

10 hours ago

The Air Force Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS), established by a provision in a 2016 law charging the Department of Defense to identify and mitigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities of weapon systems, initially focused on legacy systems. However, its director says now it’s also taking aim at new ones.

“We’re actually embedding cyber professionals within the program executive offices … [because] we want to explain to them what cyber is; we wanted them to spread that ‘cyber’ word in new acquisitions,” Joe Bradley, the director of CROWS, told Fifth Domain in a December interview.

As part of that effort, CROWS worked to distill the systems engineering handbook to eight or nine actionable pages to make it easier for officials and contractors to find quick solutions.

“They can go in there and they find language in the statements of work or for the request for proposals or the specs,” Bradley said, adding that this is really important to the industrial base because when the government makes changes from one program to another, they are scrambling to find out why that change was made.

“If we can use standardized language, then we can communicate to our industry partners, ‘hey, this is the same type of resiliency, the same posture we’re looking for as we did in the last acquisition,’” Bradley said.

This was done in conjunction with the commanders of the Life Cycle Management Center, Rapid Capabilities Office, Nuclear Weapons Center and the Space and Missile Center.

Bradley said he wants Will Roper, the service’s chief acquisition executive, to sign the language out, making it official.

“Down the road, I believe that if we do this right, by putting the emphasis on cyber right now today, it’s going to become in the mindset of every engineer — it’s in their toolkit; it just becomes another system engineering requirement,” Bradley added.

This is the reason, Bradley said, they’ve embedded officials within the PEOs to help engineers and commanders better understand the cyber portions of the programs. Though there are only three officials per PEO, Bradley said he hopes eventually there are cyber experts for each program within the PEO’s purview.

The biggest challenge, however, Bradley said, involves baking in cyber versus bolting it on later — a situation that will come down mostly to changing the culture.
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[*] posted on 15-1-2020 at 04:20 PM

Amazon will seek to halt work on DoD’s JEDI cloud

Andrew Eversden

12 hours ago

Amazon will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the DoD from starting work on the JEDI cloud. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon Web Services will ask a federal court to block the Pentagon and Microsoft from beginning work on the Department of Defense’s controversial enterprise cloud, according to a Jan. 13 court filing.

The joint status report — filed by the DoD, Microsoft and AWS in the Court of Federal Claims — lays out a timeline for the next few weeks of Amazon’s court challenge of the DoD’s award of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud to Microsoft.

According to the document, AWS plans to file a motion for preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order “to prevent the issuance of substantive task orders under the contract” on Jan. 24. The Defense Department has indicated that task orders for the unclassified portion of the cloud will go out Feb. 11.

A preliminary injunction would serve as yet another significant setback for the DoD, whose IT leadership over the last year have continuously indicated that any delay would negative impact the war fighter and lead DoD components to adopt their own solutions.

Deasy has said that there are 14 early adopters of the JEDI cloud, including the Navy, U.S. Transportation Command, Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command.

AWS alleged in a December complaint that the contract award to Microsoft was influenced by President Donald Trump, who has continuously expressed animosity for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. In the complaint, Amazon Web Services lawyers wrote that “basic justice requires reevaluation of proposals and a new award decision."

As part of the court case, Amazon Web Services filed a CD-ROM containing videos of Trump bashing Amazon in a 2016 campaign rally and saying "we’re going to take a look at it [the contract]” in the Oval Office last summer.

At his confirmation hearing in October, DoD CIO Dana Deasy said no one on the source selection team was influenced by the White House. He didn’t deny that senior leadership at the DoD felt any external pressure.

The JEDI cloud, potentially worth $10 billion over 10 years, has been significantly delayed due to several protests by other bidders both inside and outside of federal court.
Microsoft and the Department of Defense will file partial motions to dismiss the same day as AWS’ preliminary injunction motion, according to the complaint.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2020 at 08:10 PM

The Pentagon CIO office’s plan for better software

Andrew Eversden

14 hours ago

The Department of Defense wants to use cloud as its platform to deliver software updates faster. (Rick_Jo)

With just weeks until the Department of Defense plans to begin building its controversial enterprise cloud, one top DoD IT official laid out how the cloud will serve as a platform for another modernization effort: software.

“I really think that this cloud portion of the modernization strategy ought to be focused on software modernization, or, more specifically, software agility,” said Peter Ranks, the DoD’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprise, speaking Jan. 23 at MeriTalk’s Smart 2020 event.

In a scenario in which the United States is fighting a near-peer competitor, the Pentagon needs the ability to send capabilities out to the war fighter and subsequently send updates without interrupting operations.

“Nothing in the Department of Defense, in any of our processes, prepares us to be able to move with that type of agility in software,” Ranks said. “The whole concept that you’re going to field something before it’s complete and fix the bugs in production" is foreign to the DoD.

In his speech, Ranks detailed several efforts underway at the DoD to increase update speed. To start, Ranks said, the DoD CIO’s office is changing policy to allow for more iterative processes in acquisition, a departure from the current process where requirements are laid out years before technology is delivered. To complete that goal, Ranks said the DoD needs the enterprise capability to provide the tools necessary to create a more iterative process.

Ranks said he is also working to create a continuous authorization to operate, similar to the one used through the Air Force’s Kessel Run program, which would allow the DoD to send out software patches in real time without having to go the laborious process to get the update approved, allowing the DoD to move faster.

Changes could also be coming to acquisition language in 2020, Ranks said. He said there’s been “good progress” on working to reduce large milestone-based deliverables in favor of a policy that “encourages a bias in the delivery of software toward delivery of small amounts of capability.”

The Pentagon plans to work with industry to revise the policy to make it more effective.

“The question we have is how do we develop the right guidelines so industry knows how to do this stuff,” Ranks said.

However, there are two open questions DoD IT officials are still struggling to answer, Ranks said. He pointed to software updates during operations, like how to update an F-22 in flight without creating safety issues. Another challenge Ranks’ office is grappling with is how to establish cloud connectivity in disconnected areas around the globe.

“The realities of military operations challenge some of these activities,” Ranks said.

The cloud piece

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud is a key platform for pushing the sort of updates Ranks discussed. Through JEDI the DoD will have a single platform accessible to DoD components crossing all levels of classification.

“The thing that I want out of cloud, the thing that I want out of software is speed,” said Ranks. “I want better software in the hands of the war fighter faster. I want better software coming out of the pipeline without sacrificing cybersecurity or resilience. Cloud is absolutely a piece of that. It’s a big part of the foundation of being able to do that work.”

But the DoD just needs to get the JEDI cloud stood up after protests and controversy delayed the award for months. Even now, the JEDI cloud faces another potential delay. In a sealed document filed Jan. 22, Amazon asked a federal judge for an injunction preventing the DoD and Microsoft from beginning work on the unclassified section of the JEDI cloud, set to begin Feb. 11.

“It is common practice to stay contract performance while a protest is pending and it’s important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the JEDI award decision be reviewed,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement. “AWS is absolutely committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts and to an expeditious legal process that resolves this matter as quickly as possible.”
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[*] posted on 14-2-2020 at 03:08 PM

Pentagon and Microsoft must halt work on JEDI cloud ... for now

Andrew Eversden

9 hours ago

A federal judge temporarily halted work on the JEDI cloud. (BrianAJackson)

A federal judge ruled the Pentagon and Microsoft must temporarily suspend work on the Department of Defense’s controversial Joint Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure contract while a court hears Amazon’s challenge to the award decision.

Pentagon officials planned to start work on the contract Feb. 14.
The Feb. 13 injunction, which is under seal in the Court of Federal Claims, comes just days after Amazon moved to depose President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and several other DoD officials involved in the acquisition of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, a deal that could be worth as much as $10 billion over 10 years.

In a response to Amazon’s motion for an injunction, DoD lawyers argued that any delay to the contract would be a national security risk, citing several specific DoD components that would suffer without the technology, such as the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. DoD officials have regularly pointed to that organization as needing the JEDI cloud capability throughout the acquisition process.

“The diverse array of disconnected cloud environments in which DoD currently operates is a major driver of the need for a consolidated enterprise cloud under the JEDI contract,” DoD lawyers wrote.

Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman, said Feb. 13 that “the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD’s modernization strategy and deprived our warfighters of a set of capabilities they urgently need. However, we are confident in our award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft and remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

In a Feb. 12 court filing, DoD lawyers warned that the delay would cost taxpayers between $5 million and $7 million per month, which DoD lawyers called “unrecoverable financial harm.”

Amazon, however, argued that any delay wouldn’t significantly hamper any JEDI implementation timelines. The DoD planned to start building the unclassified cloud environment in mid-February, but the injunction would prevent that work from going forward. Pentagon lawyers argued that progress on building out the unclassified portion would slow progress on classified services.

“The delay to unclassified services now caused by any injunction will result in concomitant delays in classified services later,” DoD lawyers wrote.

The court’s decision caps a busy week in the JEDI case after AWS moved to depose President Trump, Esper and several other current and former officials involved in the contract. In a Feb. 12 filing, DoD opposed that motion, writing “AWS fundamentally fails to establish a nexus between the President’s remarks and the source selection decision in the JEDI procurement.”

In a statement, Corporate VP of Microsoft Communications Frank Shaw said that the company has “confidence” that the DoD’s selection was a “detailed, thorough and fair process.”

“While we are disappointed with the additional delay, we believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require,” Shaw said.

DoD’s argument against the deposition is that AWS fails to show how source selection team members would have been influenced by any political pressure from top DoD officials or the president in the procurement. DoD CIO Dana Deasy has said that the source selection team was anonymous and compartmentalized.

“AWS instead relies on innuendo and supposition to make its case for an extraordinary level of discovery, to include the depositions of the sitting President of the United States and Secretary of Defense,” DoD lawyers wrote.

An Amazon spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
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[*] posted on 14-3-2020 at 06:41 PM

Pentagon Will Allow Companies to Rebid for JEDI Contract

By Frank R. Konkel
Executive Editor, Nextgov

March 13, 2020

Defense procurement officials have asked a federal judge for a 120-day remand to “reconsider its evaluation” of the up-to-$10 billion cloud contract.

The Pentagon has asked a federal judge for a 120-day remand to “reconsider its evaluation” and take corrective action on the lucrative JEDI cloud contract it awarded to Microsoft in October, which could be worth as much as $10 billion over the next decade.

In a legal filing Thursday evening, the Pentagon asked Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith for an adjournment to address “various aspects” of its JEDI evaluation highlighted by Amazon, which protested the JEDI award in November.

The Pentagon plans to tweak the JEDI solicitation and accept “limited proposal revisions,” according to the filing, allowing the companies to rebid the contract.

“A remand here is in the interests of justice because it will provide the agency with an opportunity to reconsider the award decision at issue in light of AWS’s allegations, this court’s opinion, and any new information gathered during the proposed remand,” the filing states.

The Pentagon’s decision comes after Campbell-Smith said Amazon was likely to succeed in proving the Pentagon made a mistake evaluating Microsoft’s proposal regarding a “noncompliant storage solution” the company proposed. In the judge’s unsealed opinion granting an injunction on work under JEDI, she evaluated only one of several evaluation flaws alleged by Amazon, and did not address Amazon’s allegations of political interference by President Trump.

“We are pleased that the DoD has acknowledged ‘substantial and legitimate’ issues that affected the JEDI award decision, and that corrective action is necessary. We look forward to complete, fair, and effective corrective action that fully insulates the re-evaluation from political influence and corrects the many issues affecting the initial flawed award,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

In a statement, Microsoft defended the Pentagon’s decision and said it remains confident its bid was “technologically superior.”

“We believe the Department of Defense made the correct decision when they awarded the contract,” said Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw. “However, we support their decision to reconsider a small number of factors as it is likely the fastest way to resolve all issues and quickly provide the needed modern technology to people across our armed forces. Throughout this process, we’ve focused on listening to the needs of the DoD, delivering the best product, and making sure nothing we did delayed the procurement process. We are not going to change this approach now.”

In a statement to Nextgov, the Pentagon maintained JEDI was awarded properly.

“While we disagree with the Court’s decision, we must address the findings in the court’s order with the intent of ensuring our warfighters will get this urgent and critically needed technology as quickly and efficiently as possible,” a Pentagon spokesperson said. “As such, the Department determined that the best and most efficient path forward is to conduct a re-evaluation of the proposals in order to address the Court’s noted concerns. The Department maintains the JEDI Cloud contract was awarded based upon a fair and unbiased source selection process. The process consisted of a fair evaluation of proposals based solely on the solicitation’s stated criteria and the proposals submitted.”
JEDI is considered one of the Pentagon’s most important contracts in years and through it, officials hope to link together worldwide military systems at all classification levels from various military departments into a single, unified architecture.

Currently, Amazon is the only company with the required security accreditations to host secret and top secret classified data, though Microsoft is working towardmeeting those requirements.

The contract has generated significant controversy, with Trump wading into the battle over the summer, saying he was “looking into” JEDI after hearing complaints from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

In total, the contract has been legally protested four times in the two years.
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[*] posted on 25-3-2020 at 04:21 PM

Amazon opposes Pentagon’s proposal to reevaluate parts of its JEDI award

Andrew Eversden

11 hours ago

Amazon Web Services opposes the Defense Department’s decision to reconsider certain aspects of the government’s controversial enterprise cloud award to Microsoft, arguing that the proposed action by the department isn’t “fair and rational” and will “preserve” Microsoft’s win, according to a March 24 court filing.

The opposition by AWS is in response to a Pentagon filing earlier in the month asking the court for 120 days to reconsider specific evaluation criteria it made in awarding in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract. A federal judge implemented a temporary restraining order after the court decided that AWS was likely to prove that the Pentagon wrongly evaluated a data storage proposal.

The Department of Defense responded by asking permission of the court to reconsider its evaluation of a specific storage aspect from the original request for proposals. Pentagon lawyers wrote that the department would issue a solicitation amendment and accept “limited proposal revisions” from Microsoft and AWS.

The proposed revision addresses one RFP factor challenged by Amazon, but the company had challenged the DoD’s decision-making process on five other factors of the proposal evaluation. AWS opposes the DoD’s latest response because it argues that the request is too narrow in scope.

“Even if taken at face value, DoD’s proposed corrective action fails to address in any meaningful way how it would resolve the technical issues AWS has raised, or which specific technical challenges it intends to address,” Amazon lawyers wrote.

AWS also argues that the corrective action will preserve Microsoft’s win by not allowing AWS to make price adjustments. AWS also maintains that Microsoft’s storage offering doesn’t meet the technical standards required by the RFP, disqualifying the latter company from competition.

“In plain terms, DoD’s proposed corrective action focuses on allowing Microsoft to fix its fatally deficient proposal, while paralyzing AWS’s proposed pricing in the face of planned changes to the RFP’s requirements,” Amazon lawyers wrote in a motion.

Federal Times reach out to Microsoft for a statement, but a spokesperson referred to one given March 12 by company spokesman Frank Shaw, who said the Microsoft supports the DoD’s decision to reconsider “a small number of factors.”

“We remain confident that Microsoft’s proposal was technologically superior, continues to offer the best value, and is the right choice for the DoD,” Shaw said at the time.

In a statement, the Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver said the department “disagrees” with Amazon’s arguments.

“As outlined in DOD’s Motion for Voluntary Remand, we believe that the best and most reasonable path forward is to issue a solicitation amendment and accept limited proposal revisions before conducting a re-evaluation of both proposals," Carver said. "The Department maintains that the JEDI Cloud contract was awarded based upon a fair and unbiased source selection process, and any re-evaluation on remand will also be conducted in a fair and unbiased manner. Our goal remains to get this much-needed capability to the warfighter as quickly as possible in compliance with the law and the court.”

In a statement, an AWS spokesperson said the company was “pleased to see the DoD recognize the need to take corrective action,” but added that the company remains concerned about the fairness of the proposed reevaluation.

“Instead of addressing the breadth of problems in its proposed corrective action, the DoD’s proposal focuses only on providing Microsoft a ‘do-over’ on its fatally flawed bid while preventing AWS from adjusting its own pricing in response to the DoD’s new storage criteria,” the spokesperson said. “This attempt to gerrymander the corrective action without fixing all of the serious flaws pointed out in our complaint raises significant questions.”

The JEDI cloud, potentially worth billions of dollars over 10 years, has faced extended delays throughout the last two years due to several protests.

Update: This story was updated with a statement from the Department of Defense.
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[*] posted on 16-4-2020 at 03:31 PM

Pentagon IG finds JEDI contract didn’t violate law, but ethical questions remain

Andrew Eversden

9 hours ago

The Defense Department inspector general released its report on the DoD's controversial enterprise cloud program. (Arek)
The Department of Defense’s inspector general found that the procurement of its controversial multi-billion dollar enterprise cloud contract was “consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards,” according to a final report released April 15.

The long-anticipated report on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, which was awarded to Microsoft over Amazon Web Services in October, found that while the Pentagon didn’t violate the law with the contract structure, it did make several mistakes along the way, including ethical violations by employees and sharing Microsoft’s proprietary information with Amazon.

In its investigation, the IG reviewed whether the DoD’s decision to award the JEDI cloud to a single vendor was appropriate, whether the solicitations were “consistent” with applicable standards, if the source selection process was fair, whether the DoD violated the regulation by disclosing proprietary Microsoft information to Amazon, if the White Hose improperly influenced the final decision and whether the DoD employees engaged in ethical misconduct.

The inspector general’s investigation didn’t evaluate whether the award of the JEDI cloud contract should’ve gone to Microsoft or Amazon.

Improper influence investigation

Central to the JEDI conflict were allegations that President Donald Trump interfered in the contracting process, trying to sway the decision away from Amazon. In its investigation, the inspector general was unable to “definitively” determine both the extent to which the White House communicated with senior Defense Department officials and the nature of communications about the procurement, because of assertions of executive privilege.

The assertion “resulted in several DoD witnesses being instructed by the DoD Office of General Counsel not to answer our questions about potential communications between White House and DoD officials about JEDI,” the IG wrote in a news release.

While it’s unclear what the White House’s communication with senior DoD’s officials was, the IG determined that DoD officials that ultimately made the decision award didn’t communicate with the White House.

“Most of their identities and involvement in the procurement award were unknown to White House staff and even to the senior DoD officials. None of them told us they felt any outside influence or pressure as they made their decisions on the award of the contract,” the IG wrote.

No members of the source selection team told the inspector general that they were influenced to choose Microsoft or Amazon, the report said.

This is consistent with statements from Pentagon chief information officer Dana Deasy, who said at his confirmation hearing in October that the source selection committee was anonymous and insulated from external pressure. At the time, however, Deasy didn’t deny any allegations of pressure from the White House.

In several interviews with Defense Department officials, the DoD lawyers prevented witnesses from answering inspector general questions about communication with the White House.

Despite numerous reports detailing President Donald Trump’s anti-Amazon statements, including a book that says Trump directed former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “screw” Amazon, the inspector general did not find any evidence that “any DoD official based any action or decision related to the JEDI Cloud procurement” on Trump’s statements or communication with the White House or president. Mattis told the IG that he “did not recall” the president give him such direction. The IG wrote that it could not confirm or contradict the claim.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesperson, praised the results from the IG report.

“The Inspector’s General final report on the JEDI Cloud procurement confirms that the Department of Defense conducted the JEDI Cloud procurement process fairly and in accordance with law," Carver said. “The IG’s team found that there was no influence by the White House or DoD leadership on the career source selection boards who made the ultimate vendor selection. This report should finally close the door on the media and corporate-driven attacks on the career procurement officials who have been working tirelessly to get the much needed JEDI Cloud computing environment into the hands of our frontline warfighters while continuing to protect American taxpayers.”

Amazon Web Services, which challenged the DoD’s decision to award the contract to Microsoft in the Court of Federal Claims, has made improper political influence central to its allegations in its suit. The company requested it be allowed to depose the president and several senior DoD officials involved in the JEDI process. A federal judge has temporarily halted the DoD’s work on the cloud after the court found it was likely that the DoD erred on some technical evaluations of Amazon’s offerings.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Esper’s JEDI review, recusal and contract award

After his confirmation in late July, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced a review of the JEDI cloud contract, which led to allegations that the review was politically motivated following a Washington Post report that the White House instructed Esper to review the contract.

In the Post story, Esper said that his review was in response to several complaints from members of Congress about the award and correspondence with “administration officials.” Esper told the IG in an interview that the administration members were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Pompeo, the former CIA director, and Esper discussed the CIA’s cloud computing experiences, while Mnuchin offered to discuss his experience with cloud computing in the private sector. Esper said he didn’t recall ever discussing the issue.

Esper told the inspector general that the decision to initiate the review was entirely his own decision. The Defense Department lawyer present for the interview with Esper wouldn’t allow him to answer questions about his correspondence with the White House about JEDI.

Esper’s review consisted of five briefings, attended each time by Esper, Deputy Secretary David Norquist, Deasy and Ranks. All witnesses interviewed told the IG that the meetings were informational, not contractor-specific. Ranks told the investigators that the “question of which competitor would win the eventual contract award was never a topic of Secretary Esper’s review.”

“Our review of the read-aheads and other materials used to brief Secretary Esper in the sessions described above indicated that they were informational in nature,” the IG wrote. “They did not contain any recommendations, or ask for any decisions or directions from Secretary Esper. None of the materials discussed specific capabilities of the JEDI contract competitors, or provided any confidential DoD source selection information.”

Deasy told investigators that the White House never asked for, nor did he share, any information about the review with the White House.

The secretary recused himself from the decision Oct. 25, 2019, citing his son’s employment at IBM, which was an early bidder for the contract. The contract was awarded days later.

According to Esper, Norquist briefed the White House before the public announcement but after the DoD made the award decision internally. According to Ranks, the DoD told the White House it was making an award but didn’t disclose what contractor won.

Ethics violations

The inspector general also investigated allegations of ethical misconduct against seven DoD employees involved in the JEDI procurement, including Mattis. The IG only substantiated claims against two employees, Deap Ubhi and Stacy Cummings.

The inspector general found that Ubhi, a former Amazon employee who worked on the JEDI procurement for the department until leaving for Amazon again, failed to disclose that he had started negotiating a return to Amazon while working on the beginning stages of the JEDI procurement in 2017. He lied to Amazon and DoD officials about his negotiations with Amazon three times, the IG found, but his work in the early stages of the cloud was “not substantial” and “did not provide any advantage” to Amazon.

The IG also found that Stacy Cummings, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for acquisition and deputy assistant secretary of defense for acquisition enablers, held between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of stock in Microsoft while working on JEDI-related issues. The IG found that Cummings role did not influence the award to Microsoft.

Because of Cummings’ stock holdings, the IG recommends that the DoD CIO’s office review its Cloud Computing Program Office’s procedures for uncovering and mitigating conflicts of interest. The IG wrote that the recommendations remain unresolved after the DoD didn’t respond to the recommendations provided in a draft report.

Disclosure of proprietary information

The IG report also found that the Defense Department improperly disclosed proprietary information about Microsoft’s offering to AWS during the post-award debriefing, in which the DoD explained its award decision. The de-briefing occurred before Amazon sued in the Court of Federal Claims.

“By disclosing Microsoft’s proprietary information, the DoD also potentially provided AWS an unfair advantage in the cloud services marketplace,” the inspector general wrote.

In a statement, Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw said that its clear the Pentagon awarded JEDI properly.

“It’s now apparent that Amazon bid too high a price and is seeking a do-over so it can bid again,” Shaw said. “As the IG’s report indicates, Amazon has proprietary information about Microsoft’s bid that it should never have had. At this stage, Amazon is both delaying critical work for the nation’s military and trying to undo the mistake it made when it bid too high a price.”
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[*] posted on 21-4-2020 at 05:23 PM

No Winner Likely In JEDI Court Battle; ‘Just Pull The Plug?’: Greenwalt

While the judge has paused the trial to let the Pentagon redo part of the cloud computing competition, acquisition guru Bill Greenwalt warns any victory for either side will be “pyrrhic.”


on April 20, 2020 at 3:13 PM

DoD graphic
The Pentagon’s plan to consolidate many — but not all — of its 500-plus cloud contracts into a single Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI).

WASHINGTON: What looks like progress for the Pentagon in its five-month legal battle with Amazon Web Services is just a new variety of stalemate, a leading acquisition expert said.

“The machinations of the legal system will continue to provide pyrrhic victories to DoD or some contractors,” former Hill and Pentagon staffer Bill Greenwalt told me, “but in the end, no matter what happens, DoD – after almost three years struggling to make JEDI work – will end up trailing the commercial IT market, as it has done now for decades.”

The Department of Defense was already behind the curve when it comes to adopting cloud computing, Greenwalt said. Even government intelligence agencies have moved faster, let alone the private sector.

“Look at the timelines,” he told me. “The cloud first appears at the CIA in 2013 and in the commercial marketplace in the 2000s. DOD was way behind the curve in 2017 when it started this acquisition.”

Today, Greenwalt argued, because the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program is suffering so many delays while technology forges ahead, it is being litigated into irrelevance. By effectively dragging out the trial, the latest legal developments only make that worse.

What Went Wrong

On Friday, over Amazon’s bitter opposition, the chief judge of the Court of Federal Claims approved a Pentagon motion in the lawsuit over the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. JEDI is a cloud computing contract worth up to $10 billion that the Defense Department awarded to rival Microsoft – unfairly and in large part due to President Trump’s meddling, Amazon says.

The judge had already ordered Microsoft and the Defense Department to stop work on the project because Amazon had a reasonable chance to prove at least part of its case. While the Pentagon denies undue White House influence, it has admitted that it might have mishandled certain technical aspects of the competition, so it filed a motion to pause the cause and “remand” it back to DoD officials to try again.

Amazon argued the conditions of the Pentagon’s proposed do-over were so hopelessly narrow it wouldn’t make a difference. The Pentagon and Microsoft countered that Amazon wanted terms so broad they’d effectively give it a second chance to bid – with the unfair advantage that Amazon now knows exactly what price to put on its proposal to underbid Microsoft. Friday’s ruling, while still under seal, effectively sided with the Pentagon.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision to grant our motion,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver. “We will immediately execute the procedures outlined in the motion [and] we remain focused on delivering this critical capability to warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

If your head is spinning from this simplified summary of a mind-bending legal matter – and trust us, the technology is just as complex – then Greenwalt has some good news for you. Ultimately, none of it matters.

“It is just another example of how flawed this acquisition process has been from the start,” he told me, “and how the bid protest process has continued to torture DoD and blind it from pursuing alternative paths.

It’s not just the trial that’s a dead end for both sides. “I think they have been wasting their time since the first Request For Proposals,” Greenwalt said.

In fact, he suggested, the Department of Defense should have known this was going to be a mess from the start, based on recent history. “The REAN protest” – in which an Amazon partner beat Oracle for an earlier Pentagon cloud contract in 2018, only for the GAO to overturn it – “should have given DoD an early indication that this was going to be a nasty process, with everyone eventually tainted by a brutal fight to the death over a winner-take-all procurement,” Greenwalt told me.

The REAN award used an increasingly popular contracting mechanism called Other Transaction Authority (OTA), a law which Greenwalt helped draft. JEDI, likewise, tried to bypass the usual acquisition bureaucracy to get new technology in at the speed of Silicon Valley. But trying to run government procurement more like a business runs afoul of a fundamental problem. No private company lets losing bidders force it to do business with them; the government sometimes does.

Time To Reboot

So what should the Defense Department have done differently from the start? What can it do differently now?

“There were other options then —and now DOD has even more options,” Greenwalt said. “It may be time to just pull the plug and start over, but there may be too much pride invested to do otherwise.”

“From the start, instead of focusing on one cloud to rule them all, DoD should have put all of the cloud providers on a IDIQ [Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity] contract and then issue task orders to those companies that met their security and operational standards for individual tasks,” he said. In other words, rather than try to award the whole program to a single company, break it up into chunks and dole them out over time to different companies, based on whoever offered the best price and performance for that particular piece.

Now, the Pentagon insists it won’t split the JEDI contract because it already has too many clouds. The different armed services, defense agencies, and their subunits are all signing different contracts on different terms – over 500 of them. But, if you set clear standards and make your vendors stick to them, it is possible to have a single cloud computing system that works as a seamless whole, even if different companies provide different parts of it. In fact, that kind of “multi-cloud” approach is increasingly common in the commercial world.

If the Pentagon had gone multi-cloud from the start, “it would have then been, for a change, ahead of the commercial market,” Greenwalt said. “It could have been experimenting with cloud providers and other solutions that manage multiple clouds for the last two years.”

Even now, it’s not too late to try a different approach, he said. “There are other clouds already being used at the services and defense agencies,” Greenwalt told me. “DoD’s focus now should be to look at these experiments and where the commercial market is going. They may decide that, except for JEDI’s cool name, it may already be obsolete, and a new strategy for secure cloud applications is needed.”
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[*] posted on 5-5-2020 at 05:20 PM

Experts Debate: Should JEDI Cloud Be Saved?

One urged the Pentagon to push the embattled cloud computing contract through. Two said kill it. One said JEDI is still worth saving — but it’s running out of time.


on May 04, 2020 at 1:58 PM

The Defense Department’s strategy to transition to cloud computing. Note both the prominent role for the JEDI project and the parallel system of “Fit For Purpose” clouds.

WASHINGTON: “It would be absolutely the wrong choice to pull the plug on JEDI today,” Tom Spoehr says.

The retired Army three-star general, now director of defense research at the Heritage Foundation, reached out to me after a recent article on the legal battle paralyzing the Pentagon’s $10 billion, 10-year cloud computing contract, awarded to Microsoft but contested by Amazon. That April story suggested, in the words of defense acquisition veteran Bill Greenwalt, “it may be time to just pull the plug and start over.”

Spoehr vehemently disagreed. He also disagreed with the Army’s recent decision to reboot its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, and for the same reason: Speed is life. Cancelling the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, he told me, “would be like cancelling OMFV. You are just restarting the clock again.

“Bid protests have made this very difficult for the DoD, but they are now getting close,” Spoehr insisted. “The industry has been trying from day one to slow this program down, and their strategy has been to employ every trick in the book: lobbying, Congressional language, court cases — everything. Their plan has been to force DoD to open the contract to multiple vendors, akin to everyone gets a trophy.”

But the Pentagon continues to insist on a single vendor. Why? The Defense Department already has over 500 different cloud computing contracts, with different agencies, services, and subunits hiring different IT companies on different terms. The whole point of JEDI was to create an easy button: a default “general purpose cloud” that any DoD subunit could use, from strategic planners to frontline troops, and that didn’t require managing multiple companies on what’s called an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract.

“The reason they did not go to an IDIQ with multiple vendors is they wanted a single source in order to reduce complexity,” Spoehr said, “and they are nearly there.”

Are they? Three other experts we talked to were far from sure.

‘Just Walk Away’?

“Dude, just walk away,” one well-informed source told me. “All you’ll be doing is years and years of litigation with people who have more money than God….It’s now a pissing match between billionaires, [and] they’ve both got legitimate claims.” Amazon can argue President Trump’s public attacks on them tipped the scales; Microsoft can argue that they won the competition and Amazon can’t sue its way into a second chance.

But as long as the Pentagon sticks with its decision to award the whole contract to a single vendor for up to 10 years, the stakes may be too high for either Microsoft or Amazon to let the other win. They both have the money, lawyers, and legal grounds to drag out the legal battle indefinitely, and both would prefer the contract to die than let the other get it.

On the flipside, both companies would be quietly okay with splitting the contract between them, argued congressional counsel turned law professor Charles Tiefer, a longtime critic of JEDI.

“If you forced Microsoft and Amazon to admit it, they would admit that if the other contractor wins the first half of the award, they would be happy and willing to take it over and handle the next task order,” Tiefer told me. “It would be the best for all concerned if they pulled the plug, went back and fixed the original request for proposals, and decided to have a multiple award.”

The decision to go to a single vendor for 10 years was JEDI’s “original sin,” he said, “and we’ve been plagued ever since.”

The ongoing court battle can’t solve that fundamental problem, Tiefer said: “You can’t successfully protest as illegal the decision to make a single award rather than a multiple award.”

Instead, the Defense Department has admitted one particular portion of the award process was flawed and got the court’s permission to redo it. The Pentagon could use this motion as a pretext for a fundamental overhaul of the contract, he said, but all indications are they’re going to try a narrow technical fix that he doubts will satisfy Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith.

“This is a very smart judge,” Tiefer told me. “When the Defense Department comes back [to her] and says, ‘here’s our re-award. Surprise! We gave it to Microsoft again’ — excuse me for laughing… She could say, ‘your hearing aid isn’t working, you didn’t hear what I said to you, you’ve screwed up, you had an opportunity to overhaul [the whole award] and you didn’t.’”

What’s more, he argued, while the judge granted the Pentagon’s motion on grounds that were “extremely narrow, cautious, and surgically precise,” she has legal leeway to consider much broader questions.

“The legal issues …fall into two categories, broadly,” Tiefer told me. “One is mistaken or poorly documented evaluation by the Defense Department, and the other is bias from President Trump’s loud attacks on Amazon.”

The White House and Defense Department general counsels kept the Pentagon’s semi-independent inspector general from looking into the possibility of pressure from Trump, but they can’t stop the court from doing so. “This judge could allow what from her perspective was relatively limited discovery and still have a big impact,” Tiefer said. “Just look at the email traffic between … the award team and those people in the Defense Department’s upper hierarchy who would have been articulating a presidential position, if anyone was.

“If the discovery and potential trial open up the White house interference issue, it will indeed be an astonishing mess,” .

In that case, the Pentagon may well decide they don’t want to deal with any of this until after the election in November. “They may well think it depends on which way the election goes: that if President Trump is reelected, they should continue doing what they’re doing, battering through to make the award against Amazon and for Microsoft,” Tiefer said. “On the other hand, if President Trump were not reelected, maybe they’d be willing to stop trying to stick band-aids on this wounded procurement and instead make a fresh start.”

Running Out of Time?

Whether the Pentagon should save JEDI or kill it is “a tough call,” said CSIS expert Andrew Hunter, a former defense acquisition official himself. The answer, he told me, ultimately depends on how long the court case drags out. In the fast-paced world of IT, the longer the delay, the less JEDI is worth.

“The key thing JEDI offers that isn’t easily obtained elsewhere is the security features,” Hunter told me. “If they can conclude the protest relatively quickly, that’s the fastest path to secure cloud.”

But when, I asked, does “relatively quickly” become “too late”?

“By the end of the year,” Hunter said.

That is a deadline the Defense Department could actually make, he argued. “The government’s strategy in the JEDI bid protest is a tried and true one,” he said. “Since the court has indicated it sees errors in part of the analysis supporting the contract award, fixing those issues voluntarily is a common way for the government to avoid having the entire contract award overturned…and then rapidly close out the protest.”

But, he said, “the first sign that the court isn’t likely to accept that approach might be a good time to punch out.”

Even if JEDI does survive, Hunter said, it will never be the central pillar of Defense Department cloud computing that it was intended to be, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing agencies to find other solutions for telework in a hurry.

“JEDI is not DoD’s cloud acquisition strategy,” he said. “JEDI was a way to jump start DoD’s cloud acquisition strategy, and the fact that is has been so delayed means that it will likely play a much less important role.”
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[*] posted on 8-5-2020 at 12:30 PM

Amazon challenges the Pentagon’s revised JEDI solicitation directly to the department

Andrew Eversden

3 hours ago

The Pentagon's JEDI cloud is facing yet another protest. (Andrey Suslov)

Amazon Web Services filed a bid protest directly to the Department of Defense challenging “ambiguous aspects” of the Pentagon’s revised solicitation for its embattled enterprise cloud contract.

AWS’ challenge is in response to a revised solicitation from DoD regarding a specific technical requirement of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract that AWS had challenged. Back in mid-April, a Court of Federal Claims judge granted the department’s motion allowing DoD to “reconsider certain aspects” of the JEDI award.

“AWS is committed to ensuring it receives a fair and objective review on an award decision that the court found to be flawed," an AWS spokesperson said. "AWS repeatedly sought clarity from the DoD around ambiguous aspects of the amended solicitation and the DoD refused to answer our questions. We simply want to ensure a common understanding of the DoD’s requirements and eliminate ambiguity that could impact a fair evaluation.”

The JEDI cloud, potentially worth $10 billion over 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft in October last year. Amazon protested the award in the Court of Federal Claims in December and won a temporary restraining order in March preventing the DoD and Microsoft from building out the cloud infrastructure after the court decided that AWS was likely to show that DoD erred in its technical evaluation.

AWS also opposed the DoD’s motion to reconsider specific aspects of the JEDI award because the DoD’s request didn’t account for all six technical errors Amazon alleged were made during the contract’s evaluation process.

"Even if taken at face value, DoD’s proposed corrective action fails to address in any meaningful way how it would resolve the technical issues AWS has raised, or which specific technical challenges it intends to address,” Amazon lawyers wrote in a March 24 court filing.

In response to Amazon’s protest, the content of which is not publicly available, Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw wrote in a blog post that the filing by AWS was “disappointing but not surprising.”

“The only thing that’s certain about Amazon’s new complaint is that it will force American war fighters to wait even longer for the 21st-century technology they need – perpetuating Amazon’s record of putting its own interests ahead of theirs,” Shaw wrote May 7.

A spokesperson for AWS called Shaw’s post “not surprising," and touted AWS’ cloud computing capabilities.

“We’re eager to see the full array of mistakes considered and assessed,” the spokesperson said.

The Department of Defense didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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[*] posted on 21-5-2020 at 01:19 PM

What Google’s New Contract Reveals About the Pentagon’s Evolving Clouds

9:32 AM ET

5/13/20 A view of Grow with Google logo as seen from Chelsea office during the coronavirus pandemic on May 13, 2020 in New York City.

For one thing, it disproves fears that the massive JEDI contract meant one company would get all the work.

Google will build security-and app-management tools for the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, deepening the Silicon Valley giant’s military ties and illuminating the challenges facing the Defense Department’s drive to a multi-cloud environment.

Tools and a console built with the company’s Anthos application management platform will allow DIU to manage apps on either of the cloud services heavily used by the Pentagon: Microsoft Azure, which won the hotly contested JEDI cloud contract, and Amazon Web Services, or AWS, heavily used by DoD researchers, from a Google Cloud console.

Mike Daniels, vice president of government sales for Google Cloud services, said the company’s approach to security both complements and differs from those of Microsoft and AWS. Traditional “castle-and-moat” network security uses firewalls and virtual private networks to keep attackers on the other side of some sort of digital barrier. The higher security certification, the deeper and wider that moat. It works well enough in a single-cloud environment but less well in one with applications running in multiple clouds. It can also present problems when you’re dealing with an “extended workforce”: a bunch of people working from home or different locations.

Google’s approach is based on fewer borders, perimeters, and moats, Daniels explained. “It looks at critical access control based on information about a specific device, its current state, its facilitated user, and their context. So it considers internal and external networks to be untrusted,” he said. “We’re dynamically asserting and enforcing levels of access at the application layer, not at the moat or perimeter. What does that do? That allows employees in the extended workforce to access web apps from virtually any device anywhere without a traditional remote-access [virtual private network].”

Wednesday’s announcement reveals a couple of things:

First, it shows that the Pentagon is moving away from its older multi-cloud environment, a kluge of little clouds mostly from longtime defense contractors. When the JEDI program was announced, a lot of those vendors howled that a single massive cloud contract would leave DoD overly reliant on one company. The Pentagon countered that while JEDI was its biggest cloud contract to date, it would not be the last. What DoD did not say—but what some vendors should have anticipated—is that Azure and AWS will be picking up more and more of that business. Case in point: the Air Force’s Cloud One, a key node in their Advanced Battle Management System concept, is a hybrid AWS-Azure cloud. “Multi-cloud environment” for DoD increasingly means AWS and Azure. Future software should be compatible with both.

Second, it shows that Google is overcoming its employees’ resistance to defense contracting. In 2017, newly appointed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made Google one of the main stops on his tech tour. His favorable impression of the company’s pioneering cloud-based approach to AI shaped the JEDI competition and helped give rise to Project Maven, a program to apply AI to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. But an employee protest led Google to end its work with Maven.

Since then, Google has put in place a list of ethical guidelines, which, it says, should enable the company to work with the Defense Department in a way that doesn’t violate what it sees as its core values. It’s working with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center on projects related to healthcare and business automation and far-reaching research initiatives in AI safety and the post-Moore’s Law computing environment. Meredith Whittaker, the Google employee who led the protests, left the company last year.

Last April, Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president for global affairs, described the perception that the company was opposed to doing national security work, as “frustrating.”

Government cloud contracts have become a lot more important to Google’s business model than they were a few years ago. Google has tripled its investment in the public sector space, said Daniels. While this individual contract award is in the seven figures range, Daniels sees it as a possible pathfinder for future work with more of the Defense Department, enabled by DIU. “Frankly, the U.S. DoD is important to us, both domestically as well as globally. We are a global public sector business. To the extent that the U.S. Department of Defense is doing work with us, I do think that is an indicator for us globally as to the confidence that governments around the world can put into Google as a business partner.”
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[*] posted on 28-5-2020 at 03:45 PM

Joint AI Center Turns To Air Force cloudONE As JEDI Stalls

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center needs three things: new acquisition authorities, more staff, and the cloud. With JEDI delayed ‘potentially many more months,’ director Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said, he’s turning to an Air Force alternative.


on May 27, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan

WASHINGTON: The legal battle over the JEDI cloud-computing contract has slowed down the Pentagon’s AI program, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center acknowledges. In the meantime, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan told an AFCEA webcast last week, JAIC will turn to a new Air Force program our longtime readers are already familiar with: cloudONE.

Cloud computing matters for AI because machine-learning algorithms need lots of data and lots of processing power. A shared cloud can offer both with far greater efficiencies of scale than any single organization’s in-house network. JEDI was meant to provide a single “general purpose” cloud to all users across the Defense Department, including Shanahan’s Joint AI Center. But it has been mired for months in legal battles over which company should have won the contract, Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.

“It slowed us down, no question about it,” Shanahan told the AFCEA audience.

“Azure, AWS, I will never get into a company discussion. I’m agnostic,” he said. “[But] if we want to make worldwide updates to all these algorithms in the space of minutes, not in the space of months running around gold disks, we’ve got to have an enterprise cloud solution.”

JEDI can’t be that solution today, Shanahan acknowledged, but “we now have a good plan to account for the fact that it will be delayed potentially many more months.”

For instance, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, the Joint AI Center urgently stood up what they call Project Salus – named for the Roman goddess of health and safety – to pull data from 70 different sources, find patterns, and predict trends for US Northern Command and the National Guard. Salus went from a sketch on a “bar napkin” to a functional bare-bones system (what’s called a Minimum Viable Product) in 29 days, Shanahan said. With JEDI unavailable, he turned to an existing Air Force cloud run out of Hanscom Air Force Base, which he’d previously used as head of Project Maven.

CloudONE & Beyond

So what’s cloudONE? Like JEDI, it’s a new cloud-computing capability that the Air Force hopes will be available to a wide range of users from across the Department of Defense. Unlike JEDI, it’s not a joint program run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, but a service program, run by the Air Force.

In fact, cloudOne is part of a whole package of computing initiatives – deviceONE, dataONE, et al – that the Air Force acquisition chief, Will Roper, began pushing (and branding) aggressively last year. Further, while JEDI is meant as the Defense Department’s “general purpose” cloud, Roper’s many ONEs are all intended to serve a single purpose, albeit a broad one: military command and control.

Together, Roper’s projects will make up what the Air Force is calling its Advanced Battle Management System. ABMS, in turn, will be an Air Force component of the future Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) meta-network to share battle data between all the armed services across all five “domains” of warfare: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace.

Artificial intelligence is essential for JADC2, since human analysts can’t pull together that much data from that many sources fast enough to make a difference in combat. The JAIC is far too small to build the whole JADC2 network – that’s up to the far better-resourced services – but it can help.

“We’re not here to build JADC2,” he said. “We’re here to find AI-enabled solutions that stitch seams together from all the services, who’re [each] developing some version of JADC2.”

The objective is to automate and accelerate the often-laborious process of bringing American firepower to bear. That “kill chain” includes everything from spotting a potential target with some kind of sensor, confirming what it is with other sensors, deciding to strike it, picking an aircraft, warship, or artillery battery to execute the strike, and then giving that shooter precise targeting data. Currently most of that requires human beings relaying coordinates and orders over the radio, typing them into terminals by hand, or even scrawling them on sticky notes because one network can’t transfer data to another.

“Accelerated sensor-to-shooter timelines are so important – to me, this is what the next couple of years will be about, and each of the services has a really strong programs in sensor-to-shooter,” Shanahan said. “What we’re trying to bring is the AI/ML solutions.”

To do that job, however, the JAIC needs more people and more legal authorities to conduct acquisitions on its own – although it will never be the size of the services’ acquisition bureaucracies.

For example, while Shanahan initially focused on lower-risk, non-combat applications of AI like maintenance, on May 18 the JAIC awarded Booz Allen Hamilton a landmark contract worth up to $800 million for AI “to support warfighting operations [and] decision-making and analysis at all tiers of DoD operations.” But JAIC did so in partnership with the civilian General Services Administration (using GSA’s Alliant 2 contract vehicle), just as it’s done past contracts through the Defense Information Systems Agency and other established organizations, because it doesn’t have the necessary authorities and personnel in-house – yet.

“I couldn’t ask for better support,” Shanahan said, “but it’s not going to be fast enough as we start putting more and more money into this capability development. We need our own acquisition authority.” In particular, he sees JAIC as a potential early adopter of the new streamlined process for software development and acquisition recently rolled out by the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Ellen Lord.

The JAIC also needs to get bigger. Founded in summer 2018 with just four staff, JAIC has now grown to 175 personnel (counting contractors) and must keep growing, Shanahan said. But that larger staff won’t include Shanahan: JAIC’s founding director retires from the Air Force next month.
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[*] posted on 13-8-2020 at 03:42 PM

Deloitte Wins $106M JAIC Contract To Build AI Toolkit

The Joint Common Foundation will put a standard set of tools in the cloud, where any Defense Department AI project can use them.


on August 12, 2020 at 5:28 PM

Joint Artificial Intelligence Center graphic

WASHINGTON: Inventing artificial intelligence algorithms shouldn’t require reinventing the wheel but in the fractured, bureaucratic world of the Defense Department it all too often does. That’s why the Pentagon’s Joint AI Center has hired Deloitte Consulting to build the Joint Common Foundation, a cloud-based AI development kit for any DoD organization to use.

Awarded yesterday but announced this afternoon, the contract names Deloitte as the one and only “prime integrator” for “Systems Engineering, Technology, and Innovation.” (There were three other bidders, not disclosed). That makes the company responsible for pulling together all the technologies and subcontractors required to build the Joint Common Foundation and keeping it updated, secure and operational.

The minimum scope of the contract is $31 million over one year (starting Aug. 17), but if the Pentagon is pleased with Deloitte’s performance, it can exercise annual options that could grow the contract to a maximum of $106.4 million over four years (through 2024).

So what is the Joint Common Foundation supposed to be the foundation of, in layman’s terms? It’s a common and reproducible approach to AI across the Department of Defense, instead of the current uncoordinated blooming of a hundred flowers.

“What I want to build, the Joint Common Foundation, is an incentive for people to come into the JAIC and get away from all of the bespoke solutions that they’ve had to stand up across the department, mostly in research labs cause they had no other choice,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, founding director of the JAIC, told a media roundtable a year ago. “[I want] somebody on a battlefield in Afghanistan to get the access to the Joint Common Foundation, [so they] can build their own app and just do it in real time.”

Lots of different entities across DoD have done innovative work with artificial intelligence, but they were rarely able to build on one another’s work. Projects had to cover the same ground over and over, in different and not necessarily compatible ways. And doing AI this way took too much effort for smaller organizations to do at all.

So the JAIC set out to create a common set of AI development tools, shared training data for machine-learning algorithms, and a common environment to use them in, specifically set up to facilitate the Silicon Valley best-practice methodology known as DevSecOps. So this “common foundation” for AI could be accessed by anyone in the Defense Department – from major programs to that hypothetical operator in Afghanistan – they decided to put it in the cloud.

The Joint Common Foundation was delayed, Shanahan acknowledged, by the Pentagon’s problems setting up the controversial cloud computing system known as JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative), which was supposed to be the default option for cloud projects across the DoD. When Shanahan gave this explanation to reporters last August, JAIC was just putting together what he called “Version 0.5” of the Joint Common Foundation as a “minimum viable product.” Since then, however, JAIC has gone ahead without JEDI and started using other clouds for its projects, such as the Air Force’s CloudOne.
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