It seems that the Jedi are not returning after all.
More than an year after Microsoft was awarded the massive JEDI cloud contract (to modernize the military’s cloud-computing systems) by the Pentagon, the Department of Defense has rescinded it, announcing that the lucrative $10 billion contract is being canceled, and the Pentagon would instead pursue another deal with both Microsoft and Amazon. Modernizing the cloud-computing system of the military is something that is sorely needed since much of the military operates on outdated computer systems even after the expenditure of billions to modernize these systems.
The decision finally brings a conclusion to the long legal battle involving both Microsoft and Amazon and accusations of interference by the Trump administration. The new contract is likely to benefit both the cloud service providers.
Amazon had asked the court, in January 2020, to temporarily block the contract, something that was ruled by the federal court, arguing that the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure) contract went to Microsoft because of interference by then-president Donald Trump.
What is the JEDI contract? One of the most tangled contracts for the DoD, it was meant to store and process vast amounts of classified data, allowing the US military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities. It has been the epicenter of more than one dispute, as Amazon Web Services took to court arguing that the Pentagon’s process was flawed and unfair. It is also implied that the Pentagon faced extended legal challenges by Amazon. Additionally, Trump had made the matter all the more controversial as his interest regarding the JEDI raised speculation as to he favored Microsoft.
In a press release, the Pentagon announced that it was cancelling the JEDI since the contract no longer met its ends. “With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,” said DoD spokesperson Jessica Maxwell.
According to a senior administration official, the Biden administration began a review that concluded that the costly arguments over JEDI had been so long that the system would be outdated as soon as it was deployed. Its short lifespan, thus, would not be a feasible project.
“We understand and agree with the DoD’s decision,” Amazon said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement.”
Instead of JEDI, a new cloud architecture called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, or JWCC will be launched, involving multiple awards and both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. Both companies would be contributing technology to the JWCC, and the effort would be valued at “in the billions of dollars.” This time, it would not be an open competition but rather proposals from both companies would be solicited in mid-October. The Pentagon maintained that both companies were the only ones capable of meeting its requirements.
The department intends to make the awards by April 2022. The new contracts, which will last no more than five years, will lay the groundwork for a follow-on plan for enterprise-level cloud computing, which will involve a full and open competition for a multi-cloud procurement as early as 2025.