Tech

Pentagon expects to award up to $9 billion in cloud contracts in December

Key Points
  • The Pentagon expects to award contracts around eight months later than expected.
  • The idea is to rely on multiple public clouds, rather than just one, as a previous effort had intended.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi, Georgia October 18, 2021.
Irakli Gedenidze | Reuters

The U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday that it plans to award as much as $9 billion in contracts for cloud infrastructure services in December, about eight months later than it expected.

The Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, or JWCC, initiative represents a new path for the U.S. military that would rely on multiple cloud providers, rather than a single one. That was the strategy the Pentagon had initially sought to use with the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract. The Pentagon wound up awarding the contract to Microsoft before canceling it.

"We've recognized that our schedule was maybe a little too ahead of what we thought, and that now we're going to wrap up in the fall and we're aiming to award in December," John Sherman, the Pentagon's chief information officer, said on a call with reporters. In July 2021, when it announced the JWCC, the goal had been to award contracts as soon as April 2022, Sherman said.

The Pentagon made solicitations to Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle in November, Sherman said.

The Pentagon still expects the contracts to have a three-year base period and two-year option periods. Then, Sherman said, the Pentagon will kick off "a full and open competition for a future multicloud acquisition."

The JEDI contract would have been worth as much as $10 billion over 10 years. JWCC would span five years and would have a larger dollar amount over that time period.

The work would reach across all three security classifications and operate both inside and outside the U.S., Sherman said. The expectation is that the Pentagon will have access to the unclassified network when the contracts are awarded. Secret networks will come online 60 days after the contract award and top-secret and tactical edge networks will be online no later than 180 days after picks are made.

The contracts would mark a break from technology services delivery under former President Donald Trump, who had reportedly sought to block Amazon from winning the JEDI contract, which came to be seen as structurally problematic by relying on a single provider. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis' successor, Lloyd Austin, last year signed off on a Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, strategy that will draw on artificial intelligence.

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