Pentagon sticks with single cloud contract
But the US Defense Department doesn’t say why
WASHINGTON: The US Defense Department isn’t budging from its decision to award a single contract for a cloud-computing project valued in billions of dollars – and isn’t saying why – in a public exchange with vendors over details of the proposal.
The Pentagon on Monday posted answers to 1,089 questions raised by 46 companies, two associations and three government agencies. The comments were posted anonymously with the military’s response alongside each entry.
Rival contractors complain that the winner-take-all approach favours Amazon.com Inc, the biggest supplier of cloud services. But Pentagon officials made clear they have little patience for continuing debate over the issue.
In response to a question on the “rationale for a single award for this contract,” the answer posted was blunt: “This rationale is not going to be published at this time.”
In an interview on Monday, Tim Van Name, deputy director of the Defense Digital Service, which is overseeing the contract competition, said “I don’t see the value” of more exchanges because “we’ve made it clear that we are going forward with a single award” and “it is not something that we believe is up for debate with industry.”
“It was a decision the department made based on its needs, so adding context there doesn’t benefit us,” he said.
The process for selecting a winner would include input from committees “heavily filled with folks who are technical experts – representative across the services,” Van Name said. These experts “understand the technologies and specific department needs.”
The government also issued a revised draft proposal, clarifying specific requirements that must be met under FedRamp, or the Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Programme, a framework for handling unclassified data, Van Name said.
Tech companies jockeying for a piece of the contract argue that a single-source approach will stifle innovation and increase security risks.
Oracle Corp has been leading a campaign along with other tech giants to unseat Amazon Web Services as the perceived front-runner for the job, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Pentagon reiterated that while it would award a single contract, the eventual winner could be made up of a team of companies.
The contract, known as JEDI – for the the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud Programme – wouldn’t prevent the Defense Department from working with other cloud vendors in the future, Lieutenant Colonel Kaight Meyers, programme manager for the cloud initiative, said in a letter posted along with the comments and responses and the revised proposal.
“JEDI Cloud is intended to be available enterprise-wide and complementary to other existing cloud initiatives. It will not preclude the release of future contracting actions,” Meyers said.
Cloud services – in which computing power and storage are hosted in remote data centres run by a third-party company rather than on-site in locally owned machines – can make it easier for large organisations to move and integrate data across different platforms, quickly expand the data storage it needs based on usage and make system-wide security upgrades to software.
The Defense Department has said it’s making the shift to the cloud to give it a tactical edge in the battlefield and strengthen its use of emerging technologies.
The department planned to issue the final request for proposal by May 15 and award the contract by the end of September, Van Name said.
“We are playing catch-up” to industry on adopting the cloud, he said.
We’ve made it clear that we are going forward with a single award and it is not something that we believe is up for debate with industry. Tim Van Name