May The Force be With You: Pentagon delays decision over JEDI contract

August 21, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

The Pentagon has delayed awarding a 10 year cloud-computing contract with its Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) project worth £8.2bn to Amazon or Microsoft.

What does this mean?

The delay comes amid concerns raised by Oracle and other participants knocked out of the bidding process at an earlier stage, that the bidding process for the JEDI contract has been anti-competitive. This is because the Pentagon aims to award the contract to only one vendor among the four companies that initially bid for the project, namely Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.

Oracle believes the single vendor requirement demonstrates the Pentagon’s favourability toward Amazon, due to the fact that an Amazon employee previously worked on JEDI whilst at the Defense Department. Criticism has also arisen from members of Congress on the deal’s structure, stating reliance should be placed on multiple companies instead of a sole bidder.

However, the Pentagon has stated it requires a single company to ensure the program is installed and running quickly, and that multiple providers will be considered later. It has also determined no awards to Microsoft or Amazon will be made until a thorough review of why the Pentagon needs a cloud computing system is conducted by new Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

What's the big picture effect?

The JEDI contract is a project designed to modernise the US military by using cloud computing in its operations. Amazon and Microsoft are the ‘chosen ones’ who are competing to provide artificial intelligence-based analysis and host classified military secrets for the American army.

It is hoped this system can combat current difficulties in information transfer between troops on the field, because the US army does not have a common computing infrastructure in place for sharing data.

Amazon Web Services is seen as lead bidder because of its reputation as the world’s largest cloud services provider and capability in handling sensitive data. The company has an impressive portfolio of deals, like a £495m cloud contract in 2013 with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to help the CIA offload work to its computers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also a favourite as its Azure division provides cloud services to the US intelligence community. It also recently secured a £1.65bn deal to supply its Azure security and productivity infrastructure to AT&T.

Both companies are clearly capable of running a high-end cloud system for the US military. Let’s hope Amazon and Microsoft don’t find the Pentagon’s lack of faith in them disturbing.

Report written by Evania D’souza

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