Tech trade groups urge DOD to rethink cloud strategy

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The team working on the Pentagon's ambitious cloud procurement project announced that it had received 1,089 comments from 46 interested vendors, two trade associations and three government agencies.

A draft solicitation from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure team asked for questions and comments on the cloud plan within two weeks of its March 7 release at an industry day. The Department of Defense did not identify those supplying comment or asking questions.

The IT Alliance for Public Sector at the Information Technology Industry Council and the Professional Services Council, which represent a range of IT vendors and service providers in the government market, both supplied comments in response to the draft. ITAPS is seeking more detail on the Pentagon's rationale for going with a single provider, and is raising concerns about the ability of cloud vendors to compete for the award. PSC is looking for the Pentagon to "expand the scope" of the JEDI procurement to remove barriers to cloud adoption.

ITAPS wants to know if DOD will consider making an award to a broker to sell multiple cloud services. The group is also seeking an explanation of whether DOD considered a multicloud approach, and why such an approach would disqualify a multi-award contract.

ITAPS is also concerned that the security classification requirements will put the JEDI award out of reach of everyone but Amazon unless the deadlines are extended. While ITAPS didn't mention Amazon by name, its comments pointed out that the timeline requiring an cloud provider to hit secret level certification within six months of the award, and TS/SCI certification after nine months, "will effectively prevent all but one vendor from bidding on this contract."

"We have long supported competition in the government marketplace to ensure taxpayers receive the most innovative technology at the best price, said Trey Hodgkins, ITAPS' senior vice president of public sector. "In this situation, we believe that a multi-cloud approach is the best way to accomplish that goal. Moving forward, we will continue to seek to create more transparency for the JEDI contract so companies can better understand the opportunity to compete for the work."

PSC said there are "significant policy and regulatory barriers" that get in the way of DOD adopting commercial cloud on the scale envisioned in the JEDI procurement. Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at PSC, asked the group leading the cloud effort to expand its efforts to remove some of those barriers.

In a March 21 letter to DOD Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chvotkin urged DOD to adopt multi-year funding strategies, to adopt revolving funds authorized under the Modernizing Government Technology Act, to allow defense agencies to share security authorizations and to replace Cloud Access Point and Internet Access Point programs with "performance based requirements" that support the speed and security of cloud.

Perhaps more significantly to the Cloud Executive Steering Group leading the JEDI procurement, Congress has also weighed in with comments of its own.

The legislative report on the defense portion of the omnibus spending bill, signed into law on March 23, notes that "there are concerns about the proposed duration of a single contract, questions about the best value for the taxpayer, and how to ensure the highest security is maintained."

Appropriators are seeking a pair of reports on the DOD's cloud strategy, which collide somewhat with JEDI's plan to put forth a formal request for proposals in early May.

Around May 7, Congress wants to hear from DOD on 2018 and 2019 cloud budget requests, overall cloud budgets and justifications for acquisitions involving "other transaction authorities" and plans on what DOD would do if their cloud provider were subject to acquisition by a foreign country. Congress also wants assurances that the DOD CIO, the individual armed services and commands were consulted in the development of the cloud acquisition strategy.

Near the end of the month, Congress wants a framework covering cloud acquisition for all DOD agencies, as well as a "justification, to include cost considerations, for executing a single award contract rather than creating an infrastructure capable of storing and sharing data across multiple cloud computing service providers concurrently, to include data migration and middleware costs."

The JEDI cloud team plans to issue responses to questions and a second draft solicitation for comment in the week of April 9.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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