Defense

Latest filings in JEDI lawsuit offer an inside look into the cloud program

cloud (vs148/Shutterstock.com) 

Court filings from Amazon Web Services and the Justice Department in an ongoing lawsuit with Oracle over the Pentagon's $10 billion single-award cloud procurement provide a window into the development of the requirements and what the Defense Department hopes to get out of its planned massive cloud program.

AWS is helping the Department of Defense fight Oracle's lawsuit as a defendant largely because much of Oracle's case hinges on a conflict-of-interest claim regarding a former DOD employee with ties to the web giant. Oracle claims that Deap Ubhi, a current AWS employee with longstanding ties to the company who worked on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program as a member of the Defense Digital Service, helped formulate requirements in the cloud buy to the benefit of AWS.

Oracle bid on the contract, but was cut from the competition along with IBM for failure to meet certain gate requirements. AWS and Microsoft remain in the running for the award, which is set to be made in July of this year, after the case currently pending in the Court of Federal Claims winds up.

According to the Justice Department filing, DOD was in the midst of "robust debate" over whether to structure JEDI as a single-award or multiple-award contract as late as April 2018, with a final decision not coming until that July. Ubhi recused himself from participation in JEDI in late October 2017, according to the filing and other court documents, including citations from an internal DOD report from the contracting officer regarding possible conflict of interest on Ubhi's part.

According to the internal report, cited in both filings, "all the key decisions for the JEDI Cloud procurement, such as the actual RFP terms and whether to award one or multiple contracts, were made well after Mr. Ubhi recused himself, after being vetted by numerous DoD personnel to ensure that the JEDI Cloud RFP truly reflects DoD's requirement."

The AWS filing states that "Oracle's assertion that Mr. Ubhi somehow influenced each decision is not only illogical but a nakedly self-serving attempt to impugn the integrity of the entire Department of Defense."

A Justice Department filing also opposing a judgment in favor of Oracle on the basis of the administrative record concludes that even if the court decides that the Pentagon's internal report on organizational conflict of interest was flawed, the only relief that should be offered to Oracle is to require any award to AWS to wait until any conflicts are fully mitigated or waived by DOD.

"Even if Oracle were reinstated into the competition, its chances of being awarded the JEDI contract would be slim, minimizing the harm of its exclusion," Justice Department attorneys stated. "Accordingly, Oracle would probably be better off with an award of bid preparation costs instead of an injunction."

AWS also cited a pre-solicitation justification memorandum from DDS Deputy Director Tim Van Name from July 2018 that defends a JEDI requirement that DOD's unclassified use of the platform will not constitute 50% of a vendor's total cloud use across network, compute and storage.

"Not including this criteria will risk future military operations that depend on the overall ability of the Offeror to support surge usage at vital times," Van Name stated in his memorandum.

Another filing in the case released this week includes a declaration from Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo, the CIO for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the "urgency and importance" of the JEDI cloud acquisition.

"As data increases in size and complexity, our current compartmentalized management of data is untenable to assist our warfighters at the speed of relevance," Shwedo said. "JEDI Cloud is critical to safeguarding our technological advantage against those that seek to harm our nation."

In particular, Shwedo stated that JEDI is critical to providing infrastructure and artificial intelligence capability to analyze surveillance data from across the military services that is currently not being exploited. The planned cloud infrastructure will also serve as a backup to traditional cable-linked communications in the event of a disruption -- a real risk on the Korean peninsula in particular, Shwedo said. An enterprisewide cloud will also improve and accelerate training and therefore force readiness, he said.

"Delaying implementation of JEDI Cloud will negatively impact our efforts to plan, fight, and win in communications compressed environments and will negatively impact our efforts to improve force readiness and hamper our critical efforts in AI," Shwedo stated.

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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