Pentagon is 'actively' weighing JEDI options, Hicks says

Deputy Secretary of Defense nominee Kathleen Hicks at her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C. Feb. 2, 2021. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom) 

Deputy Secretary of Defense nominee Kathleen Hicks at her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C. Feb. 2, 2021. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

The Defense Department is actively weighing its options to potentially replace the embattled JEDI cloud program, according to the Pentagon's number two official.

Kathleen Hicks, the deputy defense secretary, said DOD is "very actively looking at our options" to fulfill the enterprise cloud needs that were intended to be met through the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract awarded to Microsoft.

"The department must have an enterprise cloud solution approach in order to make the most of JADC2. Again that's the warfighting edge, if you look at the boardroom edge, we still need to have an enterprise cloud solution so that we can do everything from being faster and more timely and more efficient on audit, to inventory control to HR," Hicks said during Defense One's annual Tech Summit on June 21.

When asked if DOD would re-do the JEDI contract, Hicks said DOD has a "good sense" of its needs and is working through potential solutions: "we will be moving forward in a direction over the next month or so but I'm not going to get into where we might end up."

DOD first hinted that it was considering JEDI alternatives in January but fervor for an enterprise cloud is significantly rooted in its desire to more seamlessly send data across sensors, platforms, and individuals to one another as part of its overarching Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed the strategy in May, but as DOD ramps up its experimentation, the impending delays of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract that is embroiled in a protracted legal battle -- and the lack of an alternative -- could hamper those plans.

Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, Director, Command, Control, Communications, and Computers/Cyber; and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff J6, repeated comments he made earlier this month, stressing the need for an enterprise warfighting cloud in the near future, but adding that DOD will soon "outgrow" the current capabilities.

"We need an enterprise solution and we will need it soon," Crall said during a panel discussion on JADC2, "to expand the work that we're doing...we will soon outgrow our capacity."

Neither Hicks or Crall would comment on potential alternatives nor JEDI specifically citing pending litigation. But the general said the solution that DOD asked for in the awarded contract "holds true today."

"The solution that we've asked for still holds true today, that there will be a composite -- not all clouds are the same, they all perform different tasks and they all have measures of survivability and reconstitution differences that matter as you push to the tactical edge on availability and how they work," Crall said.

"No matter what solution is decided upon...the only difference would be scale."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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