Defense officials explained the importance the department is placing on the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract.
The Defense Department believes its Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract will be crucial in a digital arms race with China and other adversaries, and it is counting on the American tech industry to deliver enterprise cloud capabilities the U.S. military has never realized before.
“This is a huge day for the department and what we can bring to our warfighters,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer John Sherman said Thursday. “It is an ability to make sense and decide quicker than your adversary is able to decide, be able to understand information around our commanders and others who have to be able to act very quickly in a 21st century environment against a very capable pacing challenge. That’s why this is so important.”
Alongside other top tech officials, Sherman briefed reporters one day after the Pentagon selected Amazon Web Services, Google, Oracle and Microsoft for spots on the award. The contract has a three-year base period, with two one-year options and a total ceiling value of $9 billion. By late December, Defense Department customers will be able to issue task orders against JWCC, through which the four companies can compete. The procurement of cloud services through JWCC for DOD customers could be reduced from years—in some cases—to weeks.
“We’re hoping the task order competition process can be counted in weeks or maybe a few months, but we need to work through the specifics and we’ll learn as we go in the beginning,” DISA Hosting and Compute Center Director Sharon Woods said.
That sort of speed to compute capabilities—for those working within the Pentagon to warfighters in the battlefield and shipmen on the seas—represents what Sherman called a “decision advantage” over China and other adversaries the Pentagon will achieve by working with the four U.S.-based cloud service providers.
“As we look at our pacing challenge of [the People’s Republic of China], I’ve said often that our American industry and technology in the digital space is really what gives us a leg up,” Sherman said. “Being able to work with these four cloud service providers that are world class, to be able to help our warfighters—our men and women in uniform—as well as civilians and others who support them—and working with our allies too, by the way—to be able to make sense of their environment and to be able to make calculations and be able to live and excel and maneuver and fight and win in a digital environment, that’s what this cloud computing provides”
DOD officials said JWCC will be “complementary” to existing defense cloud contracts, but added that when current contracts expire, their intent is for JWCC to provide the “best value” to customers.
In addition to reduced procurement time, JWCC’s nature may also reduce the potential for bid protests that could ultimately slow down task order awards. Task orders issued below the $10 million and $25 million thresholds cannot be protested. Defense officials said AWS, Google, Microsoft and Oracle were the only four companies that met the DOD’s requirements for JWCC, which could reduce the threat of any protests lodged against the contract itself.
Finally, DOD officials clarified that JWCC awardees have 90 days to meet requirements to host workloads at the secret classification level, and 180 days to host workloads at the top secret level.