News that Secretary Esper is taking over and reviewing the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) procurement demonstrates that pressure is being applied, and it is now under evaluation. Whether there will be changes to any element of the contract remains to be seen. With all the intensifying scrutiny, it’s easy to see how we can become distracted by new opining players. What’s more pressing and relevant is that a single vendor award does not serve the government, DOD or intelligence community’s need for the most sophisticated and secure technology.
A single vendor award for JEDI fails to meet the Cloud Executive Steering Group’s (CESG) mandate to drive cloud adoption as supported by the recent ruling of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Two elements of Oracle’s protest case are now known: Oracle was denied their claim because they could not meet the technical requirements, and the court’s opinion revealed that it found the Pentagon’s single-award acquisition strategy to be “flawed.” What will happen to the CESG is up in the air as former Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s stepped agenda to prioritize the DOD’s move to commercial cloud services morphs with changing leadership and involvement from the Executive and Legislative offices.
Experience has shown that large, monolithic acquisitions of cloud services generate long procurement cycles, high protest risk, vendor lock-in and reduced innovation. In the time that it took to field Oracle’s protest, incremental progress in building JEDI could have been achieved by breaking the strategy into bite-sized project chunks. Establishing a Program Management Office to navigate the mission would allow small procurements to be awarded in a fraction of the time, and the work quickly completed. With the help of a strong Center of Excellence (CCOE) and Program Management Office, the DOD could focus on the rapid addition of new services and capabilities; the modernization of legacy systems and cutting-edge solutions that improve warfighter effectiveness.
With a multi award cafeteria-type of procurement approach, the DOD could contract a broad range of managed and expert services and tools that drive innovation, cost competitiveness and cloud adoption. Given the quality of talent in our industry, the DOD could hire the most accomplished experts in every area, tackle numerous modernization hurdles with innovative solutions and save significant amounts of money and time in the process.
The information technology market is undergoing rapid revolution and change. The ability to respond to the mission and immediately provide solutions is unprecedented. To seize the opportunity, drive cloud adoption and enhance mission success, our federal organizations must be agile; focus on use cases, implement strategic innovations and deliver gradual, buildable results with greater efficiency and speed. It is our hope that as the DOD reviews and reconsiders the JEDI award, they will make amendments that break it into manageable projects that facilitate rapid fulfillment, thereby driving cloud adoption.
It’s important to remember what the real JEDI mission is: not building billion-dollar platforms or weapons systems, but responding to technology challenges with incremental and problem-specific infrastructure to achieve mission success.
As government contractors in support of federal missions, we need to focus on how to give the workforce not only technology but a holistic consideration that factors in economy of time and budget, as well as a superior outcome.
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