Nobody wins as DoD finally pulls the plug on controversial $10B JEDI contract

·3 min read

After several years of fighting and jockeying for position by the biggest cloud infrastructure companies in the world, the Pentagon finally pulled the plug on the controversial winner-take-all, $10 billion JEDI contract today. In the end, nobody won.

"With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD's capability gaps," a Pentagon spokesperson stated.

The contract procurement process began in 2018 with a call for RFPs for a $10 billion, decade-long contract to handle the cloud infrastructure strategy for The Pentagon. Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb told TechCrunch why they were going with the. single-winner approach: "Single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services,” she said at the time.

From the start though, companies objected to the single-winner approach, believing that the Pentagon would be better served with a multi-vendor approach. Some companies, particularly Oracle believed the procurement process was designed to favor Amazon.

In the end it came down to a pair of finalists -- Amazon and Microsoft -- and in the end Microsoft won. But Amazon believed that it had superior technology and only lost the deal because of direct interference by the previous president who had open disdain for then-CEO Jeff Bezos (who is also the owner of the Washington Post newspaper).

Amazon decided to fight the decision in court, and after months of delay, the Pentagon made the decision that it was time to move on. In a blog post, Microsoft took a swipe at Amazon for precipitating the delay.

"The 20 months since DoD selected Microsoft as its JEDI partner highlights issues that warrant the attention of policymakers: When one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation, the protest process needs reform. Amazon filed its protest in November 2019 and its case was expected to take at least another year to litigate and yield a decision, with potential appeals afterward," Microsoft wrote in its blog post about the end of the deal.

But in a statement of its own, Amazon reiterated its belief that the process was not fairly executed. "We understand and agree with the DoD’s decision. Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement. Our commitment to supporting our nation’s military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology at the best price is stronger than ever. We look forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions," a company spokesperson said.

It seems like a fitting end to a project that I felt was doomed from the beginning. From the moment the Pentagon announced this contract with the cutesy twist on the Star Wars name, the procurement process has taken more twists and turns than a TV soap.

In the beginning, there was a lot of sound and fury and it led to a lot of nothing. We move onto whatever cloud procurement process happens next.

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