Pentagon asks AWS, Microsoft, Google and Oracle to bid for new cloud contract

After scrapping the $10 billion JEDI contract that was awarded to Microsoft, the Defense Department is seeking out new bids.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

The US Defense Department on Friday asked Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google and Oracle to submit bids for a new, multi-billion-dollar cloud contract. The solicitation comes months after the Pentagon scrapped the plans for its controversial, $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, which was slated to go to Microsoft. 

The new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability contract is a multi-vendor Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract. The federal government said it anticipates awarding just two IDIQ contracts -- one to AWS and one to Microsoft. Among US hyperscale cloud service providers, only AWS and Microsoft "appear to be capable of meeting all of the DoD's requirements at this time, including providing cloud services at all levels of national security classification," the US General Services Administration said. 

However, the government said it "intends to award [contracts] to all Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that demonstrate the capability to meet DoD's requirements."

The requisition for solicitations from AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Google comes after a period of market research during which the government determined that "a limited number of sources are capable of meeting the Department's requirements." The required capabilities include resilient and globally accessible services, advanced data analytics, fortified security and tactical edge devices, among other things. 

The new contract replaces the 10-year, $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, which was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019. The JEDI contract was thrown off track almost immediately by a lawsuit filed by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which claimed that then-President Donald Trump's vendetta against Amazon and then-CEO Jeff Bezos was a key factor in Microsoft's win.

From the DoD's perspective, the termination of the JEDI contract was due to "evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances," meaning that the original JEDI blueprint had become increasingly outdated while languishing in court.

An AWS spokesperson voiced support for the new contract solicitation.

"Our commitment to supporting our nation's military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology for the best value is stronger than ever," the spokesperson said in a statement to ZDNet. "We look forward to continuing to support the DoD's modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions."

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian wrote in a blog post that Google would "absolutely bid" on the new JWCC contract if invited to do so, in spite of employee concerns in recent years over the company's involvement with the Defense Department. 

In 2018, after facing both internal and external blowback for its contract selling AI technology to the Pentagon for drone video analysis, Google published a set of principles that explicitly states it will not design or deploy AI for "weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people."

In his blog post, Kurian wrote that those principles will "provide guidance and oversight into what AI products we will offer and what custom AI projects we will and will not pursue. We are committed to continuing to partner with the US government, including the military, on specific projects that are consistent with our Principles."

Google does already have multiple contracts with branches of the US Defense Department. Last year, for instance, Google Cloud announced that a unit within the DoD would use its Anthos platform to build a multi-cloud management platform for detecting and responding to cyber threats across the globe.

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