IBM calls out JEDI ‘turning its back’ on cloud priorities

IBM is the latest in a growing number of companies that have submitted protests to the Government Accountability Office over the Department of Defense’s intent to award a potentially $10 billion cloud contract to a single company, rather than multiple offerors.

In an Oct. 10 blog post, Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal, explained that the intent to award the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to a single offeror diverted not just from private-sector best practices, but also from the stated goals of the federal government overall.

“IBM knows what it takes to build a world-class cloud. No business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade,” Gordy wrote.

“JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress and the administration, is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind. America’s war fighters deserve better.”

Gordy noted that the administration’s newly unveiled cloud strategy, Cloud Smart, expresses a specific preference for multi-cloud and hybrid solutions that are a direct contradiction of the DoD’s intent to award to a single offeror.

The DoD has in the past argued that a single cloud provider is the only way for the agency to get the results it is looking for in the JEDI solicitation.

DoD officials have also stated that the contract is not designed with any one company in mind, an assertion that Gordy directly refutes in the blog post:

“The JEDI solicitation restricts the field of competition. Certain requirements in the [request for proposals] either mirror one vendor’s internal processes or unnecessarily mandate that certain capabilities be in place by the bid submission deadline versus when the work would actually begin. Such rigid requirements serve only one purpose: to arbitrarily narrow the field of bidders. Throughout the year-long JEDI saga, countless concerns have been raised that this solicitation is aimed at a specific vendor. At no point have steps been taken to alleviate those concerns.”

Some of those more rigid requirements include stipulations that contractors be able to host secret or top secret information by the bid solicitation deadline, which only a few providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have achieved.

Another of the potential frontrunners for JEDI, Google, recently announced that it would not submit a bid for the contract, as it could potentially conflict with company values.

IBM’s protest — though it is not the first company to file with GAO over JEDI — comes at the eleventh hour, as the RFP for the cloud contract closes this week.

The company does still plan to submit a proposal for the contract.

“IBM has proudly supported America’s armed services for decades, and we plan to submit a bid that provides our war fighters as much flexibility and innovation as possible within the scope of the JEDI solicitation,” wrote Gordy.

“It is our hope, though, that highlighting our serious concerns through this protest might create one last opportunity for this process to be aligned with commercial best practices, the desires of Congress and the Trump administration, and the best interests of our men and women in uniform — not to mention taxpayers, who will foot the bill.”

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