It’s an IT contract that isn’t an IT contract — a commercial cloud computing procurement that Department of Defense officials are touting as a means to revolutionize the military’s ability to effectively execute missions and protect the homeland.

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud — a single indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that could be worth billions over the next decade — will be potentially the largest cloud vehicle for the Pentagon, and a draft request for proposals is now open to feedback.

“This is going to be more than an IT system. It’s not email, this is not cloud storage, it’s not data transfer. This is about how us and you together are going to change the way that this nation, its soldiers, its sailors, its marines and airmen fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Brig. Gen. David Krumm, deputy director for requirements for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, speaking at a March 7 JEDI cloud industry day.

“If you’re a student of military history, you know that lives have been saved and lost and that battles and wars have been won or lost based on bad, no or late information.”

According to Krumm and other officials, the DoD currently lacks an efficient means to get timely information and systems to remote areas where the U.S. conducts military operations.

“When you go out to these places, when you go out to those austere environments, one of the things that you see is that we don’t have access to the basic tools that they need to do the things that I take for granted for every place else but here. And we make excuses for it, saying, ‘Well, it’s the DoD, it’s the federal government,’” said Defense Digital Service Director Chris Lynch, explaining that from the time it takes some war fighters to request and eventually receive a particular IT capability, six months usually goes by.

“So what happens? You don’t get to do the thing. You’re long gone by the time any of that stuff is available to you.”

The JEDI cloud acquisition is being positioned to solve these problems by accessing industry solutions and establishing foundational blocks on which to experiment and build scalable, flexible, repeatable capabilities for unanticipated needs.

Industry has until March 21, 2018, to inform requirements by providing feedback on the draft version of the contract posted to FedBizOpps.gov. The final solicitation for the contract, currently believed to be awarded in September 2018, is scheduled to be posted in early May 2018.

The contract is single-award, meaning that a sole vendor or team will ultimately be placed in charge of far-reaching objectives for a cloud that is slated to provide the long-term go-to software delivery, storage, transfer and support platform on both the unclassified and classified levels for the DoD. The contract includes physical and services components to adapt to environments as needed.

A team can formulate itself however it wants before submitting a proposal to be the sole-source selection for the contract. The vendor must then go through a pass/fail gate evaluation, where they must meet all requirements to move forward in consideration.

Those requirements are elastic usage, high availability and fallover, offering independence, logical isolation, commerciality, automation, commercial cloud offering marketplace and data.

Should a vendor pass the gate evaluation, they will then be judged on technical evaluation criteria to be given a competitive range determination. If a vendor passes into the competitive range, the will have the opportunity to present a demonstration and make final revisions to their proposal before an award is announced.

Industry, however, has expressed some concern that the scope of the contract, along with the single-award intent, leaves only a handful of companies that are capable of meeting the requirements on their own.

Tim Van Name, deputy director of the DDS, said that a single-award contract is the most effective and secure way to address DoD data.

“We believe that a multiple-award cloud would exponentially increase the overall complexity. The systems in different clouds, even when designed to work together, require complex integration, which raises the bar for the development, testing and ongoing maintenance,” said Van Name. “The department would have to manage the seams between the various cloud-hosted applications and deal with the challenges associated with accessing data in multiple cloud environments.”

The JEDI will not be the only cloud in the DoD, however, as Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Essye Miller said that other DoD clouds, such as milCloud 2.0, are designed to complement the JEDI effort.

“We’re thinking about this holistically, and the two are very complimentary, and one should not to be discounted for the other as you look at and review the RFP,” said Miller.