Pentagon Cancels Controversial $10 Billion Jedi Contract

Microsoft and Amazon are expected to be bidders for a new contract.
Ameya Paleja
Aerial view of the Pentagon buildingicholakov/iStock

More than a year, after a federal court halted works on the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) project, Pentagon has officially canceled the project citing evolving requirements and industry advances.  The project had become controversial after Amazon dragged the matter to court, after losing out on the contract in 2019.

Awarded to Microsoft in 2019, the JEDI project was aimed at storage and processing of classified data, improving battlefield communications, and using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the war planning capabilities of the US military.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), then unrivaled leader in cloud computing, was expected to win the contract. However, in a surprise outcome, Microsoft bagged the 10-year contract. Amazon had alleged bias against the company from then US President, Donald Trump, and approached the court seeking a halt in the contract. 

On its part, the Pentagon launched an internal investigation that reviewed the contract award. Last year, the investigation report revealed that the White House did not influence the decision, while also citing little co-operation from White House officials in investigating the matter. 

After months of delays, the Department of Defense called off the project stating that the specifications of the JEDI project no longer met its needs. However, since its need for cloud infrastructure was still unmet, it was launching another multi-vendor project called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. 

The project to be awarded by April next year will run for a five-year period. It will involve work with classified, secret, and top-secret information and have the highest cybersecurity controls, the Pentagon told reporters

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Currently, only Microsoft and Amazon possess the capacities to offer an enterprise-level cloud computing infrastructure that the Pentagon requires. While the DoD will conduct market research to see if there are any other vendors available, it is likely that Amazon and Microsoft will once again bid for the contract under a new President in the White House. 

Amazon has welcomed this decision with a statement from its spokesperson stating, "the [JEDI] 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."

Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. regulated industries at Microsoft wrote in a blog post that it understood the Pentagon's decision to cancel the JEDI contract and called for reforms that would prevent contracts crucial for national security from being delayed by companies. 

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