Has a JEDI mind trick been played on Seattle’s cloud computing leaders? Is the ever vengeful and scheming, orange Emperor Palpatine seeking to disrupt the Force by dividing the power of Seattle’s tech elites from the dark side?
The Pentagon’s award of the 10 year, $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract (JEDI) which aims to create a completely integrated IT infrastructure for U.S Armed Forces, complete with a unified artificial intelligence and cloud computing platform, gave the award to the current runner-up in the cloud computing marketplace that Amazon dominates.
Microsoft’s stock hit a record intraday high on the back of the news, but shareholders may want to hold off before declaring victory. Amazon, the second-place runner up, is reportedly weighing its options and may take legal action to challenge the award.
Amazon Web Services, also known as AWS, has experience running a top secret impact level 6 cloud for the CIA, and is the largest commercial cloud provider in the marketplace. According to a forthcoming book about Jim Mattis’ time as defense secretary, President Donald Trump ordered Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of an opportunity to win the coveted cloud contract.
In Holding The Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis, author Guy Snodgrass presents a fly-on-the-wall view of how the retired general operated at the Pentagon amid myriad crises, from issues with North Korea and Iran to trying to get on the same page with a chaotic White House.
Yet, according to the DOD’s Chief Information Officer, Dana Deasy, The Defense Department took multiple steps to ensure the selection process for its massive JEDI cloud contract wasn’t influenced by President Trump’s personal politics or other outsiders.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Deasy said the Pentagon actively worked to shield people involved in the vendor selection process from outside influence. The roughly 50 members of the committee were divided into smaller teams that had no knowledge of each other’s activities, he said, and the identities of those members were kept anonymous throughout the process.
During the hearing, lawmakers also grilled Deasy on the steps the Pentagon is taking to secure the JEDI cloud, which will simultaneously house unclassified, secret and top secret information. Since the start of the program, he said, Pentagon officials worked with the CIA and National Security Agency to ensure the platform would be structured in a way to ensure data remained “secured, segregated and protected.” The NSA will also perform penetration testing throughout the platform’s deployment to ensure any vulnerabilities are addressed, according to Deasy.
The JEDI contract is meant to streamline operations across the Pentagon by creating a single data platform for every component to use, a vast improvement over the clunky, inefficient web of clouds and networks the department currently uses. During the hearing, Deasy said enterprise cloud will lay the foundation for all of the military’s other tech priorities, including artificial intelligence, enhanced cybersecurity and next-generation command, control and communications.
Military leaders remain intent on expanding artificial intelligence capabilities through initiatives like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, he said, though those efforts must “continue to move with more urgency” to keep a leg up on global competitors like China. He also underscored the need to reform the procurement process to ensure vendors place a premium on cybersecurity. [24×7]