Awaiting JEDI, Pentagon finds ‘new homes’ for missions that need cloud now

Dana Deasy holds a media briefing on the COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force in the Pentagon Briefing Room. (DOD / Marvin Lynchard)

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While the Department of Defense’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud acquisition remains held up in court, CIO Dana Deasy is looking to find “new homes” in the cloud for critical defense mission sets that can’t wait around any longer for JEDI.

When the Court of Federal Claims ordered DOD in February to halt work with Microsoft under the $10 billion JEDI contract amid Amazon‘s protest of the deal, the department pivoted to find alternative clouds for services, commands and other defense agencies with “urgent warfighting” needs, Deasy told reporters Tuesday.

“Our day-one philosophy when we were told by the court we need to stand down moving forward with Microsoft was to cause no harm, cause no disruption to the warfighter,” Deasy said during a press call hosted by the Defense Writers Group. Before the court’s injunction, DOD had started preparing a number of “early adopters” to move to the JEDI environment. “And so we quickly took a portion of the JEDI engineering team and pivoted them to work with the services, the combatant commands, those early adopters … and said how can we help find homes where you can go and we can at least get energy and effort started,” he said.

Deasy referenced the Air Force’s Cloud One program as one of those new homes to “allow us to move forward.”

While that’s OK in the short-term, Deasy said, it does become a concern the longer the department has to wait to move forward with JEDI. “Over time, that starts to become problematic because now you’re starting to set up a lot of different solutions in different environments, where you’re going to have to go back and sort out in an enterprise way,” he said.

For that reason, “we need to help them find their way back home,” Deasy said, referring to the ability to roll those teams back and into JEDI when it’s ready.

“Whatever platforms we’re putting them on, whatever technologies, tools they are going to use, we need to do our darndest to try to make sure that … bringing them back to JEDI would not be a Herculean task. And so that was where the engineers had to put their heads together: What are other platforms you could move to? Let’s not create challenges for ourselves where it’s so problematic to bring them back.”

Deasy continued: “We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to disrupt the warfighter. But we do know we are going to have to go back and sort out some of these solutions down the road once we get JEDI in place.”

Meanwhile, DOD has plenty of back-end work it can do on its own to prepare for the inevitable JEDI green light from the court.

“We continue to work on what I always call the prerequisites,” Deasy said. “We’re doing a lot of work with the services on getting them prepared to move their development processes and cycles to DevOps. So when the JEDI cloud finally does get awarded, we’re not starting at day one. There’s tools that have to be identified. There’s integration environments to be identified. There’s directories that have to be set up that allow people to connect into these worlds. That’s all work that we can continue to do because it sits inside of our ownership already.”

DOD recently reaffirmed its award of JEDI to Microsoft, but it doesn’t appear the legal battles will end anytime soon. Amazon will continue to push forward with its protest despite the new award, it said after that announcement.

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Amazon, Cloud One, Dana Deasy, Department of Defense (DOD), Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), Microsoft
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