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Project Jedi: A Cloud Controversy

Abhinav Yadav - MLNC, Delhi University

Navigating the Cloud Storm: Project JEDI's Uneveiling of key issues and Strategic Recommendations for Digital Infrastructure, Security and Governanace in the Turbulant Seas of Cloud Controversey and Technological Evolution.

Abhinav Yadav, 25, BA Political Science (Delhi University), Co founder at One Young India

abhinav@oneyoungindia.com , +91-9891108935




Executive Summary


Project Jedi was an important programme introduced by the Department of Defence (DoD) of the United States. The term JEDI is referred to as Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure. The primary aim of this project was to build a stable cloud architecture which is able to manage large data requirements of the US Military. The aim was to redesign the data storage, data processing and the access regulation of the Military with an aim to increase data security, efficiency and real-time combat decision making.


This project was the key interest of many not only due to its technological and military consequences, but because of the issues and discussions it caused. It was set against the backdrop of an emerging digital ecosystem in which cloud computing was increasingly becoming a cornerstone of not only commercial organisations but also national security and defence initiatives.



Scope of the Case Study


This case study includes an examination of the initiative taken by the Defence department of the United states to modernise military cloud computing. This study highlights the technological goals, strategic implications, and security advancements of the Project JEDI. The research delves into the complex bidding process, AWS's legal objections alleging unfairness, and significant concerns such as government procurement processes, political influence, technological strategy, and ethical considerations in military technology. It assesses different project actions and finishes by calling for stronger government contracting restrictions as the best course of action.



Important Facts Surrounding the Case: Project JEDI

 

Project JEDI, an initiative of the United States Department of Defense (DoD), was a major effort to modernise the military's cloud computing infrastructure. Following are the   several core objectives of this project: 


Modernization of Technology: Project JEDI primary aim is to build a uniform, durable cloud environment capable of handling the military's massive and complex data needs. With this the intention is to feature a variety of cloud services, ranging from basic storage to advanced computing and artificial intelligence applications.


Strategic Impact: The project is expected to enhance the operational efficiency of the military / DoD, by consolidating data and systems into a single cloud infrastructure, it sought to improve data accessibility, processing speed, and real-time decision-making in military operations.


Security Enhancement: Elevating the security of the DoD’s data is one of the crucial aspects of this project. Project JEDI ensures robust protection against cyber threats and enables secure communication across military branches.



Bidding Process


The bidding process for Project JEDI was a complex and contentious affair:


Request for Proposals (RFP): The RFP issued in March 2018, outlined the DoD's requirements, which included technical standards and security criteria. Although it was open to all qualified providers, it was expected to be dominated by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.


Bid Submissions: Detailed Proposals for the project were submitted by all of the contenders including AWS and Microsoft By the October 2018 deadline. The main focus was on their technological capabilities and cost efficiency.


Evaluation Process: The DoD conducted a thorough evaluation at this phase, taking historical performance, cost-effectiveness, and technical merit into account. But the lack of transparency in the process drew criticism and raised questions about its impartiality.

 


Legal Challenges


Following the award of the contract to Microsoft in October 2019, AWS initiated a legal challenge, setting off a prolonged dispute:


Allegations of Bias: AWS contended that the decision-making process was influenced by undue bias against it, potentially due to political reasons. The company argued that this bias skewed the evaluation of the bids, favoring Microsoft.


Legal Proceedings: The ensuing legal battle brought the project to a standstill, with AWS seeking a reevaluation of the bids and alleging procedural irregularities in the decision-making process.



Key Issues

 

Government Procurement and Fair Competition: The single-vendor $10 billion contract awarded to Microsoft raised concerns about the fairness and competitiveness of the procurement process, including risks of vendor lock-in and reduced market competition.


Political Influence and Decision Making: AWS's allegations of political bias in the decision-making process pointed to potential conflicts between politics and impartial government procurement, threatening the integrity of the process and underscoring the impact of political dynamics on major government projects.


Technological and Strategic Considerations: The project's emphasis on enhancing military technological capabilities and security demonstrated the importance of provider choice and cloud architecture, while its cancellation due to evolving technological needs highlighted the necessity for flexible and progressive technology strategies in government projects.


Ethical Considerations in Military Technology: The potential application of AI in military operations through Project JEDI raised ethical concerns about the use of advanced technology in warfare, and the involvement of private companies in national defense infrastructure brought up questions of accountability and ethical standards.


Alternative Courses of Action


There are various options that might be considered as an alternative to project JEDI, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, reevaluation of the contract, this may result in a fairer and more open procurement system and enhance public confidence. However, as the reconsideration of the US Air Force tanker contract in 2008 proved, this could result in delays and increased costs. Second, is the division of contracts among various providers. This strategy, like the CIA's C2E contract model, eliminates monopoly risks and increases security through diversification, but it may make integration and administration more challenging for the DoD.



Third, implementation of stricter guidelines for government contracting. This would promote fair competition and increase transparency, aligning with the Federal Acquisition Regulation reforms, although it could prolong the procurement process. Developing a government-owned cloud infrastructure, as exemplified by the U.S. government's GovCloud, offers complete control over critical infrastructure, but this comes with significant investment and risks of technological obsolescence. Lastly, forming international collaborations for shared cloud services could be cost-effective and enhance security. However, it raises concerns about data sovereignty and dependency on international partners, a challenge evident in NATO’s shared IT services.


Each alternative presents unique advantages and challenges, impacting stakeholders in different ways. The chosen strategy should balance Project JEDI's goals with the need to address its initial challenges effectively.


Evaluation


1. Re-evaluating the Contract: Enhances fairness but risks project delays and extra costs. Similar re-evaluations in the past, like the U.S. Air Force tanker contract, have shown benefits in fairness but at the expense of time and budget.


2. Splitting the Contract Among Multiple Providers: Reduces single-vendor risks and enhances resilience but introduces integration complexities. The CIA’s C2E model illustrates feasibility but also the need for careful vendor management.


3. Implementing Stricter Guidelines for Government Contracting: Increases transparency and fairness but may prolong the procurement process. Federal Acquisition Regulation reforms have improved fairness but added bureaucratic layers.


4. Developing Government-Owned Cloud Infrastructure: Offers control and security but requires significant investment and upkeep. The GovCloud initiative highlights the potential for independence but underscores the resource intensity.


5. Forming International Collaborations for Shared Cloud Services: Potential for cost savings and diverse expertise but challenges in data sovereignty and international coordination. NATO’s shared IT services model shows benefits and complexities of such collaborations.


Best Course of Action


The Project JEDI case study highlights several critical issues in government technology initiatives: Implementing stricter guidelines for government contracting emerges as the most favourable solution for Project JEDI, addressing key challenges and offering broad benefits:


  • Directly Tackles Core Issues: Enhances fairness and transparency in procurement, directly addressing concerns of bias and opacity in JEDI's process.

  • Wider Positive Impact: Benefits extend beyond JEDI, setting a precedent for ethical and fair government procurements.

  • Acceptable Trade-offs: Longer initial contracting is offset by long-term gains in transparency and competition.

  • Feasible with Precedent: Aligns with ongoing Federal Acquisition Regulation reforms, demonstrating practicality.

  • Aligns with Project Goals: Supports JEDI's objectives for efficient, fair technology adoption, reducing risks like vendor lock-in.


References


Associated Press. (2023, December 16). Amazon cancels $10 billion JEDI cloud contract after years of legal challenges. https://www.inc.com/don-reisinger/jeff-bezos-says-big-tech-companies-should-ignore-employee-outcry-partner-with-us-government.html


CliffsNotes. (n.d.). Project JEDI: A Cloud of Controversy - Case Study. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/tutors-problems/Operations-Management/34014724-Project-JEDI-A-Cloud-of-Controversy-Case-Study-Most-major/


Government Accountability Office. (2023, February 15). B-416657, B-416657.2, B-416657.3, and B-416657.4. https://www.gao.gov/reports-testimonies


Greenwalt, B. (2022, December 8). US DoD Ends Cloud Drama with $9 Billion Contract to Top Cloud Providers. HPCwire. https://www.hpcwire.com/2022/12/08/us-dod-ends-cloud-drama-with-9-billion-contract-to-top-cloud-providers/


The New York Times. (2019, October 25). Pentagon Awards $10 Billion Cloud Contract to Microsoft. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/us/politics/amazon-pentagon-contract.html


The New York Times. (2021, July 13). Amazon Wins JEDI Cloud Deal, but Oracle Makes It a Fight. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/13/us/politics/amazon-jedi-contract.html

National Institute of Standards and Technology. (n.d.). NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture. https://www.nist.gov/publications/nist-cloud-computing-reference-architecture


The Brookings Institution. (2022, July 27). Biden administration cancels $10 billion JEDI cloud contract with 

Microsoft. The Indian Express. https://twitter.com/IndianExpress/status/1671769878645334018


Gartner. (2023, January 10). Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2023. https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/gartner-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2023


Haley, K. (n.d.). Kevin R. Haley | Security Executive Advisor & Board Member. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinrhaley


Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2022, May 17). Zero-trust architecture may hold the answer to cybersecurity insider threats. MIT News. https://news.mit.edu/2022/zero-trust-architecture-may-hold-answer-cybersecurity-insider-threats-0517


Project On Government Oversight. (n.d.). Project On Government Oversight. https://www.pogo.org/


Stratford Journals. (2023, July 1). Reforming Public Procurement Systems: Ethical Considerations and Challenges. Journal of Procurement & Supply Management. https://www.easons.com/the-challenges-of-public-procurement-reforms-annalisa-castelli-9780367543228


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