Defense Speak Interpreted: The U.S. Has a Space Force—JEDI Knights Next?

Does the U.S. Department of Defense's JEDI contract mean it's going into a Star Wars production? Sorry, no Stephen Spielberg this time. No Jedi knights, either, though the U.S. Military Academy uses the “Black Knights” as its team nickname. Guess that means confusion with Navy and Air Force academies about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.   

Anyway, in this instance, JEDI here stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. We need to break JEDI down from Defense Speak, word by word.

  • Joint: Between all branches of the Defense Department, both combat and staff
  • Enterprise: Looking at the Defense Department as a business. In this case, we are looking at a very valuable commodity—information  
  • Defense: We all think we know what Defense Department is
  • Infrastructure: In this case, the computer network that ties Defense together 

Historically, each Defense branch and many programs and weapons systems chose their own computer system for information. However, as central processing capability improved greatly, and need for timely, current information became critical, Defense logically looked for a way to tie most of the Department together in a much more efficient and speedier system. No wonder “put it on the cloud” became the rallying cry for information technology managers within Defense. True, there had been U.S. Government (USG) work on the cloud since 2013. Amazon’s win, against IBM in 2013, was upheld in court and the contract executed.[1]

Defense started to get its cloud computing structure organized in early 2018. Defense had given REAN Cloud Computing a $950 million cloud contract. (REAN was then a joint venture between Amazon Web Services and Hitachi Data Systems, and became wholly Hitachi owned in October 2018). However, upon grant, companies such as Oracle protested both possible REAN conflict of interest and the provisions of an “OTA contract award” to fast track the cloud effort.[2] Anyway, in light of potential legal squabbles, Defense reduced the REAN OTA award to $65 million, and limited the scope to the “United States Transportation Command.”[3]   

While the actual date of the Pentagon JEDI award announcement was March 7, 2018 (somewhat in parallel with the REAN award), the concept dates well before the current controversy. In 2016, Microsoft received a near-billion dollar contract to provide Windows 10 software and significant computer hardware to Defense through the Defense Information Service Agency (DISA).[4] 

Even before that, in 2013, Microsoft had provided Windows 8 software and computers to about three fourths of Defense.

Perhaps, they best way to condense the cloud computing squabble is to look at market shares from 4Q 2017, conducted by Synergy Research.

C_Fritz_Table_1.jpg
Table 1: Looking at the market share for cloud computing. (Source: techcrunch.com.)

So, as the JEDI bids were being prepared, what happened? Interestingly, Google employees revolted and demanded the company not to work with Department of Defense. IBM just dropped out. Oracle’s bid was disqualified in an ongoing dispute that its bid did not qualify. That left a two horse, winner-take-all JEDI bidders’ list—Amazon and Microsoft. 

Now, drop the bomb of partisan politics on the JEDI Cloud Computing bid! It turns out that Jeff Bezos owns a huge chuck of Amazon as well as the Washington Post. And, the Washington Post had been a critic of the President Donald Trump administration. Some reports suggest that Oracle was the principal instigator of this “unfair bid” or “tailor made for Amazon” solicitation specification.

Certainly, some weeks before the October 2019 JEDI award, President Trump told reporters, “I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on because I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining. Not only complaining from the media—or at least asking questions about it from the media—but complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM. Great companies are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense, and I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on.” [5]

And then, the announced winner of the JEDI contract—Microsoft. Of course, Amazon immediately protested presidential interference. In February 2020, Amazon backed up those verbal accusations with a lawsuit against Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his successor, Mark Esper. The suit calls out the long-standing hatred of Trump for Amazon president Bezos, dating back to the 2016 presidential race, when Trump was quoted, “Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

A federal judge issued an injunction against JEDI in February 2020, stopping work on the project.  

Even in the face of the continuing Amazon protest, the Pentagon awarded JEDI to Microsoft a second time on Sept. 4, 2020, during the run-up to the presidential election in November. That second award was after correcting some of the procurement errors pointed out in the November 2019 original Amazon protest. So far, at least four legal protests have been filed and JEDI is now well over two years behind schedule.[6] 

So where does this leave JEDI? A federal judge has refused to dismiss the Amazon lawsuit, meaning the threat of “start over on JEDI” still hangs over the project. This has influenced Defense testimony to Congress about continued funding—implying that significant legal deposition and rulings could delay the project further, or be money spent on a “false start.” Just a month ago, the Wall Street Journal broke a story that the Pentagon was considering “cutting the losses” on the JEDI award and breaking a new contract into smaller parts and including more vendors.[7]

In late May, Defense has filed information with the federal court that it intends to keep fighting for the award; of course, Microsoft says it continues to want to go forward with JEDI. So, the Star Wars battle at Defense is not over. Will it run to nine chapters as the original Star Wars scripts did?

References

  1. Amazon Web Services Wins Again In Battle To Build The CIA Cloud, Oct. 7, 2013, techcrunch.com
  2. Defense Speak Interpreted: Other Transaction Authority, and Defense Speak Interpreted: The Defense Innovation Unit.  
  3. DOD scales back $950M cloud agreement, March 5, 2018, FCW.com.
  4. Microsoft wins $927M support contract from U.S. Defense Department, Dec. 20, 2016, GeekWire.com.
  5. Did Trump interfere with the $10 billion JEDI Pentagon cloud deal? “No question,” says Amazon, Feb. 11, 2020, diginomica.com.
  6. Pentagon Awares JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft for the Second Time, Sept. 4, 2020, Nextgov.com.
  7. Pentagon considers cancelling Microsoft project to move data and computing infrastructure to the cloud, May 13, 2021, Militaryaerospace.com.

Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and is retired after 12 years as a senior engineer at SAIC supporting the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He was elected to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2012.

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2021

Defense Speak Interpreted: The U.S. Has a Space Force—JEDI Knights Next?

06-08-2021

Does the U.S. Department of Defense's JEDI contract mean it's going into a Star Wars production? Sorry, no Stephen Spielberg this time. Sorting out the good guys and bad guys in this cloud computing scenario.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense on Legacy Weapons Systems

05-11-2021

As “Defense Speak Interpreted” readers have surmised, the weapons systems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are under review, both with President Biden and with the Congress now in control by Democrats. But “weapons systems of yesterday”? In the fast-paced consumer electronics world, “legacy” never comes up.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Industrial Base Evaluation

04-06-2021

So, what is an “industrial base” to the Defense Department? And wouldn’t we expect a “battle plan” from Defense, not an “industrial strategy”? We want to review the Defense Industrial Strategy in the January, 2021 Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment section of the Department of Defense.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: So, What’s a JADC2?

02-09-2021

The term JADC2 was prevalent in the late 2020 debate about the National Defense Authorization Act. It is a new way defense is using electronics to shape battle strategy. JADC2 is Defense Speak for “Joint All Domain Command and Control.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it, but what does that mean?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Your Best Friend is a Skyborg?

01-15-2021

Suddenly the term “Skyborg” is popping up in Air Force publications, and if you are an Air Force pilot, your future best friend may be a Skyborg. To understand the concept behind the term Skyborg, we need a bit of weapons strategy for the Air Force.

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2020

Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s a VITA?

12-15-2020

Ever wonder how military electronics users could swap out circuit cards rapidly and keep their defense systems running? What about a “hot swap” of a circuit card that was questionable? How would defense depots keep enough unique circuit cards on hand to maintain the various systems in times of heavy use? The Department of Defense started to worry about those issues over 30 years ago and has helped private industry develop a highly sophisticated set of standards for circuit card input/output (I/O) to make quick change possible.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Intel Is Now Making a ‘SHIP’

11-10-2020

Perhaps you recently saw that Intel was awarded a contract for a SHIP by the U.S. Department of Defense. However, this one will not float on the water since SHIP stands for state-of-the-art heterogeneous integration prototype. Denny Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Rad-Hard Electronics

10-13-2020

Have you ever seen electronics described as “rad-hard,” or radiation-hardened, and wondered what that meant and how that was done? Did you like me just assume that “rad-hard” and “expensive” were synonymous? Did you think that this was a Defense Department term since they deal with nuclear weapons? Denny Fritz explores this and more.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The Defense Innovation Unit

09-22-2020

Many of Denny Fritz's columns are about new defense technologies and innovations, but what about an organization with “innovation” in its name? Here, he describes the history and purpose of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), as well as some of its programs.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Unpacking the NDAA

08-25-2020

What is this NDAA stuff you keep hearing on the national news all the time, and why is it important to PCBs? Denny Fritz explains what is going on with the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes programs and lays out the priorities and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA

07-14-2020

A June 17 article announced a supply chain award of $10.7 billion to eight defense companies for semiconductors. Dennis Fritz explains how the Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA) administers this contract and keeps the technology secure.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: C4ISR

06-16-2020

Only the U.S. Defense Department would lump together seven concepts—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—into a single acronym: C4ISR. Denny Fritz explains how C4ISR has been called the “nervous system” of the military.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s an RCV, and What Do Electronics Have to Do With It?

05-12-2020

In "Defense Speak," RCV does not stand for ranked-choice voting, a remote control vehicle, a riot control vehicle, or a refuse collection vehicle, although the second one is close; it stands for a remote combat vehicle. Denny Fritz explores this concept and its defense applications.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Why Is Defense Hyper Over Hypersonics?

04-14-2020

Perhaps you have noticed that the term “hypersonics” is now a buzz phrase in a big part of the Department of Defense research effort. What does hypersonic mean, and why is so much work needed in this weapons field? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Be Prepared for CMMC

03-24-2020

If you are a current or future Defense Department contractor or subcontractor, you need to be prepared for the next cybersecurity requirements coming online during 2020. This is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, in Defense speak. Dennis Fritz explains how there will be five levels of cybersecurity requirements for various amounts of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) you handle, with increasing requirements from one (least) to five (most).

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2019

Defense Speak Interpreted: The Continuing Resolution

12-10-2019

The topic of the continuing resolution (CR) has been sneaking past other hot Washington topics, such as impeachment, candidate debates, and why the Redskins are so bad. Dennis Fritz provides an update concerning a CR and the 2020 fiscal year.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Executive Agent

11-12-2019

After reading my previous column, you may have realized that electronics packaging technology development came from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. One of its core responsibilities is the assignment of “executive agent” for PCBs and electronic interconnects. But what is this “executive agent” thing, frequently shortened to EA? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: PCB-related OTAs from NAVSEA Crane

10-29-2019

In my previous column, I described how Other Transaction Authority (OTA) projects were speeding up the development of new technology for the Defense Department. Much of this improvement has to do with the speed of contracting and the less restrictive selection and payment process involved. Specifically, I would like to call out projects under the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Other Transaction Authority

09-19-2019

DIU grants contracts under a joint OTA and a parallel process called commercial solutions opening. Most of the five DIU focus areas depend on electronics: artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space. At the end of 2018, DIU had funded 104 contracts with a total value of $354 million and brought in 87 non-traditional DoD vendors, including 43 contracting with DoD for the first time.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DARPA ERI

01-29-2019

DARPA ERI stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Electronics Resurgence Initiative. This tongue-twisting acronym is the latest Department of Defense (DoD) effort to catch up and surpass world semiconductor technology for the secure IC chips needed by advanced defense electronics systems.

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2018

Defense Speak Interpreted: PERM—Pb-free Electronics Risk Management

12-18-2018

In this column, we explore PERM—the Pb-free Electronics Risk Management Consortium. No, the group members do not all have curly hair! The name was chosen around 2008 by a group of engineers from aerospace, defense, and harsh environment (ADHE) organizations.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense Electronic Supply Chain Issues

10-18-2018

On October 5, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) highlighted issues with the release of the 146-page report “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” from President Donald J. Trump

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