Those closely watching the battle for a ten-year $10-billion cloud computing contract on offer from the Department of Defense were expecting a decision this spring, and that now looks like wishful thinking.
Bloomberg reported Monday that the Pentagon has agreed to review charges of bias against Deap Ubhi, who worked for the military in between stints at Amazon Web Services. Enterprise tech gadfly Oracle filed a lawsuit late last year alleging that Ubhi unfairly influenced the military’s review of potential cloud vendors, and the new review comes months after an earlier review of similar charges was dismissed, according to the report.
The lawsuit alleges that Ubhi played an outsized role in convincing the Pentagon to go with a single-vendor strategy when building a much-needed update to the Defense Department’s computing infrastructure, which basically means that only AWS and Microsoft are realistic players after Google announced last year that it would not pursue the contract. Ubhi left AWS to join the Department of Defense in 2016, and rejoined the company a year later as the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) was unveiled.
The new review means that the Defense Department will have to complete a “competitive range determination” assessment after completing the review, which sets the whole process back by another three months, according to a government filing cited in the report. And if the review finds the charges of bias have merit, we’re probably back to square one.
The final version of the requirements for the JEDI contract was published in July 2018, almost a year after Ubhi left the Department of Defense. Oracle and other tech companies that don’t have a chance of fulfilling the Pentaon’s cloud infrastructure requirements have been pushing the government to award the contract to multiple vendors in hopes of winning business in other aspects of cloud computing.
That’s because aside from the revenue, all companies involved in the process think the marketing value of a Department of Defense contract will be a boon to future sales. The cloud contract AWS signed with the Central Intelligence Agency in 2013 is widely credited with opening doors for both AWS and cloud computing in general inside the federal government, which spends an awful lot of money every year.
[Editor’s note: This post was updated to clarify the status of the competitive range determination process, and to clarify Ubhi’s relationship with the Department of Defense.]