Earlier this week, the Coalition for Government Procurement submitted written comments in response to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) draft Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) Cloud Request for Proposals (RFP). As the Coalition has said, both in its comments and in recent FAR & Beyond blogs[1], the draft JEDI Cloud RFP prompted questions regarding its potential impact on DoD’s long-term access to competition and innovation from the commercial marketplace.

This week’s blog focuses on a key point from the draft JEDI Cloud RFP that should give stakeholders pause. If readers remember nothing else from the Coalition’s recent comments and blogs, they should keep in mind the potential impact of the following language from Section H-4 (page 15) of the draft JEDI Cloud RFP:

DoD may acquire new products and/or services from the contractor for capabilities not currently provided in the Cloud Services Catalog Price List under this contract. Any product or service acquired that is not currently provided in the Cloud Services Catalog Price List must be made available on the Cloud Services Catalog Price List at a rate (that is, a discount or premium in relation to the published commercial cloud price) no less favorable to the Government than the rate offered herein to the Government on the most similar product or service currently included in the Cloud Services Catalog Price list.

When considered within the context of DoD’s ongoing insistence for a single-award approach, this language would impart what effectively amounts to defacto monopolistic control of DoD’s IT environment to a single vendor. Given the nature of cloud technology, in particular, its rapid evolution, ceding such significant control to a single vendor through a contract that it will last up to ten-years and involve potentially billions of dollars, risks locking-up the government market for cloud services, and thus, impeding its access to innovative technologies. Moreover, as the Coalition stated last week, the facts, the law, and commercial practice all conflict with DoD’s approach for this procurement. Instead, based on the procurement’s expansive scope, DoD’s complex and changing performance requirements, the security concerns associated with DoD “putting all its eggs in one basket,” and the lengthy ten-year performance period, this procurement appears to be a textbook case for the use of a multiple award strategy.

Finally, the Coalition would also like to touch upon the two-week timeframe provided by DoD for the review and submission of comments and questions on the draft JEDI Cloud RFP. The Coalition did request, but was not granted, an extension by DoD to submit comments. A two-week timeframe is not appropriate for a procurement as significant as this one, and it raises questions as to whether the Department really is interested in hearing from industry and adjusting the RFP based on industry input before formal release in early May.

Without more, this approach simply is not sound procurement practice. Indeed, others may be sharing similar misgivings. Just this week, the House released its Omnibus Spending Bill, and in the report accompanying that bill, Congress requested that the Secretary of Defense provide details regarding the framework “for all Department entities” to acquire cloud services, “including standards, best practices, contract types, and exit strategies.” Included in the report will be a “justification, to include cost considerations, for executing a single award contract rather than creating an infrastructure capable of storing and sharing data across multiple cloud computing service providers concurrently, to include data migration and middleware costs.”

What will come of this language and/or any further review is unclear. What is clear is that key stakeholders are concerned, and that concern should prompt some introspection on the matter among DoD leadership.

[1] See: FAR & Beyond Blog 3/8/18 and FAR & Beyond Blog 3/15/18