Pentagon pulls the plug on controversial Trump-era 'JEDI' contract

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MSNBC 07 July, 2021 - 08:20am 16 views

What is Jedi cloud project?

The DoD's General Purpose Enterprise Cloud, also known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud, is the initiative that will deploy foundational cloud technology, while leveraging commercial parity, to the entire Department, with a focus on where our military operates--from the homefront to the ... cloud.milJEDI Cloud Features

One day after stepping down as Amazon CEO, the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, got even richer.

Bezos ceded the CEO reins to protege Andy Jassy on Monday. He is still the company’s largest shareholder at 11% compared to the next-largest shareholder, Vanguard Group, which holds around 6.5%. With his title now executive chair, he will reportedly spend less time at the retail juggernaut he built.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it was canceling a $10 billion cloud-computing contract with Microsoft. The contract was approved under former President Donald Trump, who is no fan of Bezos’. The project is now widely expected to go to Amazon, which is a leader in cloud-computing, and possibly other companies. As a result, Amazon’s stock rose 4.7%. Bezos’ wealth rose as well, shooting up by $8.4 billion in one day, according to Bloomberg.

While he’s been ranked by Forbes as the world’s richest person each of the past four years, Bezos’ Forbes-estimated wealth of $177 billion at the opening of 2021 grew on Tuesday to approximately $211 billion, according to Bloomberg.

That may seem like a big jump — and it is — but Forbes estimated the Amazon founder’s wealth grew by $64 billion in 2020 as his business boomed during the pandemic.

Bezos’ $211 net worth narrowly eclipses Elon Musk’s brief $210 billion valuation in January of this year. Musk is now only worth $163 billion.

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Pentagon cancels $10 billion JEDI cloud contract that Amazon and Microsoft were fighting over

CNBC 07 July, 2021 - 01:36pm

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday it's calling off the $10 billion cloud contract that was the subject of a legal battle involving Amazon and Microsoft. But it's also announcing a new contract and soliciting proposals from both cloud service providers where both will likely clinch a reward.

The JEDI, or Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, deal has become one of the most tangled contracts for the DOD. In a press release Tuesday, the Pentagon said that "due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances, the JEDI Cloud contract no longer meets its needs."

Shares of Microsoft were down about 0.4% following the news and Amazon's stock was up 3.5% after already reaching a 52-week high.

The fight over a cloud computing project does not appear to be completely over yet. The Pentagon said in the press release that it still needs enterprise-scale cloud capability and announced a new multivendor contract known as the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability.

The agency said it plans to solicit proposals from both Amazon and Microsoft for the contract, adding that they are the only cloud service providers that can meet its needs. But, it added, it will continue to do market research to see if others could also meet its specifications.

The lucrative JEDI contract was intended to modernize the Pentagon's IT operations for services rendered over as many as 10 years. Microsoft was awarded the cloud computing contract in 2019, beating out market leader Amazon Web Services.

A month later, Amazon's cloud computing unit, AWS, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims protesting the JEDI decision.

The company argued that President Donald Trump's bias against Amazon and its then-CEO, Jeff Bezos, influenced the Pentagon to give the contract to Microsoft.

Last year, the Pentagon's inspector general released a report saying that the award did not appear to be influenced by the White House.

However, the inspector general noted in the 313-page report published in April 2020 that it had limited cooperation from White House officials throughout its review and, as a result, it could not complete its assessment of allegations of ethical misconduct.

Microsoft said in a blog post Tuesday it understands the Pentagon's decision to cancel the JEDI contract, but said the legal fight over it illustrated a need for reform.

"The 20 months since DoD selected Microsoft as its JEDI partner highlights issues that warrant the attention of policymakers: when one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation, the protest process needs reform," Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. regulated industries at Microsoft, wrote.

Townes-Whitley added that the DOD decision "doesn't change the fact that not once, but twice, after careful review by professional procurement staff, the DoD decided that Microsoft and our technology best met their needs. It doesn't change the DoD Inspector General's finding that there was no evidence of interference in the procurement process. And it doesn't change the fact that the DoD and other federal agencies – indeed, large enterprises worldwide – select Microsoft to support their cloud computing and digital transformation needs on a regular basis."

An AWS spokesperson said in a statement, "We understand and agree with the DoD's decision. Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement."

The company said it remained committed to working with the DoD.

A Pentagon official said on a call with reporters that the litigation itself was not necessarily the main reason for the shifted approach. But given how much the landscape changed during the intervening time, the agency determined its needs had also shifted.

"The mission needs have been our primary driver on this," said DOD Acting Chief Information Officer John Sherman.

The Pentagon said its cloud vendor for the new contract will have to meet several criteria, like working on all three classification levels (i.e. unclassified, secret or top secret), be available around the world and have top-tier cybersecurity controls.

The agency said it expects the new contract value to be in the multibillions, though it is still determining the maximum value. It expects the contract to last up to five years, including a three-year performance base period and two, one-year option periods.

The Pentagon expects the JWCC to "be a bridge to our longer-term approach," Sherman said. He said the department expects to make the direct rewards through the contract around April 2022 and open a broader competition as soon as 2025.

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Pentagon hits reset on Trump's $10 billion cloud deal, welcoming new players

Yahoo Finance 07 July, 2021 - 01:36pm

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Defense Department canceled its $10 billion JEDI cloud-computing project on Tuesday, reversing the Trump-era award to Microsoft Corp and announcing a new contract expected to include its rival Amazon.com and possibly other cloud players.

The contract was coveted not for its dollar value as much as its prestige: Both companies for years have sought to persuade businesses and governments that it was safe to shift computing work into their data centers. Meeting all the security requirements of the U.S. military would have been a visible stamp of approval likely to sway other corporate and government clients, analysts said.

Seattle-based Amazon, the biggest cloud computing provider, was widely expected to win the contract. But when the Pentagon awarded the sole-source deal to Microsoft in 2019, the announcement gave "huge credibility" to Microsoft, which had been working hard to catch Amazon after a late start with cloud technology, said Mark Moerdler, a senior research analyst at Bernstein.

But the contract has been on hold after Amazon filed a lawsuit challenging the decision under then-President Donald Trump, alleging that the former president exerted improper pressure on military officials to steer the contract away from Amazon.

Trump publicly derided then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and repeatedly criticized the company. Amazon said in 2019 the Pentagon decision was full of "egregious errors," which it suggested were a result of "improper pressure from Trump." The company cited a 2019 book that reported Trump had directed the Defense Department to "screw Amazon" https://reut.rs/2V4LqgQ out of the JEDI contract.

Shares of Microsoft and Amazon both closed at a record high with the online retailer up 4.7% and shares of the software firm a penny higher.

Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said the absolute dollars involved - $10 billion over a decade - are at most a nice-to-have for the cloud companies, with AWS alone generating $45.3 billion in sales and $13.5 billion in operating profits for 2020. The value, he said, was in showcasing the security of the clouds, "but it's not going to move the needle" for either company.

But the cancellation and new contract could benefit Microsoft, Moerdler said, because the Redmond, Washington-based company has had nearly two years during the legal wrangling to invest in its technology.

"If there is now another competition, Microsoft is going in from a better position," Moerdler said. As recently as September the Defense Department re-evaluated the contract proposals and said Microsoft's submission was the best.

While the Trump administration wanted a single provider, the Biden administration has said it would likely parcel out the project to multiple companies. Such a move would put the military more in line with private-sector companies, many of whom split up their cloud computing work among multiple vendors to avoid being locked in to any specific one.

Other top cloud companies include Oracle Corp, Alphabet Inc's Google and IBM Corp. Google and IBM on Tuesday said they were both interested in working with the federal government but stopped on short of saying whether they would enter the bidding process.

The Pentagon hopes to have the first awards by April 2022 for its new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC).

John Sherman, acting chief information officer for the Defense Department, said he expects both Microsoft and Amazon will get cloud contracts. He said the need was urgent.

"I've got to get this now -- as soon as possible -- starting hopefully as soon as April," Sherman said.

Microsoft said in a statement the company was confident it will "continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work". Microsoft could submit a termination bid to recover costs of the scrapped project, Sherman said.

Amazon's cloud unit Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it agreed with the Pentagon's decision to cancel the contract. Amazon said the initial award was "not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement." AWS added it looks "forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions."

In April a judge refused to dismiss Amazon's claims alleging the Trump administration interfered in the Pentagon's award to Microsoft after putting it on hold indefinitely in February 2020.

The now-cancelled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud (JEDI) contract was budgeted for as much as $10 billion and was part of a broader digital modernization of the Pentagon aimed at making it more technologically agile.

"We don't have an estimate yet, but I wouldn't latch onto the $10 billion figure," Sherman said, but added that the plan would likely involve a direct award for "urgently needed" capabilities and then a "full and open" competition for multiple suppliers by early 2025.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley praised the Pentagon's decision.

"The JEDI contract has been burdened by potential conflicts of interest, size, needless delays and its single awardee structure," Grassley said, saying a fresh review process "will afford the program an opportunity for greater public trust and confidence."

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker)

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JEDI Contract Scrapped: Jim Cramer on Amazon vs. Microsoft

TheStreet 07 July, 2021 - 01:36pm

"Shares of Amazon are up 15% over just the past month and Jim Cramer said the momentum remains strong. Investors can also consider names like Apple, another Action Alerts PLUS holding that ended up 1.4% by the close, Scott Rutt noted in his Mad Money Recap.

In the video above, Cramer compares and contrasts the services offered by Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report and Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Report

Microsoft: 'We respect and accept' DOD decision to move on from JEDI

FedScoop 07 July, 2021 - 01:16pm

Microsoft has said that it will “respect and accept” a decision by the Department of Defense to scrap the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) procurement contract and instead proceed with a new multi-vendor cloud acquisition for the U.S. military.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft president of U.S. regulated industries, said that the company understands the Pentagon’s rationale and that it would continue to support them with technology JEDI would have provided.

“The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” she said. “The security of the United States is more important than any single contract, and we know that Microsoft will do well when the nation does well.”

Townes-Whitley continued: “The 20 months since DoD selected Microsoft as its JEDI partner highlights issues that warrant the attention of policymakers: when one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation, the protest process needs reformAmazon filed its protest in November 2019 and its case was expected to take at least another year to litigate and yield a decision, with potential appeals afterward.”

She was writing after the Pentagon earlier today announced its decision to move on from the program.

Along with the cancellation, the DOD announced a new direction for its enterprise cloud effort called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC), a multi-cloud, multi-vendor contract. The department intends to solicit proposals from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services through the contract as “as available market research indicates that these two vendors are the only Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) capable of meeting the Department’s requirements,” the release states.

The Pentagon will also engage industry more broadly in its procurement process to determine whether any other U.S.-based hyperscale vendors can also meet the DOD’s requirements.

Microsoft (MSFT) Faces Blow as DoD Abandons $10B JEDI Deal

Yahoo Finance 07 July, 2021 - 09:23am

In a press release, DoD stated that it was scrapping the JEDI contract as it “no longer meets its needs” owing to constant technological evolution, changing requirements as well as matured cloud conservancy.

DoD also announced that it was now planning to float a multi-cloud/multi-vendor Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract — Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC). DoD is looking to Microsoft as well as Amazon AMZN for bids of the new contract as it finds these two cloud service providers (CSPs) as competent enough to cater to the organization’s requirements.  

Nonetheless, it did mention that is continuing with its research to find whether any other CSP can meet its needs and will hold discussions if it finds such a vendor.

Reacting to the development, Microsoft stated in a blog post that the company understands DoD’s rationale in scrapping the JEDI deal. The company further added that the Department was facing tough alternatives that included waging a lengthy litigation to upgrade its technological infrastructure or find a new way to obtain mission-critical technology.

Following the announcement, shares of Microsoft were flat and closed at $277.66. Amazon’s shares popped 4.7% and closed at $3,675.74 on Jul 6.

In the past year, shares of Microsoft have returned 30.5% compared with the industry’s growth of 30.7%.

JEDI cloud deal, since the time it was floated in 2018, has been courting controversies. Microsoft was first awarded the contract by Pentagon in October 2019. Since then, Amazon is striving to prevent Microsoft on working on the contract. The tech giant was granted a preliminary injunction order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on Feb 13, 2020, that does not allow the immediate commencement of the contract by Microsoft.

Amazon strongly opposed the deal again being awarded to Microsoft in September 2020 following re-assessment of the submitted bids. In a critical blog post, released on Sep 4, 2020, Amazon stated that the awarding of this mammoth deal sets a “dangerous precedent” and alleged political bias interfering in the procurement process.

Notably, Amazon along with Microsoft, Oracle ORCL, and Alphabet’s GOOGL Google were some of the bidders for the JEDI deal. Alphabet had pulled out the race due to the clash with its corporate values. Eventually, Microsoft and Amazon were picked by Pentagon as the final two contenders, which was not well-recieved by Oracle.

Oracle filed several lawsuits but faced setbacks. In September 2020, Oracle faced another setback when the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected its contention that the JEDI federal procurement process was unfair. In July 2019, the company’s claims of JEDI cloud contract infringing on procurement laws was overturned by Federal Claims Court.

Microsoft’s pivot to cloud computing is impressive. In a relatively-smaller time frame, the tech giant’s Azure cloud platform gained significant ground in the cloud space and trails only behind Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (“AWS”). Per a Canalys report, AWS’ global cloud services market share was 32%, while Azure’s share was 19% in first-quarter 2021.  

Microsoft is striving to enhance government services portfolio. According to Mordor Intelligence, the global government cloud market is expected to witness a CAGR of 17.4% between 2021 and 2026 and reach $59.74 billion.

Higher government spend on cloud infrastructure services, provides business opportunities for CSPs like Microsoft.

Though loss of JEDI deal is a massive blow, Microsoft is likely to gain from the floating of the new JWCC contract by DoD. Microsoft has previously collaborated with DoD numerous times in varying degrees.

At present, Microsoft carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

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