Download, Disconnect, Fire! Why Grunts Need JEDI Cloud

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ARLINGTON: To see through the fog of war on future battlefields, ground troops will need near-real-time access to huge amounts of information from a host of sensors — from satellites to F-35s to mini-drones to targeting goggles, all sharing data through a joint combat cloud. But to evade the enemy’s own swarms of sensors, soldiers will also need to know when to disconnect from the network and go dark.

Switching quickly from being hyperconnected to being cut off — whether as a tactical choice or as the result of enemy jamming and hacking — will put a new kind of strain on future frontline commanders. The capability to cope is central both to the Army’s evolving combat concept, Multi-Domain Operations, the Pentagon’s controversial Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative, the JEDI cloud computing program.

The Pentagon’s plan to consolidate many — but not all — of its 500-plus cloud contracts into a single Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). Note the suggestion that the single “pathfinder” contract for JEDI might evolve into multiple JEDI contracts.

The Case For Cloud

“Why do we want to go to the cloud? Because you get better synthesized data,” said the Army’s senior futurist, Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, in a recent conversation with reporters. “Sensors are going to be ubiquitous on the battlefield,” he said. They’ll provide such masses of data that unaided human brains and traditional staff processes can’t collect it all in one place, let alone make sense of it: “It’s got to be synchronized by tools such as artificial intelligence and cloud-based computing.”

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The Defense Department has triumphed in the eight-month-long U.S. Court of Federal Claims lawsuit filed by Oracle over its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract. On Friday, Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled in favor the Defense Department—and Amazon Web Services, which joined the lawsuit as an intervener—stating that Oracle could not meet certain gate criteria when bids were due in late 2018.

Amazon’s surging profits over the past few years have had little to do with the company’s core business of selling stuff – or allowing third parties to sell stuff – on its online marketplace. Instead, Jeff Bezos has built Amazon Web Services into a cloud computing behemoth, allowing tens of thousands of companies to outsource their back-end responsibilities. But after years of explosive growth, AWS’ revenue growth has started to slow in recent quarters. Which has made securing a multi-billion-dollar DoD cloud-computing contract all the more important to Bezos & Co. Unfortunately for them, the process for awarding the contract to build the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, has become embroiled in controversy, as rivals have sued alleging they were unfairly excluded from the bidding.

The Defense Department amended its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract Thursday, adding context to numerous industry questions on pricing, objectives, definitions and small business participation that were included in the final request for proposals thatwent out to bid in July. “We are excited at the continued level of interest in JEDI Cloud and appreciate industry’s participation in the solicitation process,” the Pentagon said in the update. “Since we feel that industry’s participation is vital, we are providing a second, limited question and answer opportunity.”

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