Pentagon eyes successor to Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract

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WASHINGTON — One year after awarding the multibillion-dollar Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract, designed to centralize the military’s vast data-management needs, the U.S. Department of Defense will begin exploring a successor early in 2024.

The department tapped Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle to supply digital services for the JWCC, itself the follow-up to the failed Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure venture, or JEDI, in December 2022 in an award worth as much as $9 billion over three to five years. The companies are in competition with one another for task orders, and each is only guaranteed $100,000.

Dozens of orders totaling hundreds of millions of dollars have already been logged using JWCC. The arrangement spans unclassified, classified and top-secret designations and is meant to connect far-flung front lines with established headquarters.

“When we announced JWCC, it was a three-year base with two option years, and we’re already in the one-year base of this,” Chief Information Officer John Sherman said Dec. 13 at the DODIIS Worldwide Conference in Portland, Oregon. “We said all along, in ‘24, in that timeframe, we’re going to start looking at what comes next.”

Sherman provided no timeline for what the Defense Department has previously advertised as full and open multi-cloud and multi-vendor competition. He did say, though, the Defense Information Systems Agency will play a key role in “JWCC 2.0.” DISA is the department’s de facto information technology authority.

“We are firmly committed to mutli-cloud, multi-vendor, and this is what we’re going to be doing moving forward,” Sherman said. “Watch this space. More to follow.”

The JWCC is considered the backbone of the Defense Department’s Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative, or CJADC2, in which forces and their databases across land, air, sea, space and cyber are interlinked.

Cloud is increasingly seen as a means to get the right data to the right people at the right time — the tenet of CJADC2. Sherman earlier this year instructed defense agencies, military services and other offices to prioritize JWCC, especially when cutting deals concerning the nation’s most sensitive information.

“The JWCC is not a cloud management or hosting environment,” he said in a memo made public in August, “but rather a key vehicle in the department’s technology arsenal for the acquisition of services for current and future DoD component managed and controlled cloud environments.”

Sherman’s directions for JWCC employment included carve outs for the National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. They rely on the intelligence community’s Commercial Cloud Enterprise, or C2E, which was awarded in 2020. It features the same vendors as JWCC, plus IBM.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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