The Department of Defense issued a draft solicitation March 7 for its potential multi-billion dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud services project aimed at improving data analytics and security across all facets of the department.

DoD officials held an industry day for the massive JEDI project, which aims for a full cloud migration centered around commercial Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service platforms, and released a draft request for proposal on FedBizOpps later on March 7.

The project will be a single-award contract for two years, with potential for eight years of follow-up options.

“This program is truly about increasing lethality of our department and providing the best resources for our men and women in uniform,” said Jay Gibson, DoD’s chief management officer, during the industry day. “We believe this program takes a significant step to fully leveraging the commercial products and services needed to meet our operational needs. We are well aware that we need to better utilize the private sector’s tremendous innovation, competition and resources, and this program represents our continued movement in this direction.”

Members of the DoD’s cloud executive steering group told industry attendees that any commercial capability accepted for the JEDI program must be able to boost information capabilities for warfighters and build-in data security improvements to the tactical edge.

“This is not an IT project. We need to create a mobile, resilient, secure environment that enables warfighters across the globe.That includes mission command at the very tactical level up to the highest levels of government. That means we need greater lethality, agility and improved decision making,” said Brig. Gen. David Krumm, deputy director for Requirements for the Joint Staff.

DoD officials reiterated this would be a single-award indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract, and the eventual contract award will include firm-fixed pricing items purchased from a commercial vendor.

A final solicitation will be posted in early May, and a final contract is scheduled to be awarded in September.

Several industry representatives told sister publication Defense Daily they were excited to work on proposals for the massive cloud project, but some expressed skepticism that a contract would be awarded by September and that a single-award could handle JEDI’s requirements.

Tim Van Name, deputy director for DoD’s Defense Digital Service, told reporters during a conference call the afternoon of March 7 that a multiple-award contract may open up potential issues for syncing separate commercial cloud offerings.

“The department is framing the solicitation to best meet the department’s requirements. The lack of standardization and interoperability creates pretty significant barriers for where and when it’s needed. Lack of automated provisioning limits our teams, and multi-award contract would exacerbate these issues,” Van Name said.

A single-award contract could leave little competition to large cloud providers like Amazon [AMZN] Web Services, but Van Name said a full, open competition process will be held to select the contract awardee.

“It’s about the best proposal, and the criteria is there to evaluate the proposals. There’s no favorite,” Van Name said.  

Gate evaluation criteria will be a key component for considering potential contract awardees. Commercial cloud solutions for JEDI must include capabilities for elastic usage, high availability, logical isolation, secure data transfer, tactical edge tools, and data hosting portability.

Acting DoD Chief Information Officer Essye Miller clarified that JEDI would work alongside DoD’s on-premise cloud project, milCloud 2.0.

CSRA [CSRA] was recently granted provisional authority to start operating its milCloud platform with on-premise DoD components handling any level of unclassified data. JEDI will eventually handle cloud migration for classified and unclassified data on both off-premise, tactical services and on-premise systems.

“We’re thinking about this holistically, and the two are very complementary. One is not to be discounted for the other,” Miller said. “This is about understanding what information and capabilities are critical enough that we have to keep it [on-premises], because we need it closest. And what are those functional areas and opportunities are right for transitioning to a commercial cloud.”

Industry comments will be accepted on the draft RFP through March 21.