The Pentagon has delayed awarding contracts for its potential $9 billion multi-vendor Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) enterprise cloud computing effort until December, department officials told reporters Tuesday.

John Sherman, the department’s chief information officer, said the decision will allow the department more time to interact with the four vendors competing for the program as proposals are being assessed.

John Sherman, Department of Defense chief information officer (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

“We were aiming to make awards as soon as next month, in April. But as we’ve gotten into this, and leaned into it with four vendors, we recognized that our schedule was maybe a little too ahead of what we thought. Now we’re going to wrap up in the fall and we’re aiming to award in December,” Sherman said. “Everything is going very well. It’s just a matter of the scale of this and as we lean into it and start doing all the back and forth with the vendors, having the questions answered, looking at the proposals, it’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we thought.”

The Pentagon first announced JWCC last July as the replacement for the former single-award JEDI cloud program, which was shuttered after the department said it determined that “due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances” the program no longer met its needs (Defense Daily, July 6). 

“[JWCC] is going to be a multi-cloud effort that will provide enterprise cloud capabilities for the Department of Defense at all three security classifications, unclassified, secret and top secret, all the way from the continental United States here out to the tactical edge,” Sherman said Tuesday. “We talk a lot about joint warfighting. This is the key function to enable that joint type of warfight that we talk so much about at DoD.”

Following a market research period, the Pentagon in November issued direct solicitation requests allowing Amazon Web Services [AMZN], Google [GOOG], Microsoft [MSFT] and Oracle [ORCL] to submit proposals for JWCC.

“Making sure we’re doing the due diligence with four vendors, frankly, is taking us longer than we had projected when we announced this in July,” Sherman said. “We just underestimated that amount of time this was going to take. So there’s nothing wrong on it, we just needed to get through all of the due diligence to get to the award phase.”

Proposals for JWCC were due in by late January, with DISA’s Hosting and Computer Center now assisting in the review process to inform the JWCC awards in December, which will be a three-year base deal with two one-year options.  

“At the task order level is where the competition will take place. Each of the cloud service providers that have received an award under JWCC will be able to compete each time our mission owner comes with a requirement and then we execute a task order,” Danielle Metz, DoD’s deputy CIO for the information enterprise, told reporters. 

Metz noted the expectation is there will be unclassified access on JWCC at the time of contract award, followed by secret level access about 60 days later and then top secret  and tactical edge access no later than 180 days. 

The awards in December are aligned with DoD’s strategy to stand up an initial JWCC capability before holding a full and open competition in several years for an enduring multi-vendor enterprise cloud capability.

Sherman noted that follow-on effort is likely to start in December 2023, with those contracts now likely to be awarded in January 2026.

“So there’s a bit of a shift here, but not a hugely significant one,” Sherman told reporters.