IBM protests Pentagon's $10B cloud contract, says it's written for 'specific vendor'

By Justin Doubleday / October 10, 2018 at 7:25 PM

IBM has joined Oracle in protesting the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, charging the Defense Department has orchestrated the competition "with just one company in mind."

Like Oracle's protest, IBM says it's challenging the solicitation based on the Pentagon's decision to award just one contract for commercial cloud computing services under the JEDI program. Oracle filed its protest shortly after the solicitation was released in August.

The JEDI contract is worth upwards of $10 billion over as many as 10 years. Companies must submit their proposals by this Friday, Oct. 12.

While the importance of the Defense Department’s cloud transition "cannot be understated," the JEDI program, "as outlined in the final solicitation, would not provide the strongest possible foundation for the 21st century battlefield," Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal, wrote an Oct. 10 statement posted to the company's blog.

"IBM knows what it takes to build a world-class cloud," Gordy continues. "No business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade. JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress and the administration, is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind. America's warfighters deserve better."

The "one company" referenced is undoubtedly Amazon Web Services. AWS has been seen as the frontrunner for the JEDI program since it began, as it is the largest cloud services provider in the world and is already on contract to provide cloud services for the CIA.

IBM does not reference AWS by name in the blog, but Gordy points to DOD's preference for one company several more times, writing, "certain requirements in the RFP either mirror one vendor's internal processes or unnecessarily mandate that certain capabilities be in place by the bid submission deadline versus when the work would actually begin. Such rigid requirements serve only one purpose: to arbitrarily narrow the field of bidders."

"Throughout the yearlong JEDI saga, countless concerns have been raised that this solicitation is aimed at a specific vendor," Gordy adds. "At no point have steps been taken to alleviate those concerns."

For its part, the Pentagon says it will continue to maintain multiple cloud providers, even though JEDI is planned as a sole-source contract.