WASHINGTON — A hefty workload and other procurement factors have delayed awards for the Pentagon’s latest enterprise cloud effort, known as the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability.

Contracts for the follow-up to the Defense Department’s infamous JEDI venture are now expected at the end of the year, not April as originally advertised, according to Chief Information Officer John Sherman.

“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, and that now we’re going to wrap up in the fall. And we’re aiming to award in December,” Sherman said during a March 29 briefing.

Sherman also revealed that JWCC could be worth up to $9 billion.

“This was not a guess. This was based on actual workflows and anticipated workloads to the cloud,” Sherman explained. “But that’s why we came up with this $9 billion ceiling. And that’s not a guaranteed amount by any stretch. It is just that, a ceiling.”

Proposals are under review. The Defense Department approached Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle last year. Officials said talks between government and vendors have been substantial and positive. Sherman would not say if he expected fewer than four deals to be made, citing procurement sensitivities.

The decision to push things back was made in recent weeks, as the scope of what still had to be accomplished came into focus.

“It’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we thought,” said Sherman, who emphasized that things were going well. “And, from my CIO seat, I’ve told the team we’re going to make sure we do this right, take the time that they need, so we can stick the landing on this, given the imperative of what JWCC is for the Department of Defense.”

The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability is meant to plug a hole in the Pentagon’s cloud powers, spanning unclassified, secret and top-secret classifications and stretching to the military’s farthest edge.

“Nothing in the department meets this requirement at the current time, what I just described to you,” Sherman said.

Initial JWCC contracts will comprise a three-year base with one-year options, according to the chief information officer. A “full and open” competition for a future multi-cloud environment will follow, he added.

The Defense Department axed JWCC’s predecessor, JEDI, or Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, in 2021 after years of delays. The potential $10 billion program was plagued by legal challenges and allegations of political interference.

“JEDI, conceived with noble intent and a baseline now several years old, was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different and our cloud conversancy less mature,” Sherman said in a statement at the time. “The JWCC’s multi-cloud environment will serve our future in a way that JEDI’s single award, single cloud structure simply cannot do.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its NNSA — 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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