WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s chief information officer this week said he’s committed to an end-of-year target to award a critical cloud-computing deal, after failing to meet an April deadline that he admitted was overly ambitious.

CIO John Sherman in congressional testimony May 18 said getting the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, or JWCC, endeavor “right and getting this done by the end of this calendar year is among my very top priorities.” He further promised lawmakers that he, his team and others assisting were “getting after this with alacrity.”

The Department of Defense in 2021 nixed the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract, which had been won by Microsoft, after years of delays and accusations from Amazon that the Trump administration interfered in the competition. The department is racing to get the follow-up JWCC awarded amid pressure to better handle massive volumes of data and seamlessly link military systems that previously could not communicate, a concept known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control.

“This is so critical,” Sherman told Rep. James Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat who leads a cyber and technology subcommittee. “Sir, you’ve brought this up from here in your position. We’ve gotten that message loud and clear.”

Sherman in late March said a weighty workload and other procurement considerations would delay until December the $9 billion JWCC, even though the process is on the right track. The decision to push things back was made as the scope of what still had to be done became clear.

“It’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we thought,” Sherman said in a March 29 briefing. “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 JWCC contract is meant to fill a void in the department’s cloud-computing arsenal, bridging unclassified, secret and top-secret classifications and reaching to the military’s farthest edge. Sherman previously said nothing currently satisfies those needs.

The Pentagon last year contacted Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle about the JWCC, stressing that only a few companies could meet the program’s significant demands. Proposals are under review. Sherman in March would not say if he expected fewer than four deals to be made, citing procurement sensitivities.

Initial JWCC contracts will comprise a three-year base with one-year options, according to the Pentagon. A full and open competition for a future multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment will likely follow. Such an approach, Sherman said Wednesday, is more consistent with contemporary industry standards.

Sherman in a July 2021 statement announcing JEDI’s cancellation said the venture was out of date and would no longer accomplish what was needed.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had 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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