Why the DoD should pursue a multi-cloud strategy

In a report released in May, the House Appropriations Committee expressed concern over the Department of Defense’s (DoD) continuing pursuit of its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud services contract.

And rightfully so. JEDI would award a $10 billion contract to a single cloud services vendor, which strays from existing industry best practices to use a multi-cloud environment.

Taking a single-vendor approach could hurt the DoD’s ability to innovate in the long run by limiting its options. Many businesses today use multi-cloud environments, since they prevent vendor lock-in and allow for greater flexibility. According to the Office of Management and Budget, industries “leading in technology innovation have also demonstrated that hybrid and multi-cloud environments can be effective and efficient.”

Multi-cloud strategies also lower costs. Trey Hodgkins, an information technology consultant, wrote that using “multiple interoperable offerings would ensure that the Department obtains the benefits of competition to achieve best value for both warfighter and taxpayer.”

Using a multi-cloud approach could have positive implications for national security. For one, it could protect the Pentagon from cyberattacks and data breaches. Lieutenant General VeraLinn Jamieson, the deputy chief of staff for Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations, advocates for a multi-cloud environment stating, “If I have a multi-cloud, I’ve given him (the enemy) a targeting problem.”

The DoD’s interest in the JEDI contract is particularly perplexing considering that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is pursuing a multi-vendor and multi-cloud strategy after six years under a single-vendor contract. The agency is changing its approach “to increase access to cloud innovation and reduce the disadvantages associated with using a single cloud service provider,” according to the House Appropriations Committee’s report.

The JEDI contract has received a lot of public backlash. The House Appropriations Committee will not allocate any funds for moving data to the JEDI cloud until the DoD’s Chief Information Officer produces a report on how the department will transition to a multi-cloud environment.

The procurement process has also been criticized. Critics claim that JEDI’s strict gating criteria, which determine the companies that qualify for the contract, were created with the winner in mind and intentionally disqualify competitors. Oracle has even filed a bid protest lawsuit before the Court of Federal Claims.

It’s commendable that the DoD is modernizing its operations, but the department should carefully consider using multiple cloud vendors in order to bolster innovation and, most importantly, national security.

Author: Bethany Patterson

Photo credit: David B. Gleason