This time, the DoD gives four tech titans equal shot at piece of $9B cloud contract

It seems perhaps the rules of fairness your parents taught you as children also apply to large multibillion-dollar defense contracts. This week the DoD announced that it was awarding four big tech companies — Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle — an equal opportunity to share in a $9 billion contract to bring the department to the cloud.

The new program, which is dubbed the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), has a five-and-a-half-year window through 2028, with the four companies having an equal opportunity to access the $9 billion in funds, but with none being actually allocated as of yet to any of them.

“No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued,” the department said in a statement.

“The purpose of this contract is to provide the Department of Defense with enterprise-wide globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge.”

Whether this new contract solves the issues that arose around the original ill-fated DoD cloud procurement deal remains unclear. For those of you unfamiliar with the saga, the DoD cloud journey has been a long and twisted one.

It began in 2018 when the department announced the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI for short. The cutesie Star Wars reference aside, the deal came under intense scrutiny because of its winner-take-all component, which immediately had companies complaining and jockeying for position for what was a $10 billion deal.

Oracle, which you’ll note has equal access in this deal, was particularly vocal, complaining that Amazon had an unfair advantage for a variety of reasons. In the end, it wasn’t Amazon that won the deal though, it was Microsoft. But that wasn’t the end of the story, as Amazon challenged the result in court, claiming the previous president had a bias against former Amazon board chair (and former CEO) Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post newspaper.

After a lot of additional drama, the department finally pulled the plug on the whole thing in July 2021 and went back to square one.

And this week’s announcement is the culmination of that decision. The fact that it left the entire thing open-ended this time begs the question how this will all finally get resolved, but we have another five years to figure it out and see if the DoD can finally enter the cloud age without making the four major players (really, three and Oracle) unhappy again with who gets what.

Maybe mom really was right, and life isn’t cut up into equal pieces of pie.