Final version of NDAA provides air cover for JEDI, MilCloud 2.0

Authorization to fund the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, however, is trending in a different direction.
DOD, Department of Defense, Pentagon, military
(DOD / Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The Pentagon will have congressional approval to move forward with two of its biggest cloud initiatives under the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill that currently awaits the president’s signature.

The legislation, however, would walk back requested funding for the DOD‘s central artificial intelligence office.

The latest version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, cleared by Congress earlier this week, supports DOD plans to adopt the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud and rapidly migrate all defense support agencies — the Fourth Estate — to the MilCloud 2.0 environment, according to an explanatory statement attached to the approved legislation.

The House and Senate authors of the bill say DOD and its Office of the CIO met requirements for explaining how the department will develop a multi-cloud IT environment. Lawmakers had expressed concerns that the massive JEDI contract, a single-award acquisition, might limit the department’s flexibility. Recent defense appropriations legislation said JEDI would not receive funding until that report was given to Congress.


The lawmakers wrote that DOD CIO Dana Deasy “satisfied the conditions that prohibited the obligation and expenditure of funds to migrate data and applications to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud,” giving JEDI clearance for funding. But, the new bill would require Deasy and his office to continue to “submit quarterly reports on the implementation of its cloud strategy.”

Microsoft won the potential $10 billion JEDI cloud contract in October. While that decision is currently being protested by Amazon Web Services in the Court of Federal Claims — and the department has agreed to hold off starting implementation until February to get the case settled — DOD and Microsoft held introductory planning meetings last week at the Pentagon.

Deasy also detailed at a recent AFCEA event that the department is working to build out JEDI’s unclassified enclave over the next two months, followed by the secret portion about six months later. JEDI will have 14 early adopters, he said, including the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Navy, but he stopped short of naming the rest.

MilCloud 2.0 all clear, JAIC takes a knock

The lawmakers also recognize the department’s plan to move all Fourth Estate agencies’ IT infrastructure to MilCloud 2.0, an on-premise cloud environment hosted on Defense Information Systems Agency data centers. And on top of that, it encourages DOD to  “complete migration to mil Cloud 2.0 by the end of fiscal year 2020.”


The department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center didn’t fair as well in the NDAA. The Pentagon requested $208 million to support the JAIC in fiscal 2020, but the bill would only authorize $183 million. The reason for the $25 million cut? “Insufficient justification,” the statement says.

Earlier this week, RAND Corp. — on behalf of the DOD as required by an earlier NDAA — issued a report critical of the state of the department’s AI efforts and its efforts to scale. Whereas this NDAA would walk requested back funding for the JAIC, the report said the ambitious program needs the opposite: more resources and organizational support to scale the technology across the department.

The bill now awaits the signature of President Trump, who said last week he intended to sign it. The annual NDAA does not directly fund DOD activities, but it sets clear priorities for the department’s budget.

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