How long does it take to reverse years of progress on Defense cloud strategy? Ninety days.
A required 90-day review period will bring the Pentagon’s plans for cloud computing to a standstill if the House votes in favor of the final version of the fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill.
A reporting requirement in the bill would block all funding for the Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) for at least 90 days after the Pentagon submits a mandatory report on its cloud activity.
Opponents of Defense IT modernization are advocating on the hill for such a provision in favor of their own interests. These companies are actively trying to derail the process at the risk of losing our technological battle field superiority. They know this political battle is not about the 90 days or one more report but an attempt to stop and re-litigate a process before it even starts.
The Office of Management and Budget in a June 25 statement of administration policy expressed concern for some of the implications in the bill, calling it “overly prescriptive” and “a burdensome reporting requirement.”
“Burdensome” is just the beginning. JEDI opponents want to bury DoD in paperwork and sentence the contract to death by a thousand cuts. If they succeed and the 90 days wait period is implemented through the HAC bill, they will stifle any meaningful progress on commercial cloud implementation and lose growing support among government officials.
No one is suggesting that DoD should bypass the oversight process. We have checks and balances for a reason — to ensure we are giving our marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen the best chance for operational success. But there is already reporting built into the JEDI RFP and additional requirements in the bill request complete strategy and budget information. The arbitrary wait period serves no additional purpose but to stall and create a potential off ramp for JEDI. It adds even less value now that DoD's timeline has been extended and the JEDI contract — by DoD’s admission — will likely not be awarded until 2019.
Accountability in government programs needs to be the highest priority; however, adding unnecessary steps to the process jeopardizes our warriors on the battlefield.
As Secretary of Defense James Mattis said recently, "If we fail to adapt ... at the speed of relevance, then our military forces and our Air Force will lose the very technical and tactical advantages we've enjoyed since World War II.”
Our enemies abroad are relentless and real. Yet we are dealing with a serious threat to our capabilities from supposed allies in Congress who are not fully supportive of putting the best possible technology at the hands of the warfighter.
From the OMB statement, “DoD is committed to continuing to work with the Congress to address concerns and enable oversight while balancing the requirement to deliver new capabilities to the warfighter."
DoD has made efforts at Congress’ direction to build safeguards into the JEDI contract. Congress must show they are willing to do their part too. They must demonstrate commitment not just to the technology, but to a speedy awards process.
If they do not see the hampering effects of the 90 days wait period, the proposal to cut $3 billion from DoD’s operations and maintenance accounts should be enough to vote against the HAC bill. DoD can’t afford loss of time and funding.
Congress needs to act with the speed of legislative relevance for our war fighters, clearing the way for the Defense Department to do its job. Anything less empowers the defenders of status quo while our enemies surge ahead to a technical advantage.
George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. To learn more about Frontiers of Freedom, visit www.ff.org. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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