The Department of Defense’s (DoD) cloud strategy is ever-changing but with the termination of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud services contract earlier this year, the DoD has developed a more “agile” failure mindset – recognizing that it’s okay to fail, but also important to do so quickly, a Pentagon official said.

Les Benito, acting chief of the Product Management Office, Hosting and Compute Center at the Defense Information System Agency (DISA), said during a GovExec event on Dec. 13 that “the mindset is changing” within his agency.

“We are really trying to think in a more agile perspective when we do things. It’s okay to fail quickly,” Benito said. “Let’s fail fast, let’s make that mistake, and let’s find a better way. Let’s not stick with that bad decision for years and years and years and continue to throw, you know, good money after bad, when in fact, we could have stopped it [JEDI] two years ago. It wasn’t working then and doesn’t matter how much we try, it’s not gonna work later.”

The DoD canceled its JEDI contract in July of this year, after three years of work that left the contract tied up in court, and the Pentagon without benefit from the $10 billion deal awarded to Microsoft.

Before creation of DISA’s new Hosting and Compute Center, Benito oversaw the JEDI program when he served as the director of operations for the DoD’s Cloud Computing Program Office.

“The idea behind JEDI was it was originally supposed to be a pilot. Here’s a pilot for us to go out and test how we can do things like multiple classifications,” Benito explained.

“But as you know, what happened with JEDI, well, that was written three or four years ago at this point, right? So, in that time a lot has changed,” he added. “The department has gotten better at understanding what cloud can bring to the table, commercial cloud, etc. And so now we’re in a different place now, and we have a little bit of a better understanding of how we can kind of tie these things together.”

In November, the DoD announced it had invited four major cloud service providers – Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle – to bid on its proposed multi-vendor Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability contract, which replaced the JEDI contract.

“It used to be you could never say that you failed at anything. That was sort of the mindset – you had to be successful at everything you do, that’s it,” Benito said. “You’re in trouble now, it’s okay. But, you know, speak truth to power and be able to be honest about what’s going on and say, ‘No, this is this isn’t working, we need to try something else. And we don’t need to waste our time with this anymore. We need to try something else.’”

“It’s okay to fail. But if you don’t fail, you’re not trying and we got to try a lot of different things until we get those right things that actually work,” he added. “So yeah, I think the mindset is changing and that’s great. I’m very happy about that.”

In addition to the DoD changing its mindset, Benito also said he believes that the industry’s mindset is changing as well.

“When you talk about the vendors and having multiple vendors in the same environment, I don’t know that that is as rare as it used to be. I think that even larger commercial companies have really started thinking about multi-cloud with a lot of what they do,” Benito said. “I think even the industry is coming around because they understand they’re going to do better if they give you more capabilities and let you do what you want with your information and your data. They’re going to get more business that way. So, I think that’s changing.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.