Senators Question Pentagon’s Motive For JEDI Cloud Contract Delay

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Democratic senators ask newly appointed defence secretary if ‘outside’ influence was behind JEDI suspension

The current state of US politics at the moment has been laid bare after two Democratic senators questioned the Pentagon’s decision to delay the JEDI cloud contract.

Last week the US Defense Department placed its JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract on hold, until Defense Secretary Mark Esper could ‘review’ the program.

That decision came after President Donald Trump said last month that he is “looking very seriously” at the Pentagon cloud contract, and said that the military contract should be investigated.

Trump intervention?

And now according to Reuters, two Democratic senators asked Mark Esper on Monday if “outside” influence caused him to delay awarding the $10 billion cloud computing contract.

It should be remembered that President Trump only appointed Esper as acting secretary of defense in June this year.

Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Jack Reed asked Esper in a letter why the Defense Department was reviewing the contract, and if Esper was directed by someone outside of the Pentagon to delay or cancel the contract.

The senators publicly released a copy of the letter.

According to Reuters, Warner had raised his concerns about the decision to put a hold on the contract in a tweet last Friday, saying that “for the President to use the power of his office to punish critics in the media would be a complete abuse of power.”

And the President’s intervention was not also not appreciated by some in his own party.

Last month four republican members of the US Congress wrote to President Trump, asking him not to delay the JEDI cloud contract.

JEDI contract

The JEDI contract is reported to be worth $10 billion (£7.6bn), but smaller cloud players such as Oracle and IBM have already been previously ruled out.

Google had also already pulled out of the bidding in part because the deal could go against principles it published in June last year, following staff protests against the company’s involvement in developing artificial intelligence for military drones.

The goal of the JEDI cloud deal, which could last up to 10 years, is ambitious.

Essentially, the Pentagon aims to create a single cloud architecture across all the military branches and combatant commands. The idea is to allow a seamless workflow and information-sharing environment.

But President Trump has previously said he said he would direct aides to investigate the pending military contract, saying he had heard multiple complaints about an allegedly unfair bidding process.

“I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. … They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” Trump was previously quoted by the Washington Post as saying. “Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense, and I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on.”

Microsoft and Amazon (AWS) are the only two remaining bidders for the contract, with Amazon widely being tipped to win.

President Trump however is no fan of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and his newspaper the Washington Post.

And Oracle has also been very vocal in its concerns about the award process, and has asked about the role of a former Amazon employee who worked on the project at the Defense Department but who then recused himself.

This person then later left the Defense Department and returned to Amazon Web Services.

And Oracle earlier in July lost a lawsuit that challenged the award process. A judge reportedly ruled Oracle did not have standing to claim it was wronged by the decision because it did not meet the contract requirements.

The Pentagon has ruled that only Amazon and Microsoft meet the minimum requirements for the contract.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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